Voice aims to highlight refugees’ voices as active agents of change rather than passive recipients of aid. The project empowers refugees to express their needs, aspirations and stories in their own words. We document history through storytelling and engage national and international actors to hear and address Syrian refugees’ concerns. We want Syrians in and outside Syria to live in dignity.
This project began in Amman and Mafraq in November 2012 and has now expanded into Zarqa. It aims to:
1) Improve Syrian access to quality information, services, and resources;
2) Increase Syrian engagement with their own needs and rights;
3) Enhance duty bearers and stakeholders’ responsiveness to Syrian needs and rights.
Voice has four components:
ARDD-Legal Aid empowers Syrian individuals to build their own community. We do this through regular meetings with community groups, which we form and train to understand their rights, protection, health promotion, coping mechanisms and family planning, among other topics. Group members then become community facilitators, who at once disseminate, collect and facilitate the flow of information among refugees and with aid organizations.
For example, ARDD-Legal Aid produces and distributes print pamphlets on entitlements and services in our Amman and Zarqa Refugee Resource Centers. Voice community facilitators spread this information in their community. They also evaluate the aid response and report feedback from their fellow Syrians. Because the Syrian community trusts these facilitators, they are well-placed to collect and verify information about refugees’ needs, protection issues, coping mechanisms and access to services. We build their capacity to speak, but also to listen, and to strengthen their own community through communication and information.
Access to resources gives refugees both dignity and agency. We train refugees in business and income-generating skills, especially focusing on Syrian women. ARDD-Legal Aid also has a fund that provides grants for promising graduates from Voice’s skills development trainings. We distribute these grants to candidates who show strong capacity and business development plans, then monitor and continue to support their income generation efforts.
Amid all the media coverage of the Syrian crisis, one of the least-heard voices is that of Syrians themselves, especially women. We empower Syrians to make their narrative heard. Voice trains citizen journalists to report stories that represent refugees’ voices in Jordan. These pieces are published and shared via the Voice blog, Twitter account, a bimonthly newsletter in English and Arabic and other national and international media outlets.
At the popular level, Voice journalists tell the refugee’s human story to alleviate host community tension and foster empathy. This ultimately enhances protection of refugees and Jordanians alike. At the systemic level, Voice articles highlight gaps between refugee needs and the aid response. This holds duty bearers accountable to the effects of regulations on refugees in Jordan, asking them to attune policy decisions to actual refugee needs. Meanwhile, ARDD-Legal Aid conducts research and produces policy papers to support this advocacy work.
Voice brings the Syrian community to our Refugee Resource Centers, where they can access free legal services including consultation and representation. We also refer them to providers of other services like health, psychosocial support, family planning and childcare services.
Refugee needs are comprehensive and constantly evolving. Voice learns about these needs through our community focus groups and the ARDD-Legal Aid hotline, which receives complaints and offers urgent consultation 24/7. We then channel these concerns to those responsible in coordination and lobbying meetings, creating an indirect feedback mechanism for refugees to ask for protection and hold stakeholders accountable.