Our work with war-traumatised women and girls is based on principles and quality features which we have developed from our project work experience and which are regularly revised and refined. National and international work teams and an ever growing circle of international women experts are involved in this process. Terms that we keep using in our work – such as “empowerment”, “resource orientation” and “integrated approach” – are reflected in the basic principles.
Partiality for women
medica mondiale’s staff show unconditional solidarity with women having experienced violence. They are committed to the cause of women and girls as their advocates, speaking openly about and condemning injustice, discrimination and violence.
The consequences of sexualised violence in war are far-reaching – both for the affected women and for their societies. medica mondiale has developed concepts and methods to support war-traumatised women that are designed to consider both the individual histories of women and social and political framework conditions.
Women and girls having experienced sexualised violence are often seen as “victims” only. medica mondiale staff are self-conscious in how they act and speak: they acknowledge traumatised women as “survivors” who have managed not to be destroyed by the violence they encountered.
Survivors of sexualised violence have learned that an unequal balance of power was exploited to inflict violence on them. When working with clients, staff make sure that it is obvious despite all due professional detachment that the relationship between helper and client is, in principle, one of equality.
The term “to empower” means to enable someone to do or achieve something: women and girls in war and crisis zones are enabled and encouraged to identify and expand their own room for manoeuvre, to exert influence on the shift in the balance of power in society and thus to improve their future life situation.
medica mondiale works towards women taking active parts in developing conflict resolution strategies and advancing peace processes and also writing constitutions and making laws. To that end, we support, among other things, the work of activists in the field of women’s politics and the building of comprehensive networks. Also at project level medica mondiale supports active participation of all women involved in the projects in one way or another.
Sexualised violence in war is an expression of structural violence against women and girls in patriarchal societies. It contributes to maintaining an unequal balance of power between men and women. Through its commitment to women’s politics, medica mondiale is continuously standing up for sexualised violence in war to be acknowledged and punished as a serious human rights violation before national and international courts.
Tolerance and appreciation of cultural and social diversity
medica mondiale assists women worldwide to find their own ways of dealing with traumatic violent experiences and preventing further violence. These solutions might be individual or for society at large. Different cultures and countries have very different contexts for carrying out trauma work. medica mondiale respects local traditions in different cultural circles, as long as they accord with universal human rights. This means that respect for culturally specific factors cannot be used as a justification for ignoring or promoting unequal treatment of women and girls or even violence against them. When choosing our project teams, we take care to ensure a balanced selection of staff and we further support their intercultural skills. This enables us to make best use of the diverse skills and knowledge our team members offer, such as experience of displacement, or immigration, language skills, spirituality / religion, age, specialist skills and professional experience. Our team members also develop a basic understanding of how to relate to each other democratically.
Sexualised violence and traumatisation in war have far-reaching consequences for the individual woman, for family systems and society as a whole. In the face of the profoundness and seriousness of the injury suffered, coming to terms with and integrating these traumatic experiences is a long process. medica mondiale develops projects that offer a basis for long-term support for women and are effective also beyond the termination of the project.
medica mondiale gives its staff the opportunity to consciously reflect upon the special challenges involved in the work on sexualised violence and trauma individually, as a team or as an institution – offering, among other things, supervision and workshops to prevent burn-out syndromes. This enables staff to maintain their professional attitude and offer adequate help to clients despite the considerable emotional stress they are exposed to.