Supporting Muna to get her life back

Crossposted from UN Women.

Muna Hadad has suffered a lifetime of violence and abuse. Fearing her son’s safety, she left her abusive second husband and found refuge in a woman’s shelter supported by UN Women. Today, she is safe, independent and a working mother.

Muna Hadad* has a harrowing story. Her parents divorced when she was very young. When she turned 15 years, her father came back and forced her to live with him and his new wife. Over the next seven years, Hadad’s father raped her several times and her stepmother and stepbrothers physically abused her. At 22 she was married to a man chosen by her family. When her husband discovered that she was not a virgin, he promptly divorced her. Rejected by her husband and family, Hadad was put in jail under administrative detention for nine months.

The Jordanian Crime Prevention Law n.7 (1954) authorizes administrative detention for protective custody purposes to detain women at risk of violence or honour killing for up to one year. However, most justice sector professionals believe that detention has a negative impact on women and their families.

“Women in administrative detention face several challenges in being reintegrated into the society, stigmatized and rejected by their families, which can substantially extend their confinement,” explains Ziad Sheikh, UN Women Representative in Jordan.

Once she left detention, Muna Hadad decided to marry again, but soon after the marriage, her second husband started to drink and gamble. “One day, when I was six and a half months pregnant, he came home drunk and high. He hit me brutally and I went into labor. When day broke, I gave birth,” recollects Hadad.

Eventually, she decided to leave her husband, fearing for her son’s safety. Hadad found refuge at the Jordanian Women’s Union shelter for survivors of gender-based violence. The shelter is part of a joint programme Hemayati (‘My safety’ in Arabic) supported by UN Women, in partnership with UNFPA and UNICEF, and generously funded by the Government of Norway.

The programme aims to increase sexual and gender-based violence survivors’ access to comprehensive and confidential lifesaving protection services, including health, psychosocial and legal services. “I have everything I need now. The Jordanian Women's Union helped me find a job and they registered my son in school. I am doing the best I can to become independent,” says Hadad. She is one of 5,186 women who have been supported through the programme.

The programme also engages survivors in advocacy through arts and theatre. Muna Hadad, along with other survivors of gender-based violence recently performed in a play on early marriage, to mark the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence, a global campaign running from 25 November to 10 December. The experience bolstered Hadad’s confidence. “My message to parents is to take care of their daughters,” she says. “My message to women is to be strong and stand on your own feet.”

According to Nadia Shamrouk, the General Manager of the Jordanian Women’s Union, the plays provide a therapeutic experience to survivors of gender-based violence. “This is the first time that survivors played such roles as part of their healing process. One of the women who acted in the play had not been able to speak about the violence that she had suffered, but since participating in the play, she has opened up. She even decided to go to court to get custody of her children,” shares Shamrouk.

The Hemayati programme will continue through 2017, and aims to expand safe access to response services, shelters and health care, including reproductive health services, for survivors of gender-based violence.

* The name of the survivor has been changed to protect her identity.