Women in Saida join forces to fight food insecurity within their communities
Story originally published on UN Women Lebanon‘s website.
An estimated 6,000 Palestinian refugees from Syria (PRS) have settled in Ein El Helweh camp, the largest Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon with a population of 60,000 refugees. Residents in the camp face high levels of multigenerational poverty and vulnerability, which has been further aggravated by Lebanon’s socio-economic crises.
Safa, 25, was born and raised in the Ein El Helweh camp in Saida, Lebanon. She knows the community by the back of her hand, but only recently did she recognize that her neighbours were suffering poverty and food insecurity in silence. Since this reckoning, Safa’s passion and drive to make a change in her community was ignited, where she decided to apply for the community worker position in a newly established community kitchen in the camp led by INITIATE, Women’s Program Association (WPA) and UN Women, and generously supported by the Government of Japan.
"I never imagined how dire the situation in my community is," says Safa, "I thought I knew my community and surroundings well. I was under the impression that we were coping with the crisis, but soon I found out that even my closest neighbours, whom I thought I knew well, were suffering poverty and food insecurity in silence, and needed help." In recognition of this, Safa applied and got the 'Community Worker' position at the INITIATE, Women's Program Association (WPA) and UN Women Community Kitchen in Ein El Helweh camp.
As a Community Worker, Safa delivers hot meals prepared in the kitchen to vulnerable families living in the camp and conducts awareness sessions for families on how to cook nutritious meals on a budget.
"The hot meals we provide are essential to the families living in the camp," says Safa. "I used to think financial assistance was the only way to support these families, but now I know that money alone is not enough to solve the crises we are facing. People need to be listened to, a voice to carry their message, and a hand to help them. We deserve to live in dignity."
Safa is one of 120 women working in the newly established community kitchens to produce and distribute hot meals to food-insecure households in Ein El Hilweh and Beddawi Palestinian Refugee camps. So far, the community kitchen teams have delivered over 7,000 meals to over 70 families in both camps.
Beyond direct support to vulnerable families in the camps and the economic opportunities provided to the women under the programme, INITIATE and the Women's Program Association (WPA) conduct regular activities, seminars, and lectures which aim to build both the project participants and the local community members confidence to promote women's equal and inclusive participation in the sustainable development of their communities.
"Today, I am a better version of myself. I have built my confidence, stepped out of my comfort zone, and overcame my social anxiety, enabling me to communicate with my community better. The project has also helped me financially during this period, which is important to me."
"Our community needs us more than ever, and we must keep working and providing our best efforts to help everyone,” affirms Safa.
The community kitchens in Ein El Hilweh and Beddawi Palestinian Refugee camps are being led under the joint project entitled "Empowering Women and Addressing Food Insecurity Through Women-Led Community Kitchens" led by Initiate, Women's Program Association (WPA), and UN Women, and generously supported by the Government of Japan.