Médecins du monde provide medical care for the most vulnerable populations living in situations of crisis and exclusion all over the world. They have made response to VAW one of its seven priorities for action.
Rapes, honour killings, acid attacks: the actual magnitude of domestic violence in Pakistan remains largely unknown. Most women who decide to leave the family home are rejected by their communities, receive death threats or are returned to their attackers. They can however seek refuge in women shelters called Dar ulAman or “Houses of Peace” managed by the Social Welfare Department. Alarmed by the poor health conditions and the violence taking place within the shelters, Médecins du Monde has been involved since 2004 in 34 shelters in the State of Punjab in cooperation with the local public authorities, to improve the quality of care and support to victims residing in the shelters.
Its program is structured in three steps:
The collaboration between the NGO and the Pakistani government is a prerequisite for the success of the project. Apart from giving legitimacy to the NGO’s actions, it also contributes to advance the debate on women’s status in Pakistan.
Interview with Arianne de Jong, coordinator of the Médecins du Monde long term programme in Pakistan.
Why did you get involved in this project?
I had already been working with Médecins du Monde for six years in the Netherlands: I was in charge of a program providing access to health care to Romani and homeless populations. I had heard several times about the Punjab domestic violence programme. Initially, I was hesitant to go for security reasons. But eventually my desire to understand what was happening there took over and I decided to go. For me, it’s a wonderful chance to practice a trade that I really believe in.
Why is this programme effective?
Since the inception of the program, women have been able to receive medical, psychological, legal and social care in the Dar-Ul-Aman. In these shelters, or “Houses of Peace”, women share their experience and receive advice. They understand that that are entitled to express themselves, to file complaints, to divorce. Our partnership with the local government gives the programme full legitimacy; though it can sometimes be a challenge to work with public institutions. Overall, we are successfully moving forward together and our collaboration has a positive impact.
How do you see the situation of women evolve in Pakistan?
Violence against women is a daily fact of life here. It is the mobilisation of the entire civil society which enables change. MdM belongs to a network of over fifty stakeholders (NGOs, community associations, etc.), all determined to raise awareness of the populations and public authorities on this issue. Thanks to the programme, women can be empowered and become self-reliant by developing their own income generating activities. They can then also become activists for their cause, role models for those who still don’t dare to speak about it.
Every single woman can make a difference.