• Text size Normal size text | Increase text size by 10% | Increase text size by 20% | Increase text size by 30%

New Delhi police teach refugee women how to take care of themselves

News Stories, 9 October 2012

© UNHCR/N.Bose
Police constables demonstrate an attack position during a self-defence class for refugee women.

NEW DELHI, India, October 9 (UNHCR) From the shouts and cries emanating from the run-down building in a New Delhi suburb, it sounded as though someone was in big trouble. "Hyaaah!," several voices screamed, while others shouted: "Now attack."

Once through the door, in the offices of a refugee organization for Myanmar refugees, the anxious visitor was relieved to discover that it was only a group of 30 refugee women assaulting each other under the watchful eyes of Indian policewomen skilled in the arts of self defence.

The refugee women from Myanmar were taking part in a recent 10-day training programme organized by UNHCR and its implementing partner, the Socio-Legal Information Centre, and conducted by constables from New Delhi's Crime Against Women cell.

The course was aimed at giving them the basic skills to defend themselves in the Indian capital of New Delhi, which has the country's highest rate of crime against women, including sexual harassment and random attacks in public as well as rape. "I want to protect myself," said Sung, a 50-year-old widow, adding that "refugee women have been attacked."

She and her fellow trainees were enthusiastic, sometimes overly so. There seemed to be a suppressed anger among the women and every move was hard fought. But the skills learned in the classroom in western Delhi could one day help them stave off attack or even save their lives.

"They want to learn and they are learning well," one instructor, Sunitha, stressed, while noting that this was the first time the New Delhi police had taught self-defence classes to refugee women.

Aside from learning how to fend off attacks, the course participants were also given tips about places to avoid and areas where danger often lurked, including badly lit parks, urban areas off the beaten track and even night markets. Because vegetables are cheaper the later it gets, refugees often go late at night to make their purchases.

Iang, who lives alone, said the classes had helped her a lot. "If someone touches me at the night market, I can fight back. I feel more confident now." Niang, a mother of one whose husband is missing in Myanmar, also welcomed the classes, while revealing that she had once been molested. "We face a lot of problems in Delhi, but now if this happens again, I will be able to defend myself."

Her only complaint was that the training was too short: a month would have been better. Other students also had problems because the course was conducted in Hindi, although an interpreter was present. UNHCR encourages refugees to learn Hindi and organizes free language classes for refugee children and adults in different parts of the New Delhi.

UNHCR plans to organize similar courses for Somali and Afghan refugee women in the coming weeks. "After 10 days, their confidence will increase," said another trainer, Sharada.

By Nayana Bose in New Delhi, India

• DONATE NOW •

 

• GET INVOLVED • • STAY INFORMED •

UNHCR country pages

How UNHCR Helps Women

By ensuring participation in decision-making and strengthening their self-reliance.

UNHCR's Dialogues with Refugee Women

Progress report on implementation of recommendations.

Women

Women and girls can be especially vulnerable to abuse in mass displacement situations.

Refugee Protection in International Law

Edited by Erika Feller, Volker Türk and Frances Nicholson, published 2003 by Cambridge University Press

Promoting Refugee Protection

UNHCR is engaged in a range of activities to promote the international refugee protection system, including refugee law.

Second Dialogue on Protection Challenges, December 2008

An informal discussion among stakeholders about protracted refugee situations.

European Refugee Fund

A fund to promote solidarity within the European Union in matters of asylum.

The 1951 Refugee Convention

The Geneva Refugee Convention has been instrumental in helping an estimated 50 million people restart their lives.

Refugees

The number of refugees of concern to UNHCR stood at 10.4 million at the beginning of 2013, down slightly from a year earlier.

Nansen Refugee Award: Butterflies with New Wings

In a violence-ridden corner of Colombia, a group of courageous women are putting their lives at risk helping survivors of displacement and sexual violence. In a country where 5.7 million people have been uprooted by conflict, they live in one of the most dangerous cities - Buenaventura. Colombia's main port has one of the highest rates of violence and displacement, due to escalating rivalries between armed groups. To show their power or to exact revenge, the groups often violate and abuse the most vulnerable - women and children.

But in Buenaventura, the women who make up "Butterflies" are standing up and helping the survivors. They provide one-on-one support for victims of abuse and reach into different communities to educate and empower women and put pressure on the authorities to uphold women's rights.

Many of Butterflies' members have been forcibly displaced during the past 50 years of conflict, or have lost relatives and friends. Many are also survivors of domestic and sexual violence. It is this shared experience that pushes them to continue their work in spite of the risks.

On foot or by bus, Gloria Amparello , Maritza Asprilla Cruz and Mery Medina - three of the Butterflies coordinators - visit the most dangerous neighbourhoods and help women access medical and psychological care or help them report crimes. Through workshops, they teach women about their rights and how to earn a living. So far, Butterflies volunteers have helped more than 1,000 women and their families.

Butterflies has become a driving force in raising awareness about the high levels of violence against women. Despite attracting the attention of armed groups, they organize protests against abuse of women in the streets of their dilapidated city, determined to knock down walls of fear and silence.

Nansen Refugee Award: Butterflies with New Wings

Nansen Refugee Award Presentation Ceremony

More than 400 people attended the annual presentation in Geneva in October 1, 2012 of UNHCR's Nansen Refugee Award. This year's inspirational winner from Somalia, Hawa Aden Mohamed, was unable to attend for health reasons, but she sent a video message. In the former refugee's absence, UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres presented the award and Nansen medal to her sister, Shukri Aden Mohamed.

The 63-year-old humanitarian, educator and women's rights advocate, widely known as "Mama" Hawa, was honoured for her extraordinary service - under extremely difficult conditions - on behalf of refugees and the internally displaced, mainly women and girls but also including boys.

Above all she has been recognized for her work - as founder and director of the Galkayo Education Centre for Peace and Development in Somalia's Puntland region - in helping to empower thousands of displaced Somali women and girls, many of whom are victims of rape. The centre provides secondary education as well as life skills training.

The packed event also included an address by Liberian peace activist Leymah Gbowee, co-winner of last year's Nobel Peace Prize, and a video tribute to Mama Hawa as well as performances from UNHCR Honorary Lifetime Goodwill Ambassador and classical singer, Barbara Hendricks, and up and coming Swiss musician Bastian Baker.

Nansen Refugee Award Presentation Ceremony

Refugee life in one of the most remote places in South Sudan

Over the past year, thousands of people from Sudan's South Kordofan state have fled violence to seek safety in Yida refugee camp, situated just across the border in South Sudan. In late September, Yida was home to approximately 65,000 refugees from the Nuba Mountains. Located in one of the most remote places in South Sudan, Yida is now a virtual island as the rainy season has made access roads impassable.

Every day, refugees continue to arrive from across the border after harrowing journeys. All are tired and growing numbers are in poor health. Renewed air and ground attacks are causing more and more people to take flight.

UNHCR and humanitarian partners on the ground are providing protection and life-saving assistance to the refugee community in one of the most challenging operational environments in the world. The following photographs, taken by UNHCR Public Information Officer Kathryn Mahoney, depict daily life for refugees in Yida.

Refugee life in one of the most remote places in South Sudan

Displaced women sew up a future in Kachin campPlay video

Displaced women sew up a future in Kachin camp

Conflict in Myanmar's Kachin state has displaced tens of thousands. In the town of Laiza, UNHCR is helping women in Hpun Lum Yang camp to learn tailoring skills as part of a pilot project to foster cohesion among IDP women in the camp and help them find solutions for the practical problems they and their community face.
Displaced women sew up a future in Kachin campPlay video

Displaced women sew up a future in Kachin camp

Conflict in Myanmar's Kachin state has displaced tens of thousands. In the town of Laiza, UNHCR is helping women in Hpun Lum Yang camp to learn tailoring skills as part of a pilot project to foster cohesion among IDP women in the camp and help them find solutions for the practical problems they and their community face.
Celebrating 10 years of refugee resettlementPlay video

Celebrating 10 years of refugee resettlement