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This women’s centre is launching empowerment initiatives in Bahrain!

Just recently, we had a conversation with Mary-Justine Todd, Shamsaha’s Founder and Executive Director to know more about their history, goals and the initiatives they are launching to empower women.

What is Shamsaha?

Shamsaha, a non-profit corporation founded in the Kingdom of Bahrain in 2016, is the first and only domestic and sexual violence crisis response program in the Middle East. We provide 24/7 free and confidential crisis care for women in search of empowerment, independence and safety following any incident of abuse.

We offer emotional, logistical and informational support for victims of domestic violence, sexual violence and harassment in the form of medical, transportation, food, therapy and legal services. We have 100+ certified women’s crisis advocates who operate two helplines 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

We’ve learned that you will be launching a fundraising campaign for Ramadan – can you tell us more about this?

Since Shamsaha is a non-profit corporation, we depend on sponsorships and fundraising campaigns to continue our operations and our services, which are free for all women who are victim of abuse. In this regard, our fundraising efforts during Ramadan will be in pursuit of our newest initiative, as Shamsaha will be raising money to support women in its micro-finance and economic independence program.

This program will start by making small loans to women in order to become trained in a handicraft such as ceramics or mosaic designs, to buy the raw materials, to make a series of products, to market and sell the merchandise and to distribute them. Sponsorships for this program will cover the costs of the trainings for women and the logistics to support that; the raw materials; marketing and sales; as well as distribution, tracking and transport.

With this program, Shamsaha and its community micro-finance partners will support the women in Bahrain to gain both hard skills in terms of design and production, but also soft skills in terms of entrepreneurship and small business management.

Are there any projects that you are currently working on?

Shamsaha is launching the Micro-finance and Economic Independence Program in April. The project aims to help women gain economic independence, professional empowerment and entrepreneurial skills. 

The Micro-finance and Economic Independence Program consists of two phases over a one-year period, with focus on product development and training followed by business and entrepreneurship support. Six women, who are clients of Shamsaha, will be selected every month to be part of the first edition of the project and will receive training in designing, producing and selling various types of handicrafts, arts and other products.

The selected women will receive micro-loans to cover the costs of raw materials, transportation, marketing and sales, as well as small business and entrepreneurship training. Shamsaha will also promote and sell the products on its online platforms and with its retail and training partners including Ashrafs, Mosaic House, Studio Ceramic, and Vogue.

The Micro-finance and Economic Independence Program will build and strengthen the skills and experience of the many talented women in Bahrain, nurturing and supporting them to grow into their most empowered and successful selves. The women selected for this project will gain skills, confidence, business experience, and they will start to generate an income – some of them for the very first time.

Know more about Shamsaha’s official partner here.

On a different note, an increase in gender-based violence has shown to be common in crisis situations like the pandemic. What can individuals do to tackle this?

The rates of domestic violence have increased around the world since the onset of the pandemic. Shamsaha has experienced a 41% increase in cases of domestic abuse since March 2020. Among the initiatives Shamsaha undertook during the start of the pandemic was to provide emergency food provisions to women who lost their incomes as a result of the pandemic. Further, Shamsaha continues to provide ongoing support to victims of abuse, even as the number of our cases continue to rise.

In order to address the issue of violence against women in the home, family and friends should remain vigilant and if they suspect that someone they know is being abused; ask them, support them, offer to help in any way they need – but do not give advice. Also, never coerce or judge a woman who may be experiencing abuse. Finally, in order to stop abuse overall within society, women and men alike, must stand up when we see discrimination and/or unequal treatment. We must learn to overcome gender roles and gender stereotyping, by allowing both women and men to be who they are free from judgment or presumptions.

How can our readers get in touch with you?

Shamsaha can be contacted via our two helpines: 38447588 (English) and 66710901 (Arabic). We can also be contacted via all social media platforms: @shamsaha_me, our website: Shamsaha.org, or e-mail: info@shamsaha.org.

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