Thuraya’s Story: From Internally Displaced to an Insider Mediator

Home / Thuraya’s Story: From Internally Displaced to an Insider Mediator
October 21, 2021

Yemen’s humanitarian crisis has contributed to the internal displacement of an estimated 4 million people, making it the fourth-largest population of internally displaced persons (IDPs), in the world. The ongoing war has notably created a gap in the social structure between IDPs and their host communities. Internally displaced women remain the most vulnerable, particularly in terms of protection needs.

Search is working alongside a consortium of humanitarian actors to build the resilience of IDPs and enhance community collaboration in Yemen through the Durable Solutions Project, funded by the European Union. Employing our flagship Community Dialogue Approach, Search is training community leaders to be Insider Mediators who will then go on to identify and resolve community conflicts.

Thuraya Ameen is one of the community members selected to be an Insider Mediator. As a 21-year-old college student, Thuraya was forced to leave her home behind in Sana’a and flee to Zaraiqat Alsham, Lahj governorate, due to the armed conflict. Her house in Sana’a was located next to a military base, which was a constant target throughout the ongoing war.

Feeling Lost in a New Place

For Thuraya’s family, leaving Sana’a was their final resort to safety, particularly after Thuraya’s cousin lost his life as a result of the clashes.

Moving from home was already tough, leaving all our family behind and all the people we knew was even tougher”.

Thuraya’s family moved to their new house in Zaraiqat Alsham, Lahj, where they settled.  However, as time passed, Thuraya began to feel uncomfortable and unwelcomed with a sense of being a burden to her host community. Zaraiqat Alsham, a community in Al-Maqatera district already affected by the crises, struggles from the lack of resources and basic services such as sufficient power supply and water sources. This can fuel competition and has left the local community unable to accept the idea of sharing the already limited resources with the IDPs.

Now internally displaced with her family, Thuraya is realising the myriad of challenges that come with fitting into a new host community amid insecurity and conflict. “I feel that we add more burden on the people here – the number of IDPs settling down in this community is increasing due to the ongoing war. We faced difficulty to adapt to the village’s living conditions in a small unfurnished house as compared to our previous life in the city,” she explained.

Becoming a Community Mediator

Thuraya was chosen as an Insider Mediator in Search’s Durable Solutions Project after being nominated by the Local Council and demonstrating her passion for community engagement. The host community initially stood against the idea of an IDP being chosen as a mediator. “Why would they choose you?” her father asked. “I was told that I am new to the community and a mediator must be a member of the host community,” said Thuraya, adding that “at the beginning, we felt ignored by the host community members, particularly when taking decisions related to improving the village’s living conditions.

As a part of the Durable Solutions project, Thuraya received the Capacity Building training that was conducted by Search, which included modules in conflict identification, dialogue, mediation, and more. She proved herself to be more than capable in handling her role as an Insider Mediator. Working closely with other mediators, she exceeded all expectations of both host communities and other members of the project by being exceptionally well organized, motivated, and most importantly very innovative. “I did my best during the training to prove that we can co-exist with all communities, regardless of one’s educational background, race or even place of birth,” Thuraya adds proudly.

After kicking off the project’s activities successfully, the community saw the direct impact in many ways. Both the host communities and IDPs have begun to acknowledge the importance of having mediators in their communities. These initiatives contribute to strengthening social cohesion between IDPs and host communities, and Thuraya’s work was welcomed in the new community, the members of which are now praising her contributions as an Insider Mediator. With IDP numbers only increasing in Yemen, people like Thuraya are vital to regaining and maintaining stability in affected communities and driving innovative solutions.

Search for Common Ground (Search) is participating in the Durable Solutions Project, funded by the European Union and implemented through a consortium led by ACTED, that aims to enhance resilience and social cohesion of IDPs, returnees, and their host communities in Lahj governorate. Under the Durable Solutions project, Search has trained more than 70 community members (both IDPs and hosts) to be effective Insider Mediators. Their role is to promote social cohesion, empower their communities to lead non-violent conflict resolution processes, and build resilience to violence. Search trains Insider Mediators as a mechanism to prevent, manage, and resolve community conflicts.

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