From where I stand: “I feel safe and I know my husband can’t reach me here”

Date: Wednesday, March 25, 2020


Married at 19 to an abusive husband, Mariam Ismail,**, now 26, is living in a women’s shelter in Giza, Egypt, along with her two children, aged 4 and 5. Supported by UN Women,through a partnership with the Ministry of Social Solidarity, the shelter was recently upgraded through a survivor-centred approach that actively involved shelter users and staff in the design process and increasing safety and privacy for women. Capacity development for the shelters’ staff was provided on gender sensitization, case management and psycho-social support with the aim of upholding the rights, needs, and wishes of the women survivors.


Mariam looks out a window at the women’s shelter. (Photo: UN Women/Nada Ismail)

Mariam looks out a window at the women’s shelter. (Photo: UN Women/Nada Ismail)

I was not going to wait until he beat me to death… He had threatened me several times that he would throw me off the balcony… He would even let our son beat me.

My husband didn’t work, and he abused drugs. He would get large quantities and sell them… He threw these drugs anywhere, and he saw my son smoking one or two times.

He did not care if the children were hungry or left on the street all day. He didn’t pay the house’s rent or any of our living expenses. I was left without a fridge for an entire year, and for four months without a gas cylinder. … I left home many times. Every time, he would give me empty promises and it would only get worse.

This shelter is God’s gift to me. I feel safe and I know my husband can’t reach me here. I needed a place to accommodate me and my children, and the shelter has been a safe haven for us. The place is clean and I feel comfortable here. Ever since I came here, I’ve noticed that I have changed a lot – I’ve become happier and more relaxed. I’ve noticed it in my children too. They are starting to learn good manners here.

The shelter helped me get a lawyer by referring me to the National Council for Women. I filed for a khula’ and now in court procedures.

The manager here welcomes you … we joke and laugh together. The staff here provides us with support and services to overcome our problems and help us find jobs. Now, I work for an elderly lady once a week.

 [For now,] my children are comfortable and happy here, and so am I.”

*Note: Name changed to protect the identity of the survivor.


The redesign and physical upgrade of the shelter for survivors of violence in Giza was completed under UN Women’s Safe Cities and Safe Public Spaces Initiative through a partnership between the Ministry of Social Solidarity and UN Women, with the generous support of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). Mariam Ismail’s* story reflects efforts to achieve Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 5 on gender equality and the empowerment of women, SDG 9 on quality infrastructure to support economic development and human well-being, with a focus on equitable access for all, as well as SDG 11on safe, inclusive and sustainable cities.

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