A feminist organisation in Palestine called SAWA was among organisation invited to speak at the FEMINIST Dialogues held during the 2009 World Social Forum.
Luna Barakat human rights lawyer and a board member of SAWA shared during the organisation how her organisation has been providing services to victims of war in the recent conflict in Gaza, that started last December 2008 and lasted for 22 days. The conflicts resulted in the death of more than 1,330 people, most of them civilians and about 6,000 people injured.
Established in 1998, SAWA was created to raise awareness about all forms of sexual and physical violence within Palestinian society, and work towards limiting its prevalence among youth, women and men, and alleviate the misery of sexually and physically abused women, providing them support and empowering them to reintegrate into the society as useful individuals.
Ms Barakat explained that SAWA runs as a sexual violence hotline for women offering crisis intervention and counseling sessions for callers and accompanying them to the hospital, police, and courts using a “woman-to-woman” approach.
Since 2005, Sawa has been representing Palestine in Child Helpline International (CHI) and operating a toll free number 121 Child Hotline exclusively for children. In addition to the hotline, Sawa has a well established Education Outreach Department which develops and implements outreach programs on Violence Against Women and Sex Education throughout the Palestinian community, particularly among local youth.
During the conflict in December, the Sawa hotline was turned into an emergency line providing 24 hours service helping all victims of war in Gaza. Staff and volunteer at the centre worked over 168 hrs per week instead of 40 hrs burdening Sawa’s human and financial resources.
Other organizations applied to become volunteers for Sawa under this line, since the helpline needs a lot of volunteers who are professional and can provide therapy via telephone.
As a proactive measure Sawa is initiating a program for healing the victimized and the traumatized as a post-trauma service through the following activities:
SAWA will offer Intensive training of trainers for the volunteers and professionals who will facilitate and provide the service during the post conflict era. A Physiological health clinics based in Gaza will also be established.
Adoption and follow up of cases for people who lost there relatives, suffered, witnessed horrible attacks including paramedics who worked in the field and in the hospitals, doctors, nurses, emergency medical technicians (EMTs) and the volunteers who used to work in the fields, all these beneficiaries with a special attention to the children and women, who are the most vulnerable groups.
SAWA is committed to executing these activities and will be fundraising for funds and resources to enable this project succeed. Edited By Carlyn Hambuba