We support women and girls in war and crisis zones

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medica mondiale Media Centre

A commentary by Sybille Fezer (Board member medica mondiale), Monika Hauser (Board member medica mondiale), and Cordula Reimann (core, independent international consultant, trainer and coach).
Published as short version in the german newspaper taz on 12 March 2018

"#AidToo" – it has now also reached the aid and development organisations: as a debate on sexual assault of female staff, sexual violence, sexual exploitation and abuse of power of women in need of help and children in foreign missions. Is that a surprise? No, whoever understands the chain between sexism, gender discrimination, inequality, global injustice, and post-colonial dependencies is not surprised. The larger the power gap, the bigger the danger of abuse of power: On the one hand, there are development and aid staff and expats, often white and from the Global North, with money in their pockets; on the other hand, there are local women, men and children often traumatized suffering severely under violent conflicts or the effects of natural disasters. In many of these crisis areas, a state of emergency prevails wihtout any rule of law and an “anything goes” mentality. Corruption, impunity, a "culture of violence", financial dependence on donors and sexual exploitation are integral part of everyday life and a logical means of survival.


Karin Griese, Head of the Trauma Work Department at medica mondiale
Alena Mehlau, Trauma Work Officer at medica mondiale

Guiding the work of medica mondiale is an attitude of sensitivity towards both trauma and stress. This stress- and trauma-sensitive approach has a strengthening and relieving effect on the affected people and also the activists, specialist staff and working groups. For medica mondiale, trauma as a consequence of violence is not to be found exclusively in the area of (individual) psychology, but also very significantly at the level of society and politics. For this reason, even a multi-sectoral approach to supporting those affected by violence cannot stand alone: it must go hand in hand with measures to bring about change in general political conditions, societal structures and public awareness.


„Rise up, rise up, women of Africa“
Our partner organisation MEMPROW in Uganda warmly greets all supporters of medica mondiale with their women's rights song:
Rise up, rise up, women of Africa,
Rise up, rise up girls of Africa,
Oh, discover the treasure in you.
Say no to gender bias, Domestic and sexual abuse,
Keep off peer pressure No no no no no
Portray a sign of hope
The team of medica mondiale wishes you joy, strenght and confidence for the new year. 
Singers: Pupils of the Erussi Secondary School in Nebbi (Uganda), strengthened by MEMPROW.
Copyright: Rendel Freude/medica mondiale

Read more about the work of our partner organsation MEMPROW in Uganda.


Why an interlinked approach of psychosocial and economic empowerment?

The disempowerment of women and girls in the North of Uganda is thus multi-layered, interdependent and complex. Women and girls suffer from various sources of stress, such as traumatic stress due to wounds from the war that remain unhealed and have far-reaching consequences in contemporary families and communities, as well as ongoing existential stress.

This can be seen as long-term consequences of war, community disruption and displacement. These factors severely reinforce the poverty that the region is already struggling with due to the long-term consequences of the conflict and the dependency syndrome that was acquired during years of living in IDP camps.

As a result, it is unlikely that the socio-economic situation will improve if people are not helped to overcome these personal and social-relational blockages and rediscover their ability to develop the economic potential of the area. Economic success clearly needs stable minds and stable and empowering relationships.

Restricted Permission for use, reproduction and Translation
medica mondiale and FOWAC permit non-profit organisations to reproduce and translate this manual for use in workshops, or as a general training tool. However, we would ask anyone who does so to give both medica mondiale and FOWAC due recognition and, where written material is produced, using our drawings, texts or ideas, to ask for permission at and and send a copy of the material to both organisations.


medica mondiale supports this open letter:
The open letter prepared by the NGO Working Group on Women, Peace and Security calls on all Member States to prioritize gender equality and women's rights and to support women civil society and women human rights defenders ahead of the annual Security Council open debate on women, peace and security on October 27th.
It takes the approach of the 17th anniversary of the adoption of SCR 1325 (2000) as an opportunity to reiterate the fundamental principles enshrined in the WPS agenda and urges each Member State to more consistently promote and abide by them.


Subdued lighting, colourful wall hangings, and a cosy fire crackling in the stove, all within a yurt built in authentic Mongolian style. Men and women – including Monika Hauser – are listening attentively to Dishani Jayaweera, a peace activist from Sri Lanka. These intimate moments build trust and togetherness: 30 experienced peacebuilders from all over the world have come together for the second time at the Global Peacebuilders Summit in Paretz, near Berlin, Germany. Monika Hauser: “We are united by the obstacles and resistance we encounter in our daily work: our joint struggle for human rights and peace.” In Monika Hauser’s photo travelogue, she tells us about these rewarding encounters. This extraordinary gathering was made possible by the joint support of the Culture Counts Foundation, the Helga Breuninger Foundation and the German Foreign Office.


Dear readers,
The past year began with bad news: sexual assaults on women and girls attending New Year’s Eve celebrations in Cologne. Sexualised violence suddenly became a major topic of discussion.
Yet, instead of prompting an open-minded debate on the long-standing criticism of the loopholes in criminal prosecution, it provoked frantic political posturing focusing on the asylum laws. The second hastily passed asylum package included measures to ease deportation. This was followed in the summer by the long overdue reform of §177 of the German criminal code on sexual assault by use of force or threats; rape.
Simultaneously, populist factions were using the incidents in Cologne to incite hostility against refugees and migrants. In contrast, the women who had actually been assaulted were quickly forgotten. Meanwhile, the wars in Syria and Iraq continued unabated in 2016.
In Afghanistan, the number of civilians killed or injured in armed hostilities and terrorist attacks rose to a new high of 11,500. Armed conflict also continued in Southern Sudan, Ukraine and Eastern Congo.
In all of these conflicts, women are subjected to sexualised violence – by militias, government troops or other parties.
Yet, despite the many international agreements, political leaders are doing little to stop sexualised wartime violence and address its causes. Instead of promoting the development of adequate health care or organisations providing long-term effective support for survivors, investment in weapons continues.
Instead of actually addressing the root causes of the refugee crisis, Europe’s common migration policy is largely occupied with keeping refugees out. And instead of helping those seeking refuge by providing trauma-sensitive support, the debate is focused on deciding which countries can be declared “safe” countries of origin, to make deportation easier.
Yet, inactivity and resignation are not the solution! It is precisely because of these challenges that standing firm in solidarity with those forced to bear the brunt of these conflicts is more important than ever. Our local partner organisations, supporting survivors and working for women’s rights, are encouraging role models: for example, the women from Medica Afghanistan, who, alongside their counselling services, work tirelessly for the implementation of legislation to protect women against violence; or the psychosocial counsellors in Liberia, Uganda and South Kivu – the first point of contact for women and girls, who, day after day, have to confront the violence they have experienced; or the many people in Germany committed to supporting refugees.
The recent adoption in North Rhine-Westphalia of the concept to protect refugees against violence, which takes up our calls for needs-based accommodation and safe areas for women and girls, demonstrates that our political advocacy is, indeed, making an impact. All this is encouraging and demonstrates that we can achieve a great deal together, to ensure that women and girls are able to live in dignity and justice!