Especially for this day, our pals at the International Rescue Committee (IRC) have written this great blog focusing on Sham - the protagonist in the outstanding documentary, 8 Borders, 8 Days, so grab a spoon and dig in.
8 Borders, 8 Days, documents the journey of Syrian refugee, Sham, as she and her family make their way from Lebanon to Germany. The film beautifully showcases Sham’s unique determination, courage, and resilience as she leads her young family through this dangerous journey, delivering them safely to Berlin after 8 days of travelling across 8 countries.
What makes this film so compelling is how it challenges the public narrative of female refugees as victims without agency or control over the events in their own lives. Instead we see the story of a strong woman (who is also a refugee) take whatever control she can over her and her family’s life, in order to protect them and deliver for them all a brighter, more stable, and more prosperous future.
We should also recognise however that Sham’s strength - her guts and her grit - should not be the requisite currency that a woman fleeing conflict has to dispense before she can be safe. All states have a duty to protect those who are fleeing war and persecution and uphold the rights of the most vulnerable. As you watch the film, you feel deep frustration as you witness the failure of the humanitarian system to protect Sham and her family.
But there are things we can all do to help. By joining our Together for Refugees campaign, you can help increase the number of vulnerable women refugees who are resettled by countries across Europe and as a result don’t have to undertake the kind of journey Sham did.
But what is also so striking about Sham’s story is that you quickly realise that she isn’t just fleeing the violence of the Syrian conflict, but the violence of her first marriage.
It is well-evidenced that violence against women and girls increases substantially in humanitarian crises, and this includes domestic violence. As we approach International Women’s Day it is crucial we recognise that the humanitarian system still doesn’t do enough to tackle the patriarchal traditions and cultural systems that are the root causes of gender-based violence. Whether it’s a lack of safe spaces in refugee camps, or too few projects working with men and boys to challenge their attitudes, there is a yawning gap between the rhetoric on protecting women and girls in emergencies and the reality on the ground. And while donors and agencies like IRC have pioneered programmes to address this, the need far outstrips what we can supply.
The IRC and Ben & Jerry’s will continue to highlight the needs of all refugees. But for now, it’s important that we take time to reflect on the women and girls who like Sham are battling to protect themselves and their loved ones in warzones around the world and in transit to find safety. Let’s dedicate this International Women’s Day to them.
We've been spending a lot of time with the IRC recently as part of our Together for Refugees campaign. If you haven't already checked them out, head to the IRC webpage to learn more about the great work they do when not campaigning with us!
P.S. If you’d like to get Sham’s story to a wider audience, visit https://8borders8days.com/ and volunteer to host a screening.