Intisar Foundation, in collaboration with the United Nations in Kuwait, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in the State of Kuwait, and UN Women co-hosted the UN75Talk webinar titled “Women, War, Mental Health and The Quest for Peace.”
The goal of this webinar was to show how drama therapy, a culturally sensitive, unique, and effective approach to therapy may be used to heal and empower women who have been affected by the cruelty of war and violence in the Arab world.
Intisar Foundation presented its efforts to help heal Arab women affected by war and become self-empowered to rebuild their lives, and hence the webinar was co-hosted by HE Sheikha Intisar Al-Sabah, Founder and Chairwoman of Intisar Foundation, and Dr. Tarek Elsheikh, Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General and Resident Coordinator to the State of Kuwait.
Other panelists were Dr. Lina Kreidie, Senior Researcher at Intisar Foundation; Mr. Mohammad Naciri, Director of UNWomen Asia Pacific Region; and Dr. Samer Haddadin, Head of UNHCR Office to the State of Kuwait. The webinar was facilitated by Dr. Karma Ekmekji, Founder of Diplowomen, Advisor on Women Peace and Security, and Member of the Mediterranean Women Mediators Network (MWMN).
The discussion’s main objective was to highlight the inadequacy and lack of availability of mental health care and support for refugees in the Arab world. It provided more insight into the numerous issues that refugee women encounter on a daily basis.
Dr.Tarek Elsheikh initiated the discussion by saying, “Violence against women during periods of conflict has reached a new level, and civilians have become the primary targets of many groups.”
Indeed, the rate of violence and war in the Arab world has increased significantly in recent years. The repercussions are not only physical, but also psychological and emotional. Women are the foundations of families and society, assisting and inspiring others to flourish in their lives. For this reason, Dr.Elsheikh added, “Innovative solutions to supporting the psychological wellbeing of women, similar to the drama therapy programmes implemented by Intisar Foundation, ensure behavioral change and reversing the impact of war.”
“Zero efforts were made to address woman’s psychological and mental health support in the Arab world,” HH Sheikha Intisar added. She went on to explain that due to recognising that there is a critical need for adequate and successful psychiatric care in the Arab region, Intisar Foundation decided to adopt creative art therapies, and along the way, revolutionised the use of drama therapy to meet the psychological needs of women who have suffered from trauma related to war and violence.
HH Sheikha Intisar AlSabah explained the important factors of drama therapy by saying, “It works on three different elements, the body movement, emotions and cognition which enables a greater ability to achieve inner peace and help spread peace within the family and larger community.”
Fatima Khalifeh, one of Intisar Foundation’s Agents of Peace, was featured as a special guest to speak about her journey to becoming an independent, self-empowered woman. She discussed the personal consequences of fleeing Syria in 2013 due to the escalating civil violence, and receiving psychological support only years after and due to the efforts of Intisar Foundation. “Drama therapy allowed me to catch my breath, to rediscover my body, which had been confined since the conflict began, and I realised I had been expressing my frustration exclusively via my speech,” she said.
After participating in the Intisar Foundation drama therapy programmes, Khalifeh advanced her career and became the director of a small business called “Al Sama” studio in Burj el Barajne camp.”My next accomplishment will be to empower other women through drama therapy and assisting them in achieving Peace, like I did with Intisar Foundation.”
Dr. Samer Haddadin, Head of the UNHCR Office in Kuwait, emphasized the necessity of involving women in all future Peace-building efforts, “Women generally carry the largest weight in family duties.”
Intisar Foundation conducts regular research studies across the Arab World which provide statistical proof of women’s important role is integral in creating better societies. Dr.Lina Kreidie, Senior Researcher at Intisar Foundation, stressed on the importance of collecting research data from the Arab world which show, for instance, that Jordan and Lebanon have the two highest ratios of refugees per capita in the world and yet have very few mental health professionals. Intisar Foundation’s most recent research study discussed the benefits and importance of mental health care support for the vulnerable refugee population, while its future research goals involve researching how drama therapy can nurture empathy and promote Peace in an evident and systematic way, and analysing the diverse neurobiological effects of drama therapy on women who have been impacted by war and violence.
In the Arab World, women’s role is the most essential part of enhancing bottom-up Peacebuilding measures. “Attributes that women display in their leadership, such as inclusivity, passion, and tranquility, are crucial attributes for peacemaking,” said UN Women Director Mohammad Naciri. By saying that women’s perseverance is limitless, Naciri emphasised that these traits are vital to achieving Peace and stability. “We need to remind ourselves that investing in women is the best sort of investment,” he said.
The webinar captivated the participants’ interest and was well-attended by a large number of participants from diverse industries. The discussion was essential in assessing various bottom-up strategies focused towards healing and self-empowering Arab women who have been affected by the brutality of war and violence. It called upon everyone to assist women in better positioning themselves to reduce future violence in their communities and Arab regions as a whole.