SAWA – All the Women Together Today and Tomorrow was established in 1998 as an independent non-profit NGO by a group of Palestinian female volunteers active in the field of women’s rights. The Society aims at combating violence against women and children in all its forms and levels through service provision and community awareness.
We work on changing the prevailing culture of violence and promoting a culture of peace and security, which serves human and community development in order to achieve a democratic society based on the principles of equality and social justice and on human rights.
To contribute to eliminating sexual, physical and psychological violence against women and children
To provide victims of violence with the opportunity to access safe support and protection.
To raise community awareness and bring out the issue of violence from household domain to the community sphere.
To promote the spirit and values of voluntarism and mobilize community resources and support in addressing the issue of violence against women and children.
Palestinian children live in an environment of extreme instability and many are exposed to violence on a daily basis. No violence against children is justifiable, yet the in-depth study on violence against children in the Occupied Palestinian Territories the World Health Organization (WHO) conducted in 2004 noted that almost 50% of Palestinian children in the West Bank and Gaza Strip have directly experienced violence or witnessed violence affecting a family member due to the armed conflict and ongoing infighting between parties. Palestinian children have grown up within a social infrastructure which is fragmented at best. For Palestinian children, violence is normal. Children see violence in every aspect of their daily lives-on the streets, where shelling and assassinations have become the norm, on television, were those same events are detailed and scrutinized, at school, where the effects of bombardment are visible in teachers and students, and at home, were fathers are no longer able to fend for their families.
Sawa’s helpline is the voice of Palestinian children and women. They call seeking rescue from abuse, or seeking assistance to cope with violence, sexual harassment, feeling suicidal, unwanted pregnancies, or difficulties in families. They may also call because they are lonely and would like to speak to Sawa’s counselors and volunteers to assist, support, or advice them. This also includes assistance for shelter, medical reasons, family crisis, rescue from abuse, death of a family member, emotional support and guidance.
The objectives of the helpline:
To reach out to vulnerable groups, especially children in need of care and protection by responding to calls/contacts and emergencies received.
To ensure access to free of charge telecommunication services to the most marginalized groups in urban as well as rural areas.
To advocate for services for vulnerable groups that are inaccessible, inadequate or nonexistent.
To strive for quality services for children in need of special care and protection and to ensure that the best interests of the child are secured.
To provide a platform of networking amongst organizations and to provide linkages to support systems which facilitate the rehabilitation of vulnerable groups.
During the one year project period and with generous support from the Non-Governmental Development Center (NDC) Sawa completed the infrastructure of the call center room and was able to handle numerous calls simultaneously due to an expansion of three lines. This system, which was installed in cooperation with Paltel – the Palestinian Telecommunications Company- is accessible to an increasing number of people. Furthermore, Sawa was able to develop software to block incoming calls with support from Paltel, which blocks unwanted phone calls. This system facilitated better access to Sawa’s free lines and services and more cases received the needed support effectively.
Sawa developed a computerized data capture system, which is considered an efficient tool for data collection and analysis. This resulted in exceeding the number of calls and access to the helpline, increased numbers of Palestinians using Sawa’s services. Thus fewer women and children were victimized. This service became more reachable for vulnerable groups who have been victims of violence, either directly or indirectly (by witnessing accidents or losing a family member or members, parents etc
The actions that were taken during the previous year enabled Sawa to expand the child protection helpline working hours to work from 8:00a.m – 12:00p.m (112 hrs per week). However, during that attack on Gaza Sawa the 121 functioned for 24hrs and functioned as an emergency helpline. Also , Sawa decided to expand the helpline from one to three with support from Paltel. The three free-toll lines under the 121 and Jawwal company made it possible for more children to call 121 for free. These were the two significant accomplishments that made the work of Sawa easier during the report period. Sawa hired two additional coordinators to be responsible for the extra hours, and thus enabled many more children to call.
During the one-year project period the helpline volunteer training and outreach violence prevention education courses (completing 85 training hours) took place and integrated volunteers onto the helpline, and schools. Moreover, a computerized referral network is maintained and updated by the coordinators and the trained volunteers.
Awareness-raising workshops were conducted in schools, youth clubs and community centres with the cooperation with schools and youth clubs across the OPT in order to reach as many thousands of children each year as possible
All volunteers and coordinators receive continuous psychological supervision to ensure that they remain able to carry out their volunteer duties dealing with such sensitive and emotionally traumatic issues on a regular basis. Volunteers also received group supervision, as part of Sawa’s ongoing investment in our volunteers.
This is an excellent project involving the upgrading or ‘transformation’ of a vital telephone Helpline service in Gaza where the community, particularly women and children, live in the presence of violence and danger on a day to day basis. Through the use of modern ICT the service has now been extended in terms of its availability and access, resulting in a six-fold increase of its use by those in need of help, counseling, and physical and psychological care. The ICT improvements have been in both the provision of enhanced telephone technology and a computerized database for recording, follow-up etc. The key design aspects of the project feature the changing of services from one 24hour ‘hotline’ to three lines open for sixteen hours a day. Whilst this change was very logically justified, it must have caused some concern at the time based on correspondence presented in the project document. The project is very pertinent to the theme of the prize, and whilst not strongly innovative from the IC technology viewpoint, its real value is from the counseling service provided to those on great need. The services provided appear to be excellent, and the project is well targeted to all in need, particularly children and women. The project should be highly transferable to other regions/countries where there is a good phone service, and trained staff. The project was well run, and achieving its objectives in a spectacular way if the number of calls is an indication. Follow-up would also be critical of course. Sustainability should be strong as long as there are well-trained staff members to carry it on, as counselor fatigue is a real issue in such stressful situations.
The environmental impact (either positive or negative) is not described in the project document. The project, although of very high humanitarian value and very relevant for its beneficiaries, appears to be slightly out of the focus of the AGFUND (“improvement of educational level… health conditions.. capacity building.. etc.) and outside of the specific subject: “.. development of remote and rural areas”. The project has however targeted a very high number of beneficiaries and has made use of innovative technologies and software. Its services are not market oriented, and consequently it is very unlikely that it could ever become economically sustainable. The financial resources have been used properly.
The project is highly relevant in social context . The target groups have immensely benefited through the project. The initiatives have made significant impact and implemented with dedication.