HH Sheikha Intisar AlSabah is a Kuwaiti princess from the royal family who has long been involved in the philanthropic sector. Her efforts have spanned into the UNDP, Human Rights Watch, as well as various endeavors in women’s and children’s health, education and empowerment. As a young woman, she was witness to the atrocities of the Gulf war, its echoes resonated with her as she grew and found her footing in the world of humanitarianism.
In late 2017, HH Sheikha Intisar was a part of a round table discussion organized by the ICRC about women’s struggles in the wars. The most recent of which, the Syrian civil war, had left millions of women in need of solicitude and compassion. HH Sheikha Intisar AlSabah questioned the lack of efforts being implemented to help women who survived war overcome trauma and reintegrate into their post-migration conditions. This vacuum in the areas of women’s support prompted her to begin a journey into the world of psycho-social support for women affected by war.
HH Sheikha Intisar AlSabah launched Intisar Foundation in 2018, with two programs in Lebanon that used expressive therapies to empower and help women overcome their war traumas. Drama therapy was chosen as the main focus of the foundation as it was found to be a unique approach that allowed the women to release repressed emotions, explore their traumas and consequently heal from them. Additionally, Drama Therapy proved to be free of any stigma or shame associated with seeking psychological support within the more conservative populations in the Arab world.
The program developed by Intisar Foundation consists of twelve sessions over three months, designed with Drama Therapy techniques specifically devised for the population of women who have survived the war. The “Intensive program” focuses on exploring and healing trauma, building a sense of community, and empowering Arab women. Following the success of the initial program, HH Sheikha Intisar saw that it was necessary to continue working with each group over a longer period of time in a first of its kind approach to psychosocial support. The “Follow-up” program provides a prolonged 12 months extension that focused on developing social and adaptation skills.
Since its inception, Intisar Foundation has held Drama Therapy programs for groups of war-affected women in Shatila refugee camp. Our programs have proven to be effective in alleviating the psychological distress of war and forced displacement. 80% of our participants experienced a reduction in depression symptoms, 77% experienced a reduction in anxiety, while all of our participants experienced increases in self-esteem rates. Furthermore, the programs provided a sense of community among the participants, a safe place to experience catharsis, and an improvement of their general outlook on life.
With that being said, Intisar foundation held its first public event in July 2019 to raise awareness about our efforts in supporting refugee women as well as their post-migration conditions. The personal biographies of our beneficiaries were commemorated in a theater play that took place in Laban Studio, Ziko House in Hamra, Beirut. The main event depicted the daily struggles of refugee women among their unforgiving social circles with short scenes performed by each woman revealing her own story.
Verbal interviews with the participants revealed that many of them found the play to be an empowering experience, as speaking on stage about their personal stories proved to be a chance for the women to unburden themselves while educating people and raising awareness on their condition during and after the war. Our internal research shows that all of the participants benefited from the program and said that they would recommend the program to women in their own social circle.
We believe that women largely influence their families and communities in terms of emotional well-being and stability. Hence, we focus our programs on women, as they instill this positive change within those around them. Intisar Foundation is undertaking its first steps towards achieving its goal of healing and empowering One Million Arab Women; this ambitious plan is a much-needed intervention in light of all the recent armed conflict in the Middle East.