In commemoration of World Refugee Day, Intisar Foundation, the United Nations in the State of Kuwait, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in the State of Kuwait and the UN Women held a webinar entitled “Women, War, Mental Health and The Quest For Peace”. The focus of the webinar was on the suffering of war affected women and the impact of violent conflict on their mental health. The UN75Talk tackled how women can achieve peace and become peace agents in the Arab world with the support and empowerment mentally and psychologically to reaching resilience and strength. The webinar was hosted by altruist experts, philanthropists, and representatives of International organizations in the Arab world, Dr. Tarek Elsheikh (Representative of United Nations Secretary-General and Resident Coordinator, State of Kuwait),HH Sheikha Intisar AlSabah (Founder and President of Intisar Foundation), Mr. Mohammad Naciri (Director of Asia Pacific Regions for UN Women and Former UN Women Director Arab States),Dr. Lina H Kreidie (Senior Researcher at Intisar Foundation, political psychologist), and Dr. Samer Haddadin (Head of UNHCR office to the State of Kuwait). The UN75Talk was moderated by Mrs. Karma Ekmekji a strong advocate in spreading peace and equality in the Arab world, and a former consultant with UN Women on mediation and women, peace and security.
“Women can be peacemakers,” said Mrs. Karma Ekmekji, who introduced the panelists and spoke about the dire situation in the Arab world, which is the least peaceful region in the world right now. The lasting impact of war and conflict on women is well documented, who are the most vulnerable to the psychological and emotional effects of violence. The United Nations and Intisar Foundation were both founded as a response to wars, and are working towards achieving peace.
“Violence against women during periods of conflict has reached a new level, and civilians have become the primary targets of many groups,” said the Representative of United Nations Secretary-General in the Arab State of Kuwait, Dr. Tarek Elsheikh. The Arab world has suffered a great deal of violence and war in the recent decades. The losses caused by war are not only physical but mental and emotional. Women are the key pillars of families and societies, who support and aid others to grow. “Innovative solutions to supporting the psychological wellbeing of women, similar to the Drama Therapy programs implemented by Intisar Foundation, ensure behavioral change and reversing the impact of war,” said Dr. Elsheikh.
Based on the need for adequate psychological care in the Arab region, “zero efforts were made to address woman’s psychological and mental health support in the Arab world,” said HH Sheikha Intisar AlSabah. Creative art therapies took a creative and innovative road to utilize Drama Therapy in the answer to the needs of women affected by war trauma. Drama therapy is a non-stigmatizing approach that encompasses the body, voice and mind to promote catharsis and enable better communication and expressional skills, thereby improving resiliency and empowerment. “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,” said HH Sheikha Intisar AlSabah.
A journey of personal empowerment and success captured the UN75Talk with the newly empowered woman, Mrs. Fatima Khalifeh. A special guest for this webinar, Fatima, shared her personal experience after fleeing Syria in 2013, due to the ongoing civil war. “Drama therapy was a chance for me to regain my breath. It helped me rediscover my body, which had been restricted since the war started, and I realized I have been using only my voice to express anger,” said Fatima. After about five sessions of Drama Therapy with Intisar Foundation, she felt safe enough to share her experience with other women affected by war in the group. Fatima leveled up her achievement after two years of participating in Drama Therapy programs by Intisar Foundation, and became the director of a small business called “Al Sama” studio in Burj el Barajne camp. “My success is empowering other women I work with by the use of Drama Therapy and helping them achieve peace like I did with Intisar Foundation,” said Fatima.
Head of UNHCR Office to the State of Kuwait, Dr. Samer Haddadin, shed light on the importance of including women in all future plans of peace building, as he expressed how life elements come from women, and how they are powerful builders, saying “women usually carry the most weight in family responsibility.”
High rates of depression, anxiety, and post traumatic disorder (PTSD) are commonly found in war-affected populations. “For example Jordan and Lebanon have the two highest ratios of refugees per capita in the world and yet have very few mental health professionals,” said Dr. Lina Kreidie, Senior Researcher at Intisar Foundation and Political Psychologist.
Intisar Foundation’s future plans for research include how Drama Therapy can foster empathy and can promote peace evidently and scientifically, with its interrelation with neurobiological impact of the Drama Therapy use on women affected by war. “The need for more research in the field of Mental Health and Psychosocial Support (MHPSS) for refugees and war-affected populations in the Arab world is immense,” said Dr. Kreidie.
Nevertheless, women’s role in peace making and leadership can be a durable reality and not a dream in the Arab world. The UN Women Director, Mr. Mohammad Naciri, explained that the “traits that women display in their leadership being inclusive, passionate and calm, are essential traits for peace making.” Those are essential traits for peace making, “the perseverance of women is infinite,” said Naciri. Women have a different approach towards peace, a more sustainable way, and he sheds light on the importance of the psychological and psychosomatic work on women. “We need to remind ourselves that investing in women is the best form of investment,” stressed Naciri on the need to take action towards closing the gap between words and actions towards peace.