WEST BANK, Palestine – After receiving psychosocial and well-being services at the UNFPA-supported women and girls’ safe space for gender-based violence survivors in Nablus, women may leave with vocational training experience to help them find jobs or knowledge of their rights from legal counselling.
Some leave with another type of lifeline: cash voucher assistance (CVA) to help ease financial burdens exacerbated by COVID-19, which also increased the risk of gender-based violence already heightened by the humanitarian and political situation. Four women recently received the equivalent of $210, one of whom said “it felt like winning $2,100!” In a place where the average monthly income is $515 per month, she was able to buy groceries for two months. “I prepared pizza and baked a cake for my son,” she wrote to psychosocial counsellor Suad Shteiwi. “You should have seen the look on his face.”
**A new part of the GBV response **
Begun in 2020 to respond to the urgent needs of the poor and vulnerable during lockdown, cash voucher assistance joined psychosocial support, awareness-raising and case management for gender-based violence survivors and women at risk as part of the services available at women and girls’ safe spaces.
UNFPA, with funding from the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF), Canada, Denmark and the Humanitarian Trust Fund, “has been able to reach tens of thousands of women with cash voucher assistance that helped alleviate women’s suffering,” said Sana Asi, UNFPA gender programme officer. “Imagine the feeling when you hear an unhappy woman say ‘prayers have been heard,’” referring to the CVA assistance that she received completely unexpectedly.”
Working with partners in East Jerusalem, Gaza Strip and the West Bank, UNFPA has distributed about $1 million to not only women experiencing or at risk of gender-based violence but women with disabilities, women living in poverty and disadvantaged women in humanitarian situations. Many women have children and husbands with unstable incomes.
**Modest aid, sizeable results **
One recipient wrote of her happiness at seeing her children run through the aisles of the mini-market picking vegetables and other foods. Another wrote, “My son’s birthday was last month, and I was unable to buy him a gift. He is becoming a teenager and taller. To be able to buy new clothes suitable for his height made his birthday gift very special.”
For women already under stress that drove them to seek out the safe space, relieving financial strain is integral to support. “When we provide sexual and reproductrive health and gender-based violence services, we reckon that reaching zero gender-based violence is possible if we keep the substantial needs of women at the centre of our response,” explained Ms. Asi says. “For a family who can barely buy food, CVA is making a huge difference. Small amounts can make an enormous impact.”