The IRC Is Using An Interactive Comic Book To Educate Syrian Refugees On The Dangers Of Daily Life In Lebanon
Ask any book-lover and they will tell you of the undeniable power reading has to change a life. Ask a staff member at the International Rescue Committee's Women's Center in Lebanon, a not-for-profit organization that is using an interactive comic book to teach Syrian refugees about the dangers they face in everyday life, and they might tell you about reading's power to save one.
Currently, there are over 500,000 Syrian refugee women and girls in Lebanon, and every day, they are faced with unknown dangers as they attempt to establish new lives in an unfamiliar country. In order to help these refugees stay safe and adjust to their altered realities, the IRC, an organization that helps people affected by global conflict and disaster, has designed an educational, interactive comic book that illustrates the kinds of problems and potential risks Syrian refugees living in Lebanon could face in their new daily lives. The initiative coincides with the United Nation's 16 Days of Activism movement against gender-based violence and the swelling online participation in #metoo.
Just one of the many resources and services available at the International Rescue Committee's women centers in Lebanon, the comic book is meant to be used as a discussion tool to teach refugees how to handle a variety of potentially dangerous situations. It follows Hala, a young Syrian woman, on her journey to work, where she encounters many of the same problems Syrian refugee women and girls are faced with on a daily basis. During her trip, she is stopped at a checkpoint, where she is harassed by a male guard who threatens to not let her pass, yelled at by an angry shopkeeper, and propositioned for a taxi ride home. Staff member at the IRC use each of the story's unique situations to explore what choices Hala, and ultimately the refugees reading it, have, and what the best decision in each dangerous circumstance is.
"The idea for the comic book came about as a way to help women and girls talk about the risks that they face in everyday life," explains Sunita Palekar Joergensen, the Women's Protection and Empowerment Coordinator at IRC in a statement. According to many of the Syrian refugee women who have gone to one of IRC's Women's Center to use the book, that is exactly what it has done.
"I've made myself stronger," says Rowayda Kashki, a Syrian mother of two, says. "Now I know if someone asks for my phone number, I can refuse or I can give it to them backwards. If a car offers to pick me up, I can say no or I direct him to a different place so he doesn't know where I live."
Rawda Malzoum, a woman from the Aleppo region of Syria, explained how relatable Hala's story was, and how helpful the book has been as a learning tool for her. "The session is important. It makes me think of many things that happened to me when I came to Lebanon," she explains. "For a second I thought I was 'Hala'."
In discussing Hala's experiences, ones that are so similar to their own, the Syrian refugee women and girls who come to the Women's Centers in Lebanon are inspired to open up about their own experiences with harassment, violence, and fear. Their discussions help them understand the world around better, and that clarity leads them to making better, more informed decisions when they are faced with potentially dangerous situations in the future.
If you want to see how an interactive comic book is being used to teach Syrian refugee women and girls about the risks in their everyday lives, you can check out the IRC's version online.