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Rukni Space phone booths offer a lifeline for women at risk

By Rana Husseini - Dec 02,2020 - Last updated at Dec 02,2020

AMMAN — Amal, a wheelchair user, suffered for years from an abusive brother who was against her leaving their family’s home because of the physical challenges she faced.

The 27-year-old was employed at a local organisation, but “her brother would often take her wheelchair to prevent her from leaving her house,” said President of I am a Human Society for Rights of Persons with Disability (HSRPD) Asia Yaghi.

“Amal’s brother was convinced that he was protecting his sister by preventing her from leaving her house,” Yaghi told The Jordan Times.

But, through a project titled Rukni Space (phone booths/discrete safe spaces) that was initiated by the United Nations Development Fund (UNDP) and Arab Renaissance for Democracy & Development (ARDD), Amal and dozens of women were able to obtain the necessary help and guidance.

These phone booth stations provide an alternative yet discrete and safe space for persons at risk, including gender-based violence survivors and women with disabilities, who can seek confidential information as well as use the phone freely available there to reach hotline and referral services, Yaghi said.

“The phone booths are located in safe spaces and are placed in a room designated to be used by women in the community,” she added.

Gender Analyst at UNDP Lisette Albrechtsen said her organisation collaborated with ARDD to initiate and develop the Rukni Space and cooperated with two organisations in Amman (HSRPD) and Madaba (Madaba Cultural Association) to implement the projects.

“The idea looked at what are other organisations doing globally and we decided to use the approach of a phone booth,” Albrechtsen told The Jordan Times.

“The idea of a phone booth was meant to offer women in need the necessary security and privacy so that they can seek the help they need,” Albrechtsen added.

Amal was able to return to her work after contacting HSRPD for help and guidance, according to Yaghi.

“We have helped around 13 women since August by offering them social and legal guidance or by referring them to relevant entities for further follow-up,” Yaghi added.

The aim of Rukni Space is to introduce an innovative method for survivors and women at risk to seek help and reduce the digital gender divide in Jordan among gender-based violence survivors and women at risk, including adolescent girls. They do so by developing overall digital literacy and capacity to use government e-services, according to a press release by UNDP.

More than 100 people made use of Rukni Space to seek help as a result of violence, UNDP said. 

These offices are equipped with digital communication devices that enable access to all protection and emergency services across the Kingdom, in addition to specialised staff that provides confidential and credible guidance, according to the UNDP statement. 

The initiative aims to cooperate with local community organisations to provide alternatives safely and privately to social and legal protection services by establishing specialised offices that focus on women’s needs in these organisations, the statement added.

During the pandemic, studies in Jordan found that gender-based violence, particularly domestic violence, has increased since the onset of the virus crisis and services focusing on gender-based violence, sexual and reproductive health have been hindered, according to the statement.

 

“Globally, COVID-19 has increased violence against women and girls and Jordan is no exception,” said UNDP Resident Representative Sara Ferrer-Olivella.

Prior to the pandemic, Ferrer-Olivella added, one out of four ever-married women aged between 15 and 49 in Jordan had experienced emotional, physical, or sexual violence by their spouse, as documented by the Department of Statistics in the 2017–2018 Population and Family Health Survey.

“In times of COVID-19, these numbers are a recipe for disaster when curfews and lockdowns further restrict access to gender-based violence service providers,” Ferrer-Olivella said.

That is why UNDP pushes to test and pilot innovative solutions for survivors who seek help and to make it easier and safer for survivors to access services, Ferrer-Olivella added.

The second component of the project is focused on providing an opportunity for 30 women and girls at risk to receive training on intensive digital literacy, CV writing, interview skills and financial literacy to contribute to the reduction of gender digital divide, the UNDP statement said.

There were also training on ways of strengthening the mechanism of social and legal protection for women through enhancing their awareness about gender-based violence and legal frameworks, with the purpose of possible employment opportunities and increased protection.

 

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