Refugee Women Ready to Lead Sexual and Reproductive Health Education in Greece

Athens, Greece: This International Women’s Day, underwear nonprofit he Unmentionable is celebrating five refugee and migrant women who will become the organization’s first Community Educators in Athens, Greece. Despite experiencing discrimination, economic hardships, cultural barriers, and other risks, these women will contribute in significant ways to the health and well-being of displaced communities in Athens by helping others get access to sexual and reproductive health education.

Starting this month, these women will teach free educational courses on sexual and reproductive health (SRH) to refugee and displaced communities on a variety of a topics; including reproductive physiology and sexual and gender-based violence, for example. The courses will be held in several different languages and taught at he Unmentionables Resource Cente in the Exarchia neighborhood of Athens. As The Unmentionables’ first newly trained Community Educators, these five women will also earn fair wages from The Unmentionables for their work.

Four of the women are Farsi speakers and come from Iran and Afghanistan, and one is an Arabic and French speaker from Morocco.

“We are so excited about what these women will do to help their communities as part of The Unmentionables. These women chose to apply to join our training program for an intensive and demanding course that lasted six weeks and their work has really paid off,” says The Unmentionables Programs Director Genevieve Westrope. “Our female trainers are some of the strongest, most resilient women I've met. Now, they're teachers themselves, and equipped with the tools to empower others.”

Beyond educational opportunities and livelihood programs, he Unmentionables Resource Center opened earlier this year to provide a safe place for refugees to receive intimate health classes and services as well as a free “shop” where they can pick up products needed to preserve their human dignity and meet their intimate hygiene needs. The new center’s priorities focus on building trust, consistency, and human centric design to empower refugees with dignity through hygiene. Medical professionals with a variety of specialties will also be present at the center for individual consultations.

In the three years since Greece became the center of a refugee and humanitarian crisis, an estimated 62,000 refugees still remain there in the country; with more than half of them women and children. Despite undergarments and personal hygiene products being basic needs, they are among the most inconsistently provided items during migration crises due to worldwide cultural taboos and lack of funding.

In just over a year, The Unmentionables has already supplied more than 130,160 intimate health products to forcibly displaced people in Greece, Uganda, Kenya, Somalia, Egypt, and the USA. The organization also launched a photography based empowerment program, nExpose, giving young refugees the tools and opportunity to tell their own stories.

Daniel Berberi