By Noora Jussila, IFRC
Women take off their shoes and gather around in a small room at Kneisseh refugee settlement in northern Lebanon, which is home to around 100 Syrian refugee families. The cement floor is covered with a carpet just big enough for all of them to sit on and for the small children to play. Boys and men are not allowed, as it is time for some ladies’ talk.
Lebanese Red Cross volunteers Afifé Tannous and Mona Asaad are here today to discuss hygiene, sanitation and reproductive health with the Syrian refugees living in the camp. They sit down and begin.
“When a girl turns 9 we women have to start preparing her for menstruation. For some girls it might be a shock and others might isolate themselves, and therefore we need to be attentive and make sure we talk to our girls and be close to them,” Afifé says to the crowd.
“My eldest daughter played this role. She has explained everything to the little ones,” says Fatima, who fled from Syria to northern Lebanon four years ago with her three daughters.
“There are several ways to talk to our girls. We can share with them stories about what happened to ourselves,” Affifé continues.
After the discussion Fatima seems pleased.
“All the information was very useful, especially information about menstrual cycle. Not that many of us knew about these issues before and now it’s easier for me to discuss these issues with my daughters,” she says.
“At first the women felt a bit shy talking about these issues, but after we volunteers shared our own personal experiences, they also felt more comfortable about sharing their experiences. Now you can really see that they are interested in learning more and more,” says Afifé, the Red Cross volunteer leading the session.
After the group discussion, the women in this community line up to collect their emergency kits from the Lebanese Red Cross. The emergency kit includes items such as sanitary napkins, underwear, headscarf, soap and flashlight, that enable women to look after their personal hygiene, and comes in a simple bag that can be used to by the women to carry their personal items.
Many of the refugee families are struggling to make the ends meet and receiving these kits means that families can spend their income on other basic necessities such as food, clothing and household items.
Lebanese Red Cross will distribute women’s emergency kits and hold hygiene promotion sessions for 12,000 women and girls in early 2017 with the support of Japanese Government and IFRC.
Lebanon currently hosts over one million registered Syrian refugees, most of them women and children. Lebanese Red Cross has been supporting the Syrian refugees and hosting Lebanese communities since the beginning of the Syrian conflict almost six years ago.