Finding Sisterhood Through Shared Trauma.
Updated: Mar 9, 2020
The Moms2Moms women’s shelters foster hope and friendship in a time of darkness.
According to UNHCR, some 40,700 refugees and asylum seekers reside on the Aegean islands. 22% of the population are women and 34% are children, the majority of which are younger than 12 years old. In Moria, about 20,000 people live in the notorious makeshift camp in Lesvos, Mytilene, which was built to accommodate only 3,000. Tensions are running high on the island due to overcrowding and women have become targets of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV). In 2017, it was reported that 28% of the women and children experienced SGBV when they arrive to Greece.
Women continuously report inappropriate behavior, sexual harassment and attempted sexual attacks, especially if they are arriving on their own, or are part of the LGBTQI+ community. LGBTQI+ communities are also subject to "corrective rape" and “conversation therapy”, hate crimes related to their perceived sexual orientation or gender identity that are used to enforce gender stereotypes and heterosexuality.
Safety on the Shore
The Moms2Moms project was founded for this reason - to provide safety and support to women and single migrant mothers with basic needs like food, shelter, and daycare while enhancing empowerment, regardless of their sexual or gender identity. Moms2Moms is a community-based project, currently implemented in Lesvos and Lavrio by Safe Place Greece, which enables women to build their life gradually while also fostering resilience and integration.
All residents of Moms2Moms shelters are former residents of Moria, and therefore, all residents are victims of some form of violence and/or trafficking. Two current residents first met in Moria when one helped the other deliver her child in the middle of Moria camp, without even knowing each other. After this incredible feat, they were separated and did not see each other until they were both transferred to the Moms2Moms shelter for security and protection reasons. These two women come from different backgrounds, different countries and do not speak the same language, however, they are bonded forever by the miracle of life and hope.
Chloe Powers, Director of the Moms2Moms states, “we aim to create a home, where every resident contributes towards the decision making of the home - a home, where women can feel safe with one another, one where race, culture, ethnicity, sexual orientation and the languages which we speak do not break us apart, but bind us together.”
The residents of Moms2Moms shelters are women of all ages, cultures, ethnicities, languages and sexual orientations. What unites them is what they share as mothers, sisters, aunts, daughters, friends, and family. These women are survivors, they made the Mediterranean crossing seeking safety and a better life, but upon arrival to Aegean shores were met with violence because of their gender, because of who they chose to love or simply because they are women.
Strength in Each Other
The Moms2Moms project is a way of life - an intergenerational community creating a support structure where feminist conversations can take place on all levels, without shame or judgment. Where women can discuss body positivity, motherhood, the lives they lived, and the lives they will live. A place where unconditional love is born every second, without fear of persecution or torture for the life choices they have made.
What binds these women and their lives together with such ease? Is it a history of shared violence and the torments which they have survived? Or are they bonded by hope, by life and by a sisterhood that can never be surpassed?
“Safe Place gave us a home, a place to bond, to learn and to support each other, a place where we can feel safe from the violence that brought us here, a place where we feel hopeful and supported by our sisters,” says one of the residents.
Regardless of their gender, sexual identity, race or culture, the residents of Moms2Moms are bound by their fundamental human right of dignity, safety and the right to life. They are survivors and fighters who are supporting each other in their individual healing processes while proving that it is only through love, support and a world where race, gender, sexual orientation, nationality and religion no longer separate us, can we move forward from the violence and sadness that binds us collectively as global citizens.
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