For the cost of a meal, you can help Ukrainian refugee women access critical mental health support

Ukrainian Refugees Women

We often hear how war and conflicts disproportionately impact women and girls and the numerous obstacles they face. War impacts everyone, however with social communities and networks broken down and existing inequalities exacerbated, women are most impacted. They lose access to healthcare, education and many other social services and remain particularly vulnerable to Sexual and Gender Based Violence as well as are at risk of forced early marriage and other forms of exploitation.

Azadi’s Priyali Sur and Shreyas Jayakumar visited Poland in May, met with many refugee mothers and children and heard their journeys of resilience. They also met Polish activists and organizations working to support refugees coming into their country. 

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has forced more than 3 million people to flee to nearby countries, and many are displaced within the country. Poland has seen the maximum number of Ukrainian refugees – mostly women and children.  “My message to everyone is this – do not get comfortable with the idea of war!”, shared Kate, an English teacher back in Ukraine, who was living in a shelter in Rzeszow, Poland with her 2 children when Priyali and Shreyas met her.

At The Azadi Project, our aim is to change the narrative around Ukrainian refugee women, transforming them into leaders and agents of change, enabling them to not only improve their own mental health but also empower them to identify gender equality issues and solutions to mental health within their own communities.

 “I am here all by myself with my three children and it is very difficult”  – Liudmila, Ukrainian mother in Poland

Ukrainian Refugee women suffer from anxiety and the fear of what the future may have in store for them and their children. For women refugees especially, access to mental health services can be very difficult.

In June, we trained and hired 2 Ukrainian refugee women to start our Mental Health and Psychosocial Support (MHPSS) workshops in Krakow, Poland.  Through our mental health interventions, we invest in the power of women refugees to rebuild their lives, families and their communities. In the presence of a certified psychologist, these workshops provide a safe space for refugee women and with the help of creative techniques such as storytelling and art, they address their feelings of trauma, grief and loss caused by forced migration. Through a combination of group therapy and one-on-one counseling, we empower refugee women with the confidence, agency and the skills to share their life changing stories and journeys. 

We are raising funds to help provide Mental Health and Psychosocial Support (MHPSS) sessions for Ukrainian refugee women who have escaped the war and are currently in Poland. Unfortunately, mental health is often overlooked, especially in the time of crisis. For the cost of a meal ($40), you can help women attend a group therapy session with a certified psychologist. Or for $120, you can help three women attend weekly sessions.

Your generosity will also help us hire and train additional facilitators and psychologists in Krakow, Poland and reach more Ukrainian refugee women in need.  

Donate today and see your gift doubled thanks to a matching grant of up to $5,000 by an anonymous donor.

DONATE NOW

Our donation drive in New Delhi was a huge success!

The Rohingya refugees that live in the settlement in New Delhi, live in cramped spaces with limited or no access to toilets, potable water, or other basic amenities. Life in the camp is challenging, especially for women and children. We asked people to donate dry rations, hygiene supplies, clothes, blankets, books, and toys. 

Ronash in the Camp
Thank you to our donors

Thank you to all the donors who supported us and brought smiles to the families. 

We have just started our Mental Health and Psychosocial Support (MHPSS) workshop for Rohingya women and women from marginalized communities in New Delhi, in collaboration with our on-ground partner, Ummid ki Udaan, a not-for-profit organization that works with marginalized children. This program is sponsored by Lean In Foundation, a non profit started by Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Meta, and  Seleni Institute, a non profit dedicated to women’s physical and mental health. More on this in our next blog.

If you are interested in supporting our New Delhi project, please write to info@theazadiproject.com

2021 program updates: 

The Azadi Project launched three storytelling and psychosocial voices programs in 2021

  1. Lesbos, Greece:

 We launched our MHPSS workshop in Lesbos on March 2021, International Women’s Day. 

● Οver 70 refugee women attended the workshop 

● Weekly sessions were held in a relaxed and inclusive setting, where women were free to share their stories, anxieties, fears, and struggles with others or to just listen. Those sessions were facilitated by a trained facilitator and a trained assistant facilitator in a safe space away from the camp. This was modelled around self-help support groups. 

● Participants controlled their narratives and the amount of the information they want to share. 

● Based on their personal needs, goals and aspirations, we offered individual suggestions and resources or referred them to other local NGOs.

  1. Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh

We partnered with Rokeya Foundation in Bangladesh to carry out a storytelling, leadership and psychosocial support program for Rohingya refugees from September – December 2021. 

● Using a Training of Trainers (ToT) model, a total of 100 beneficiaries – 75 Rohingya women and 25 Rohingya men – participated in the program in the Cox’s Bazar refugee camp.

● The workshop sensitized the participants about gender-based violence, trafficking, and child marriage and created women and men leaders within the refugee camp to disseminate this knowledge further.

● Hybrid model: Azadi virtually trained six field monitors from Rokeya – 5 women and 1 man, who in turn conducted the in-person

  1. Yemen

In December 2021, we started a storytelling program to train members of the Peace Track Initiative (PTI), a foundation that aims at localizing and feminizing the peace process through promoting inclusion and enhancing feminist knowledge leadership in the Middle East and North Africa with a focus on Yemen.

● The program spans over six months and will be completed in May 2022.

● Similar to the Cox’s Bazar program, this follows a ToT (Training of Trainers) model as well.

● Azadi virtually trains 12 Yemeni migrant women leaders from PTI, who in turn will conduct the training in their communities

Want to know more about us? 

Winner of the Atlantic Council’s 2020 Distinguished Leadership Awards, The Azadi Project has worked for years in refugee women’s mental health, excelling at putting a gender lens to the challenges faced by refugees and migrants. 

Our mission is to enhance refugee women and girls’ voices and agency by providing psychosocial support. Our on-site workshops provide a safe space for women to share their stories, control their narratives, and be empowered.

We are advised by top international experts with extensive experience in refugee and women’s rights, mental health. Azadi has impacted the lives of more than 5,000 refugee women globally and its programs have benefitted refugee women from Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Niger, Syria, and Yemen. We are a U.S. registered 501 (c) (3) and have worked across Europe, Africa and South Asia in collaboration with local partners.

We need your support! Follow us for updates on our work with refugees around the world.

Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, and YouTube

Celebrating Refugee Women of the Moria Camp and their Resilience #IWD2020

By Maryam Zar – March 8th, 2020

Maryam Zar is a board member of The Azadi Project and was part of the team that conducted the Lesbos workshop

The Azadi Project travelled to Lesbos Island in Greece for two weeks in February, with a workshop to empower women from the Moria refugee camp to use 21 st century digital skills in order to tell their own stories.
For these women, looking inward was not easily done.

For most, no one had ever asked them to consider their own lives as independently meaningful. No one had ever asked them to ponder their inner-most thoughts or speak of their dreams – much less dare to achieve them. These were women from an unfailingly patriarchal culture that had taught them to serve, and to see themselves as part of the whole of family and society. Their own identity within that whole was lost, sacrificed for the greater good. The idea that they were self reliant or uniquely valuable, separate from their role as a cog in the culture that comprises the fierce Afghan pride, was lost on them.


It took the first several days to softly break in and gain trust. The break thoughts came slow, when the women would incrementally open up and allow us a glimpse of what was most troubling in their mind. Then slowly, we would to parse through the layers, incrementally surfacing to the top – to where they were that day, on this Island, in the middle of the Aegean, just a few miles from the Turkish land mass – where their dinghies had invariably landed at different times, under different circumstances, soaked and perhaps bewildered, but brimming with hope and anticipation of a better tomorrow.

Those of us who had travelled to make this workshop possible were no strangers to the instinct of traveling the globe in search of a better future. We were a team made up of an Indian woman with a present-day global footprint, a German-Greek mixed student of international humanitarian policy and an Iranian American who reached that dual identity by way emigration through a European gateway as an immigrant child. We were as sensitive as any three women could be under the circumstance, but still, we were strangers to the challenges these women had faced and the trauma they had endured to get to this room, in the attic in an NGO in Mytilene, for a two week project to empower them.

By the third, fourth and fifth days, we had broken through the daily silence. The reluctance in the face of probing questions had been shattered, and the women’s stories were flowing. We had begun to shape the narratives that would emerge through film, and were getting to know the women as though they were our own sisters, daughters and mothers. Some had more
trauma to unpack than others. Some didn’t wish to reach quite far back enough to break down. Some were full of anticipation for the future; some were still coming to terms with the past. In time, the bonds between the women strengthened. A digital group was formed so conversations could continue. Late night exchanges of advice or lighthearted banter began piercing our phone screens.

Those of us who had arrived as organizers began to feel much like the participants – vested in their lives, worried how they might fare overnight when the cold set in, the electricity failed and the rain would fall. Each day, we came, eager to hear how the women were doing. Each day, they would disembark the bus from Moria refugee camp, some 45 minutes away, and walk briskly toward our workspace, ready to take on the day’s work. We started with yoga and ended with tea – working on story lines and narratives in between.

For a few days during the second week, we had a talented Greek photographer join us from Athens. He was unfailingly friendly and inherently empathetic to the plight of the women as well as the call of the project. He connected with the women almost instantly and set out to photograph them in a way that would capture their essence – their strengths and their vulnerabilities all at the same time. By now, the women had built the kind of trust among each other that made each day playful. We had discovered some ruins on an earlier expedition around the beautiful island coastline, so we headed in that direction for a photo shoot. The end result was a glamour filled, soulful day replete with laughter and twirls as much as tears and honest reflection. In the end, the women felt emancipated and fundamentally empowered to speak their truths, look quizzically at their lives and emerge proud of their unique identities – as women and as forces that help keep society, family and culture intact – no matter what the challenges.

The images above show the expressions of the women on the first day and the last. The films are a reflection of the journey we all undertook together, and the pictures tell the story of a fierce set of women, stuck in a refugee camp named Moria, who took a chance to come to a workshop that promised to empower them. The workshop went from a collection of frightened women anxious to speak about their experience, to a band of friends who emerged uniformly stronger, uttering words like
undefeatable, hopeful, powerful, resilient, strong and unabashedly confident in their own ability to persevere. It was a transformation that impacted us all and will serve to remind us that women can change societies, and with that the world, incrementally toward a better place
where gender discrimination cedes to the possibilities of equality and the full participation of all in society. We are proud to have travelled this journey with these 11 women.