DUBAI: During an interview French Arab NewsSheikha Intisar AlSabah discusses the measures taken on the ground to reduce the impact of conflicts on women in the Middle East and the importance of drama therapy as a tool for this purpose.
International organizations that provide support to conflict-affected groups tend to focus primarily on children and meeting basic needs, ignoring the need for psychological support. This oversight is due to many factors, including a lack of cultural awareness of the importance of psychological care.
The Intisar Foundation has been active in supporting women in the region through various initiatives, including the 1 Million Arab Women Initiative, a 30-year plan to alleviate psychological trauma in 1 million Arab women through drama therapy.
Women in Business and Politics
Continuing the legacy of her predecessors who laid the foundations for women in business and entrepreneurship in Kuwait and the regional private sector, Sheikha Intisar advocates for gender equality in the business world. He emphasized the added value of women’s contribution to strategy and operations in all sectors, saying, “The balance comes from the participation of women.”
Sheikha Intisar also advocates for women’s participation in politics because they are often more collaborative than their male counterparts, bringing a different mindset to conflict resolution.
“I don’t do politics; I help people move forward. It is not for the good of society that only men make and enforce laws.”
İntisar Foundation was established in 2017 to address the lack of importance given to mental health and the lack of psychological support for women. “Most charities don’t think about women and don’t let women come first,” Sheikha Intisar said.
The Foundation is the result of field research conducted in Jordan and Lebanon, the two largest refugee-hosting countries in the region, to evaluate the provision of psychological interventions for women affected by war.
“The offerings were very limited,” Sheikha Intisar said, adding that women were not using services due to the stigma associated with seeking psychological help. There was a need to increase awareness and acceptance of mental health issues in the region.
Sheikha İntisar said, “Even if women don’t care about the perception of society, they care about families, which makes it difficult for them to get the psychological support they need.”
Sheikha Intisar, who was a victim of the war and understood its consequences, sought a creative solution by turning to art. “Art is a form of social interaction, an activity rather than an individual session with a psychologist.”
This is how drama therapy can serve women, bringing them together in a safe environment and enabling effective psychological care, “with a fun candy coating,” said the socially accepted Sheikha Intisar.
After realizing that women are not alone and that everyone else has a unique story, it has been shown that they gain harmony within themselves and within the group by sharing their stories.
Participant opinions and available statistics measure the impact of drama therapy, supported by ongoing research to support the foundation’s goal of “supporting women and the peace process in the Arab world.”
Drama therapy as a psychological support tool
Drama therapy emphasizes the importance of culturally appropriate psychological support programs.
To this end, the Intisar Foundation signed a memorandum of understanding with the Holy Spirit University of Kaslik in Lebanon, the only university in the Arab world to offer a master’s program in drama therapy, to support graduates who choose the curriculum.
The foundation brings together theater groups in the Arab world and works with experts in the field to adapt an educational program that can be used to support women.
The activities of the theater groups will cover at least six Arab countries, including Egypt, Tunisia, Syria, Iraq, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.
As a UK registered NGO, the foundation works with local NGOs to reach target communities and invite women to participate in workshops.
One of the main findings of the research conducted shows that women who release their trauma become more peaceful, which results in attitude change within the household and better communication within the family and community. In a domino effect, letting the mother speak also encouraged her children to reciprocate. Each participant indirectly affects the lives of six beneficiaries, with an average of 20 women participating in the drama therapy workshop.
Intisar Foundation has reached nearly 500 women to date and has worked in this field for more than 3,500 hours. With the pandemic, most of the foundation’s initiatives have been taken online to maintain and expand its reach in the Arab world.
The most recent results from a survey of Lebanese, Jordanian, Syrian, and Palestinian participants who followed a theater therapy program in Lebanon noted a reduction in depression (64%) and anxiety (53%), as well as an increase in self-esteem (68). %). percent).
“Drama therapy allows women to not only express what they think and feel, but also to be aware of their emotions,” said Sheikha Intisar.
As a means of communication that goes beyond words and includes physical action, taking on different roles and reaching solutions, theater allows participants to express themselves in new and empowering ways. Women are given the opportunity to deal with their own traumas by being given the opportunity to safely reenact scenes that depict family experiences such as early marriages, divorces and domestic violence.
Theater activities focus on building women’s self-esteem, empowering them to be seen and heard, which is then reflected in how they deal with their immediate environment. A more confident and assertive woman will fight for her daughter’s access to education, thus suffocating younger marriages and influencing future generations of girls and women.