Support, Safety Nets and Social Networks: Building networks for support and social change

During war and conflict, families and communities are torn apart, and women can lose everything that ever mattered to them. Often, they are friendless and alone, their support systems shattered. War pits neighbor against neighbor, eroding the social fabric of society and destroying trust and faith.

The Women for Women International (WfWI) training curriculum is designed as a participatory and interactive experience that allows women to learn in a group setting. Upon entering the program, each participant is placed into a Women's Group consisting of 20-25 women.

Despite differences in age or religion, these women become each other's support system and safety net; a critical element in the journey they take as they work together to rebuild their lives. Collectively, participants are able to pool resources, build businesses and form cooperatives, share information and life experiences and solve problems together. In addition, the support and protection women receive from their Women's Group can remain with women after they graduate.

As a result, women survivors of war learn that they are stronger together than each woman can be on her own.

  • Creating Safe Spaces

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    • For the majority of women we serve, safety can be elusive.

      At home, many are on guard against domestic abuse. On the street, they must be watchful of those who could hurt them. Some cannot speak openly to their friends or neighbors for fear of being overheard. Others don't have anyone in their lives willing to listen to what they have to say.

      As participants in the WfWI program, women are free to openly discuss ideas and share personal experiences without fear of retribution or judgment. All information is kept confidential and the interactive environment enables women to support each other and provide solutions.

  • Developing Networks
    for Support and Social Change

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    • WfWI serves socially excluded female survivors of war and conflict—social exclusion refers to the multiple dimensions of disadvantage, including but not limited to: income poverty and lack of participation in society.

      More specifically, the United Nations Development Program describes social exclusion as "lack of access to the institutions of civil society (legal and political systems) and to the basic levels of education, health, and financial well-being necessary to make access to those institutions a reality." Social networks are an invaluable resource for socially excluded women.

      • Social networks allow women to relate to their peers who have often experienced the same emotional issues and trauma. It is here that women survivors learn that they are not alone and that their pain is shared.
      • Through social networks, women learn that when they come together as a group, their voices are amplified. Many of the problems women face–domestic violence, exclusion from decision-making in the family and community, illiteracy, lack of access to essential services such as reproductive health care or inability to own, manage or inherit land or other major assets–can be attributed to social customs. The best way to address these issues is by advocating for positive change collectively via social networks.
      • Social networks allow women to share vital skills, knowledge and experiences for the benefit of the group and the community
  • Highlighting the Power of Sisterhood

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    • Women survivors of war and conflict receive immeasurable support from their "sisters" in the program; including those in their Women's Group with whom they attend classes, build businesses, and provide support during the journey to active citizenship.

      Together, these women are forming cooperatives, purchasing the farming land, building businesses and transforming their communities.

      Similarly, women receive inspiration and support from a global network of sponsor sisters numbering in the tens of thousands who make the decision to provide monthly financial assistance and emotional support.

  • Support Groups Make a Difference

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    • Women who graduate from the WfWI program recognize the benefits of participating in social networks, and see the value of safety nets:

      • 92% feel their WfWI group provided an opportunity for friendship and the chance to express themselves
      • 82% train or mentor other women in their communities
      • 50% participate in cooperatives, women’s associations or self-help groups