Comprehensive support for survivors of violence

With our new strategy we have bundled our offers of advice and support for women and girls into six working areas. Guiding our work in all of these areas is the trauma-sensitive approach. This refers to basic principles in the way we deal with survivors of violence, which aim to strengthen those affected in an optimal way and, for example, avoid any risk of reactivating trauma symptoms.

1. Trauma-sensitive psychosocial work

Trauma-sensitive psychosocial work will remain an important priority in our work. Psychosocial counsellors in the projects offer one-to-one and group sessions for women and girls to talk about and cope with their experiences of violence. They also work to raise awareness of the women’s situation within their communities and society. Additionally, in future we will increase the attention we pay to the family surroundings of the women, such as husbands, in-laws and children. By building up solidarity and protection networks and by implementing measures to prevent violence at local and regional levels, we include parishes and communities in the support and protection of women and girls. In future we also want to increase the numbers of men and local authorities we can persuade to take an active role in preventing violence against women.

In order to firmly anchor support for women in the local districts in south-eastern Liberia, medica mondiale trained 39 voluntary activists to be points of first contact for women facing danger. They are now active in some 42 villages

2. Trauma-sensitive healthcare work

We advise women and girls affected by violence on healthcare issues and ensure that they receive the medical support they need. Furthermore, we also train local medical specialists in trauma-sensitive and strengthening methods to treat women who suffered violence. Those trained include staff in our own projects, the healthcare teams of our partner organisations, and doctors, care workers and midwives from both statutory and non-state healthcare institutions. The basis of the training we provide is compiled in a handbook for the healthcare specialists. This is adapted to the specific situation in each country. In addition, we are also active politically to campaign for improved medical support and care for women with experiences of violence. For this we also work together with selected local state and non-state health services.

In the Democratic Republic of Congo, our partner organisation PAIF accompanies raped women to health centres and hospitals in order to ensure they are quickly provided with quality medical care.

3. Trauma-sensitive legal assistance

The aim of the legal assistance provided is to ensure women and girls know their rights and can exercise them – at national and international levels, too. Female lawyers in our own projects or those of our partners advise women on legal issues and represent their interests in court. They also train police and justice staff on the issues of sexualised violence to help them learn the appropriate way to deal with victims of violence during the course of their work. Additionally, we assist the documentation of human rights violations on women in order to counter both social taboos and impunity by means of information and public awareness work. Outside of the areas of official jurisdiction we also promote alternative justice mechanisms, such as symbolic tribunals, compensation funds or women’s courts.

In Afghanistan, female lawyers are committed to ensuring a fair trial for imprisoned women. Additionally, they also provide legal advice for women in civil affairs such as divorce and custody cases.

4. Economic support

For women affected by violence, we offer and broker simple vocational training, such as courses in baking and sewing, as well as literacy classes. Here we work together with other organisations specialising in employment promotion. Very often, women such as those who have been raped are ostracised by their families and left to fend for themselves. Our aim is to open up economic perspectives for them so they can shape their own future in an independent way. In this way, the women are able regain self-confidence and often also esteem and respect in their families and communities, helping them continue on their road to stabilization. Integrating women into economic activities is also important as a preventive measure: it protects them from dependency, sexual exploitation and survival prostitution.

In Liberia we work together with Welthungerhilfe. Our clients take part in agricultural training courses and receive seeds and tools to help them start up their agricultural production.

5. Political commitment to women’s rights

medica mondiale provides encouragement and training for local women’s rights activists in war and conflict regions to improve their political work. Examples include campaigns against the prevalent culture of impunity for perpetrators of sexualised wartime violence or demands for an increased participation of women in political decision-making, peace negotiations or agreements on reconstruction. We advise and support them as they develop promising political strategies to achieve long-term societal changes for the benefit of women. We impart the knowledge and skills they need to implement these.

In Bosnia and Herzegovina we are supporting our partner organisation Medica Zenica as it establishes a network against sexualised wartime violence. This network is designed to bring state and civil society organisations together to ensure better coordination in the assistance they provide for survivors.

6. Local capacity-building

Training and qualifying specialist staff who work in the project region is one of the core tasks of medica mondiale. We make our knowledge and experience available to female specialists working for our own team and our partner organisations, enabling them to work independently and organise their own projects. Example areas include: management, finance, organisational development and psychosocial counselling. This is the only way to ensure lasting assistance and a supportive society for women and girls affected by violence. Furthermore, we assist our partner organisations and own programmes to network regionally, nationally and internationally.

Currently we are assisting our colleagues in Liberia to take over responsibility for the work there and continue independently. We have already helped to build up independent women’s organisations in Albania,
Bosnia-Herzegowina, Kosovo and Afghanistan.