We recently received news from Yanar Mohammad, director of our partner organization OWFI. Since our last update, she informed us that the shelters have been working quite well. They continue to provide essential services to many women who are at risk, fleeing violent situations at home or trying to escape a life of prostitution and trafficking.
OWFI’s staff members are working hard to provide a safe space for the women and to help them rebuild their lives. Medical and counseling services are essential to the shelter residents’ well-being. The shelter staff accompanies the residents to hospital visits, and maintains a 24-hour hotline to provide counseling and services to people in danger or crisis. The staff members go far and beyond to guarantee that they can provide emergency assistance when it is necessary. Medical care and counseling have contributed to an improved physical and emotional quality of life for many shelter residents.
Residents at the OWFI shelters have the opportunity to regularly engage and share their experiences with people who have lived through similar circumstances. Friendships, understanding, and acceptance develop amongst shelter residents, who come to love and protect one another, to build a coalition and to create an environment of tolerance around one another. Residents emerge from their time with OWFI as activists rather than victims.
There are many positive stories coming out of the OWFI shelters. Two former shelter residents who came to OWFI in 2007 to escape prostitution have returned to help OWFI gather information about women in need in Baghdad brothels. They have assumed new roles as outreach officers, creating a link between the women trapped in the sex-industry and OWFI. More recently, a woman who stayed at the shelter for more than a year has now found a job and is building a new, financially independent life for herself.
OWFI remains in regular contact with her, and other residents who transition out of their shelters, to make sure they are well.