Board Member, Intisar Foundation
Marianne Kafena is a Partner at Harbottle & Lewis LLP.
“Every woman who can find healing through drama therapy can also share that new voice within her family and in her wider community.
Empowering women in this way makes each a true agent for healing change in a region that remains one of the most geopolitically volatile on earth.“
Please give us your opinion on the Intisar Foundation’s achievements since inception in 2019 until today.
There are two key achievements that stand out to me.
Firstly, having the cultural and emotional intelligence to unlock the power of drama therapy for women in the region. We have learned, as trustees, that drama therapy encompasses so many aspects of other therapeutic disciplines (movement, voice, art) that it has a uniquely powerful potential for those who engage wholeheartedly. The Foundation has carried out extensive research that shows us women’s pivotal role in families and, therefore, also in communities. Every woman who can find healing through drama therapy can also share that new voice within her family and in her wider community. Empowering women in this way makes each a true agent for healing change in a region that remains one of the most geopolitically volatile on earth. To echo H.E. Christian Nakhlé’s observation, the particularly important issue here was to unlock taboos around engagement with therapy, by introducing something that can be accepted more easily and that feels less stigmatising, perhaps, than talking therapy.
Secondly, the Foundation has adapted as nimbly as possible to the changing environments we face. We have provided online courses, partly in response to Covid, and we have also supported wider efforts in communities affected by large-scale devastation and trauma following events like the explosion in Lebanon. We have addressed, too, the issue of sustainability because we are training drama therapists in the region, so that the providers of therapeutic support are, themselves, plugged into the cultural and resulting psychosocial context for the women we seek to reach.
Through HH Sheikha Intisar and her friends and contacts, we have access to some of the world’s leading drama therapists in the UK, US, and elsewhere. Our achievements are, of course, a result of all the time, dedication and effort put in by those who work with us in their various ways, within and outside the Foundation. In terms of the achievements of the Foundation itself, however, I see these two aspects as a particular example of the vision and determination of our founder to bring healing to a region so close to all our hearts.
“I decided to commit to the work of this Foundation because I believe wholeheartedly in its mission.
I was born in Amman, my father started his life as a Palestinian refugee and his message to all his daughters was clear: All we ever truly have is who we are.“
Why have you decided to lend your invaluable support to the Intisar Foundation and what would be your advice to others when it comes to supporting humanitarian/philanthropic causes?
I decided to commit to the work of this Foundation because I believe wholeheartedly in its mission. I was born in Amman, my father started his life as a Palestinian refugee and his message to all his daughters was clear: “All we ever truly have is who we are.” Part of our fulfilment as human beings lies in the simplest acts of kindness, thoughtfulness, and giving. The Foundation’s mission brings together everything I hold dear, after my family. That is why I am so committed to its work.
My advice to anyone interested in joining a humanitarian or philanthropic enterprise is to be realistic about the time they are able to commit and maintain an open generosity of spirit towards everyone else engaged in its work, too. You never know what someone already has in their lives and if there’s one thing this work has brought home to me very clearly, it’s the importance of walking a mile in someone else’s shoes.
“Looking forward, I would like us to do exactly what we have committed to doing: reaching ever more women in ever more places, empowering more and more to find and uses their voices as we move from surviving to thriving in the Middle East.”
How do you contribute to achieving the Intisar Foundation’s goals?
My contribution at the moment encompasses the UK legal aspects of our Foundation’s structure, governance, and constitution. I stay in touch with our UK lawyers to ensure I contribute as actively as I may, on behalf of the trustees as a whole. I would like to contribute more actively to the Foundation’s international efforts and, Covid permitting, I aim to visit the places where we work on the ground, to gain first-hand experience of our work.
Looking forward, I would like us to do exactly what we have committed to doing: reaching ever more women in ever more places, empowering more and more to find and uses their voices as we move from surviving to thriving in the Middle East.
“السلام عليكم [“Peace be upon you.”]
Lastly, what message would you like to share with the world for the occasion of International Peace Day 2021?
When I interact with my Arab family and friends, a phrase is uttered that is so common across the Arab world that we often don’t pause to take in exactly what we are saying to each other. Those words are السلام عليكم [“Peace be upon you.”]