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Jordan: "Protection is everyone's responsibility"

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Omar Mahammad is Community Mobilisation Coordinator with the NGO International Relief and Development (IRD) in Za’atari camp, Jordan - home to more than 80,000 Syrian refugees. He attended RedR’s ‘Protection’ training in October of this year. Here, Omar explains why it's so important that humanitarian staff working in Za'atari are well-versed in the principles of protection.

I’ve been working for IRD for just over three years. As Community Mobilisation Coordinator, I manage a 36-person team, including 24 Jordanian staff and twelve volunteer community representatives, all of whom are Syrian and living in the camp. Za’atari is divided into twelve districts, and each volunteer is responsible for community mobilisation in his or her district.

IRD’s approach in Za’atari is strongly community-based. We try to ensure that the community representatives are involved in everything from the planning of a project to its implementation, and then the evaluation of its impact. To this end, we organise focus group discussions with men and women of different ages, paying special attention to the inclusion of particularly vulnerable people. These discussions generate a clearer picture of peoples’ concerns, which can then be raised and addressed by IRD’s community mobilisers at inter-agency meetings.

"All humanitarian staff need to be aware of protection issues" 

In the three years that I’ve been working with IRD, protection has become a much more central element of our work. In Za’atari, we’re dealing with people who are extremely vulnerable and can easily be exploited. The most common protection issues we encounter here are family and domestic violence, and sexual abuse. The community mobilisation team are not trained in protection. Any protection issues we encounter are therefore referred to the case management team, who are equipped to deal with them, and may refer them to other more specialised NGOs or partners. 

We have recognised that protection is everyone’s responsibility. It’s essential for us all to know what’s right, what’s wrong, and what you can and should do, as an aid worker. I’m not a protection specialist, but it’s important for me to be aware of protection issues so that I can identify any problems and refer them to the relevant person or agency.

The training has been very useful in this respect, particularly the sessions on risk analysis, and data collection and security of information. I was just thinking about how to share what I’ve learned with my field-based colleagues, especially the community representatives.

"It’s so important to empower and build the capacity of Za'atari's residents" 

I’ve been working in Za’atari for three years now and in that time, things have changed dramatically. Living conditions have improved a lot. As residents’ needs have evolved, the kind of assistance we deliver has also changed. Cash For Work has been a huge feature. We are really trying to empower residents and provide them with training opportunities. Two months ago, we handed the management of our community service units over to the refugees who use them.

At the end of the day, whether it’s next year or the following year, or the year after that, we know we’ll be leaving the camp. That’s why it’s so important to empower and build the capacity of the people who are living there. For the moment, they are still dependent on international and national staff, and this is what we’re working to change.

Over the next few months, twelve community representatives will become 24, then 36, and ultimately IRD will vanish.

Image © Maria de la Guardia