After Nefri, a single mother with four children, fled from Colombia it took three years to find secure accommodation in Ecuador.
“I’m Colombian and also a refugee. When we search for a house or a room and say we are Colombian people close doors in our faces. What are we supposed to do? Go back to the country from which we escaped, where my husband was kidnapped and disappeared?”
Nefri now opens her house to newly arrived refugees and offers advice about the many difficulties the more than 27,000 Colombian women refugees in Ecuador face. Like others, Nefri has been exposed to sexual harassment through her search for accommodation.
“Once I accepted shelter in the house of a man, unsure of his intentions. The next day, after having accepted, he demanded payment and harassed me sexually. Another time, we were thrown into the streets and beaten because I did not pay the rent on time. Violence was not only against me, my children were also beaten”.
She has on-going challenges as her property is temporary and she depends on her son to pay their rent, but, argues Nefri, her experience
“reaffirms the need to be united as woman refugees, to claim our rights and propose solutions. We should not be prepared to suffer after displacement. We should prepare ourselves to demand profound change and political measures to address housing solutions, to leave behind injustice and violence.”