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04. September 2020

“Do more than just treat the symptoms.” – 5 questions for Ara Stielau, Director of International Programme Work

When Ara Stielau came to medica mondiale ten years ago, the organisation was assisting projects in four countries. Today more than 30 partner organisations in 13 countries are being supported. Ara Stielau explains the values which guide our international project work and how it could develop in the next ten years.

What keywords could be used to characterise the international project work at medica mondiale?

Firstly: Feminist. We actively support the interests of women. Secondly: Stress- and trauma-sensitive, which applies to all of our approaches. And thirdly: Partner-centred. This means the project ideas are not thought up in Germany and then “imposed” on our partner organisations. Changes in society can only be achieved by social movements in that country.

Why is medica mondiale still active in Bosnia and Kosovo?

It has always been our aim to do more than just treat the symptoms of a survivor as quickly as possible and then leave the country. Instead, we aim to offer the support that women really need. In 2013 we carried out a long-term study in Bosnia, which showed that even 20 years after the wartime rapes many affected women are taking psycho-pharmaceutical medicines, suffering from anxiety, living in poverty and experiencing social ostracism. This clearly reveals the importance of providing longterm and committed support, which characterises our role as a partner.

Why do we cooperate with governmental authorities?

Our priority has increasingly become the interplay between partner organisations and projects. We also include government agencies in this, since our partner organisations are offering these services because the state is not able or willing to do it.

In the long term, governmental institutions need to assume responsibility and align their work with the needs of women. When a woman goes to a doctor, to the police or to court she should be able to take it for granted that she will be treated with respect and sensitivity. For this reason we are also enhancing the ability of the relevant government institutions to enact approaches of stress- and trauma-sensitivity.

How do we choose our partner organisations?

There are several clear criteria. We support organisations who are: women-led; working towards women’s rights; supporting women regardless of their ethnicity, age, sexual orientation, religious or political convictions; and active in war and crisis regions. We also look at their approach: Does the organisation appear to be a welcoming point of contact for women? Do they show respect and appreciation towards their clients? Do they share feminist values? These are attitudes which can be sensed quite quickly.

Organisations who see themselves as potential new partners can apply each year to our Grant Programme, which covers projects that have a limited duration and funding amount. When the cooperation proves to be successful, longer-term joint projects can then arise out of this.

Will we be working in more countries in 10 years’ time?

We are not currently planning to become active in further countries; if we do, it will only be a result of integrating neighbouring countries within existing programmes that have a larger scope. These regional priorities are an important aspect, since in order to enable effective and long-term changes, we need to take into account each sphere of conflict and its context as a whole, including knowledge of all the key local stakeholders. By cooperating with several organisations in a region, the women’s rights work there can be enhanced. The individual organisations benefit by being part of a network, which generally has more influence than they would ever have individually.

Source of the text: annual report 2019, p. 8-9


Related topics

medica mondiale actively supports women and girls in conflict areas worldwide

medica mondiale’s Grants Program funds women-led organisations in war and conflict zones

Strategy for International Programme Work

Our partner organisations