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Girl-Centric Community Organizations in Jordan Serve the SRH Needs of Refugee Women and Girls, Pivot during COVID-19 Pandemic

NAGAT and Hakoura, two Jordan-based community organizations, are focused on better a “tomorrow” for refugee and vulnerable girls.

United in vision and governed by one board, these formerly independent, feminist organizations now work in tandem to serve the sexual and reproductive health (SRH) and gender-based violence (GBV) needs of refugee women and girls. NAGAT and Hakoura aim to achieve gender equality for Jordan’s most vulnerable populations. Programming primarily serves Syrian, Iraqi, and Palestinian refugee girls and women in camp settings in Jordan.

Serving Vulnerable Women and Girls

NAGAT, the anglicized Arabic acronym for “Toward a Better Tomorrow for Development and Empowerment,” provides SRH and GBV awareness programming, which has reportedly reached over 3,000 refugee girls. Programming led by NAGAT (formerly known as “The Try Center”) includes a referral network for refugee women and girls to access SRH clinics; community workshops on GBV with religious, academic, and public sector leaders; and girl-directed plays on a range of SRH topics from early marriage to abortion.

The research and monitoring and evaluation branch, called Hakoura, is led by Policies and Studies Director Khalid Suliman. Previous research contributions, according to Suliman, focused on early marriage for Syrian refugee girls and a study of SRH and SGBV awareness-raising at UNRWA schools in Jordan.

The organizations also operate an exclusively girl-led board, complete with an independent budget and work plan. Known as the “Girls’ Board,” these young refugee women have organized robust social media networks in their communities and, at the international level, been empowered to participate in global conferences about the SRH needs of crisis-affected girls.

Executive Director Majd Hammad said that NAGAT and Hakoura have a “deep understanding of how the process of integrating women and girls [can play] a vital role in making humanitarian action more effective.” She added,

“We understand that the response becomes more effective when women and girls are given an active role in expressing their needs and actively participate in the design, implementation, and evaluation of programs aimed at helping them.”

Responding to COVID-19

Ms. Hammad and Dr. Suliman highlighted that the ongoing COVID-pandemic intensifies existing concerns about girls’ rights and access to SRH programming and services. They fear that restrictions related to the current pandemic will severely limit girls’ access to contraceptive supplies, sanitary pads, and in-person SRH appointments. “Girls, in particular,” Majd said, “lack access and means of communication to help and support,” as Jordan’s current lockdown in homes and camps deprives girls of mobility and privacy to use mobile phones to access SRH information.

To respond to the gender-based challenges exacerbated by the current pandemic, NAGAT and Hakoura are pivoting their programming to:

  • Build out girl-led digital forums for peer support and awareness-raising around gender-based challenges intensified by stay-at-home orders, including increased risk of violence, family financial pressure incentivizing early marriage, and access to essential SRH services and supplies
  • Launch an in-kind, direct service initiative to provide sanitary pads and personal hygiene supplies directly to refugee women and girls confined in camps and homes
  • Mobilize new partnerships, proposals, and funding to ensure the continuity of delivering quality SRH services during the current pandemic

Ms. Hammad and Dr. Suliman added that their pandemic-responsive programming also includes urban refugee women and girls living outside camp infrastructures, who are often excluded from basic needs services offered in camps.

To further promote inclusion, NAGAT and Hakoura are intent on involving girls with disabilities as designers, implementers, and beneficiaries of SRH programming. The organizations look forward to integrating these key stakeholders into organization-wide conversations about increasing meaningful diversity of girls with disabilities.

Envisioning “Tomorrow”

Ms. Hammad mentioned that the organizations aim to work toward establishing a mobile clinic offering education and awareness, clinical consultations, and – if needed – free medical care, addressing SRH service gaps by meeting refugee women and girls in their communities.

The organizations also look forward to growing their network of SRH service providers and developing sustainably funded, local proposals to ensure future programming.

A young refugee leading the “Girls’ Board” said they hope to “empower girls in our initiative and enable them to empower other girls in the future.”

The organizations, according to Ms. Hammad, have contributed to IAWG’s sub-working group on Comprehensive Abortion Care and has worked with partners including Cambridge Reproductive Health Consultants, University of Ottawa, Women Deliver, UNFPA, World Bank, and the World Health Organization.

NAGAT and Hakoura invite you to follow their work on their website and Twitter page.