LSS Preferred Communities program offers support group for women refugees

The article was written by Renata Di Gregorio with First Coast News, and originally published January 5th, 2023. You can find the original article here

JACKSONVILLE, Fla — As nations grapple with the curtailing of women’s rights in Afghanistan, those in Jacksonville are making sure women refugees are supported.

As one social services organization finds, support can come from creating a space for refugees to help each other. Lutheran Social Services offers a support group specifically for women refugees. The First Coast is now home to many more Afghan and Ukrainian refugees than just a year ago.

“You will always have a flow of refugees coming to the country,” said Intensive Case Manager Lily Attallah with Lutheran Social Services.

In the past fiscal year, Lutheran Social Services resettled more than five and a half times more refugees from Afghanistan than from anywhere else besides the Ukrainian refugees served under a certain status. The organization resettled nearly 280 refugees from Afghanistan and more than 550 refugees from Ukraine.

Many of the Afghan refugees are women who, unlike under the Taliban-controlled Afghanistan, can get an education past the sixth grade.

“The illiteracy of women is a global problem,” Attallah said.

Attallah says Jacksonville has a special support system for refugee women and a Lutheran Social Services program includes a refugee women’s support group.

“We have Syrians, we have Iraqis, we have from Afghanistan, we have from the Congo,” Attallah listed. “All these women come together in a workshop and they try also to help each other.”

Attallah describes specific challenges for women refugees including raising children in a new country.

“Sometimes you find that the woman is only here with the children and the husband is still there,” she said. “The woman doesn’t know what to do because she was relying on her husband and now she feels herself alone.”

No longer alone – the refugee women’s support group has more than a dozen members and can grow.

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