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Frontline Diary

15 October 2004: Listening to girls and women in Darfur’s camps

By Pamela Shifman, UNICEF Child Protection Officer

UNICEF Child Protection Officer Pamela Shifman visited children and women in Darfur.  The following is a UNICEF Frontline Diary entry from her trip.

DARFUR, Sudan, 14 October—The women were all gathered together in the burning hot sun under the shade of a tent. They were working on an income generating project and were all busy with brightly covered grass they were weaving into baskets.  The group started with 15 women or so, but soon the crowd of girls and women gathered around increased to nearly 30. Many of the girls were too shy to speak but laughed when my American colleague asked in her rudimentary Arabic how school was going.

We spent some time asking women and girls about their lives in the camps and about the problems they are facing. Their first answer was: We need security, we are not safe.

Several women told us of enduring horrible violence when they were forced to flee. They told stories of rape and beating and killing--many had lost family members and had witnessed rape and killing in front of their eyes.

And then they told us that in the camps they now must call home, they are still not safe. So many women told the same story: they are terrified to leave to get firewood. Firewood is absolutely necessary for their survival and the survival of their children. And the nearly all day trip to collect the wood is fraught with danger. Soldiers prey on women and girls along the path to collect firewood. And the cruel part is, the women and the girls have no choice but to take that dangerous path for their very survival.
I kept imagining the fear that these girls and women feel as they embark on this trip…and the utter unfairness of this all. They are in a camp now and supposed to be safe. And still they are not.




22 October 2004: UNICEF Child Protection Officer Pamela Shifman talks about the atmosphere of fear in Darfur’s camps

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