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In Exodus: In Their Own Words » Women's Courage

In Exodus: In Their Own Words

January 31st, 2013 by kawoods Leave a reply »

For this week’s post, I’d like to try something different. One of my self-imposed challenges for this course was to try harder to look at the material from a scholarly perspective and to work on developing my reactions into more than emotion. However, after reading through two resources that are “in the refugees’ own words,” I would like to use this post to let the population I’m exploring to speak for themselves. Below are a list of quotes taken from men of refugee camps as complied by the UNHCR; I wanted to share them with my audience (as well as the publication), along with a few drawings, and hopefully gauge your reactions. I think how these men and women perceive their health and safety is most important, and they should be consulted in the quest to find solutions. Though I planned to discuss interventions, I want to give you perspective sof the displaced people I have been learning about so that we can develop a more thorough idea what needs to be accomplished.

“There were three government soldiers with guns. One of them saw me and asked, ‘Where are you going? I said I was looking for wood. … Then he raped me.”

“They rape our environment, and, you know, they get raped,” Hyndman recalls a Kenyan police officer telling her.

“In response to the question “What is your life in the camp like?” A woman replied: “Do you know about hell? This place is not hell. It is worse than hell.”

“Young girls are in danger especially if they are beautiful. Police in plain clothes come to the sheds at night with villagers. If the girl has a father or a brother they say that if the girl will not have sex with them they will take the father and brother and beat them and falsely accuse them and then they will have to pay a large bribe or go to jail.”

“If someone in the family got seriously ill, I don’t know what we would do, we’d depend on God”

“When a displaced woman arrives in the city she has three choices: prostitution, begging or starvation. Which one would you choose?”

“We live inconstant terror, unable to protect ourselves and our children.”

“She was twelve years old when she got pregnant and she died because her hips were not wide enough to give birth. There are so many teenage pregnancies and there is no one who can perform caesareans.”


How do these words and images make you feel? Interested in the full reports? Use the links below. Also, I would like to express my gratitude for the comments I’ve received thus far. I promise the interventions are coming soon. I wasn’t planning to be attached to the exploration of sexual violence in refugee camps, but if I decide to branch out to other issues within camps, I promise I will not you hanging without doing an intervention piece first!


UNHCR The Dialogues Book (Survivors, Protectors, Providers: Refugee Women Speak Out)

UNHCR Refugee Consultations, Bangladesh, 2007

Michele Lent Hirsch’s The Safest Prey



  1. wendy says:

    Hi Kadesia,

    Wow!! This was an extremely powerful post (esp. with the personal quotes and the drawings). From the drawings and quotes, one really starts to understand the feeling of hopelessness refugees (esp. women and girls) experience in the camps. And it’s not only about the hopelessness of their situation, but also the feeling that there is no one there for them who can help them out of their situation.

    One really important part you bring up in your post is the fact that “how these men and women perceive their health and safety is most important” because research does show that perceived health and safety do really manifest itself into physical issues. Thus, not only are they facing these physical threats, but they are also experiencing mental threats that further exacerbates the physical problems.

    I look forward to reading more about this!!


  2. drewf says:

    Great idea for a post. In looking through sources for my own blog I have also been affected by personal drawings of violence against women. These honest and frank representations of horrible occurrences are so powerful. For example, in “funny” comic, drawn by a girl from Rosario, Argentina, that tells the invented story a girl at a bus stop can’t get on the bus because it is too full and so she gets raped by a passerby, is troubling in its casual attitude. The fatalistic attitude that come through in these testimonies, that sexual violence is a fact of life, is perhaps even worse than the violence itself.

  3. sophia says:

    These quotes and images just make me feel something that I cannot quite express. I just hate the fact that people can be so truly evil and treat women like that. What can a girl do when someone is telling her that they will hurt her dad or make him pay a large bribe when her family doesn’t even have enough money to eat? Why can’t a woman go to the latrine in peace and with no fear? Why are women so powerless and so disrespected and violated? I don’t understand how people can have no compassion and not put themselves in other’s shoes. I always wonder what is going through those people’s minds, do they just really want sex or do they want to exercise power on others? Do they not think of their mothers and daughters? Why do they not love?

  4. jenees says:

    Wow. This post, with those vivid images, were incredibly powerful.

    I looked at the four links you included in at the end of your post, and it was very effective at getting me to think about what could be done to improve these situations.

    It’s horrible that many of the police officers are the people perpetuating this violence.
    I found an organization that is trying to help women in refugee situations that is trying to equip girls with education and more safety.

    It’s called World University Services Canada. http://wusc.ca/en/story/helping-refugee-girls-succeed
    Perhaps this can help you as you brainstorm interventions.

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