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Photo of women inside a tend, sitting on the floor around two other women.
Leaving the refugee shelters
The shelters had been protected spaces for the women refugees, where they could attend educational programs.

The 18th of May 2018 was the last day of the Diotima Center teams’ presence at the refugee shelters in Ritsona, Thermopyles, Malakasa, Skaramaga, and Koutsochero.

The teams, composed of lawyers, psychologists, social workers, interpreters, and coordinators, provided for many months psychosocial and legal support services to survivors of gender-based violence.

Daily life in the shelters also included the operation of protected spaces for women refugees. There, women and young girls (over 16 years old) could attend educational programs and participate in multifaceted activities aimed at empowerment, networking, and motivation.

Awareness-raising activities for the refugee population on issues related to gender-based violence were also ongoing, with the participation of male refugees.

The program, which started in October 2017, was supported by UNHCR. Recently, it was decided to discontinue its funding, creating a significant gap in the effort to protect vulnerable groups of the refugee population (people who have suffered or are at risk of gender-based violence, such as wives, single mothers, and/or heads of single-parent families, young girls, and men) residing in shelters in Greece.

Below, Maria T., a member of the Diotima Center and local coordinator of the intervention teams in Thermopyles and Ritsona, talks to us about her last day with the refugees:

“And let us prepare our departure. We count cases, close cases, and make referrals. We write, we record, and we exist one more day there, with them.

We prepare celebrations because we don’t like only tears. We search exhaustively for the best possible solution for each case.

To leave nothing at the mercy of nothing. Time is pressing and so are the needs. Of every kind. From threads, fabrics, coffee, and water to an emergency escort for medical exams repeated consultations with other colleagues, sessions, words, and silences.

In the midst of moving farewells – personal and group – collecting signatures from dozens of refugees to demand that our teams remain in the structures, urgent needs arise that stop time. In one day you can see the whole spectrum of action. Meetings upon meetings, contacts, thoughts, tensions, ideas, and plans. And referrals. Lots of last-minute referrals.

Dangerous and difficult incidents. It’s like they know we’re leaving and they’re running to catch up. They won’t be left alone. They know. That nothing’s over. For every woman, it’s just the beginning. A new perspective, a new reality, maybe even a new life.”


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