From where I stand: “I learned how to engage with everyone in the group so that they feel included and … can share their experiences and heal”

Date: Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Qesma Ismail is a Psychosocial Case Worker at Saint Andrew's Refugee Services helping women refugees who have experienced traumatic events throughout their life. She provides psychological support to the women she meets through group therapy and individual counselling. Through her work, she faces many challenges to connect with women refugees and to help them reach a stage of rehabilitation. To better support women, Ismail decided to enrol in UN Women’s Applied Drama for Community Health and Empowerment Programme, where she learned to design and lead drama-based groupwork for healing, empowerment and social change, while also improving her skills to provide psychosocial support in an ethical and effective manner.

Qesma Ismail (middle) participates in discussions during the Applied Drama for Community Health and Empowerment Programme training in August 2019. Photo: UN Women/Nada Ismail

Qesma Ismail (middle) participates in discussions during the Applied Drama for Community Health and Empowerment Programme training in August 2019. Photo: UN Women/Nada Ismail

“Most of the cases I receive are women suffering from the psychological impact of sexual and gender-based violence. They could suffer from depression, loss of hope, social difficulties, and some could even be having suicidal thoughts. Women survivors of violence find it very difficult to integrate in their communities and to interact with people around them.

Through this programme, I have learned how to empower women using self-care techniques so that they do not depend on our weekly appointment to recover. For example, if they get panic attacks at home, they should know what to do to get through it, because I won’t always be there to help them. With the self-care techniques, the women acquire tools to rehabilitate themselves without depending on anyone, which will speed up their recovery in an efficient manner. When they rehabilitate themselves, they’ll begin learning to accept their reality and cope with their life and their past, and then they will learn how to turn their life into something that would make them happy.

The programme has also taught me how to get the women to trust me and talk to me, so that they can begin healing. The women I work with do not trust people easily and so it is hard for them to open up. During the last group I was working with, it took me an entire month just to gain their trust and make them comfortable enough to talk. Of course, this delayed my progress with them, and the rehabilitation process took much longer than I expected. But now, I learned how to engage with everyone in the group so that they feel included and begin to let go of the negative feelings they have and create a comforting and safe space where they can share their experiences and heal.”

SDG 5Qesma Ismail participated in the Applied Drama for Community Health and Empowerment Programme implemented under UN Women’s “Ending Violence Against Women” Programme. This activity is organized by Dawar Arts, an independent cultural organization, and funded with the generous support of the United States Agency for International Developed (USAID). Ismail’s story relates to Sustainable Development Goal 5, which aims to eliminate all forms of violence against all women and girls in both public and private spheres.

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