As part of ongoing applied research and service developments for survivors of conflict and post-conflict related sexual and gender based violence and torture, a creative writing workshop was jointly led by Dr Helen Liebling, Lecturer-Practitioner in Clinical Psychology and member of the Centre for Communities and Social Justice together with Dr Felicity Hand and Dr Esther Pujolràs, Lecturers, Department of English, from the Autonomous University of Barcelona, for the staff team of Isis-Women’s International Cross-Cultural Exchange. The workshop was funded by the Autonomous University Solidarity Foundation and Isis-WICCE.
One participant commented: “The selection of the text for the workshop focussed closely on the work of Isis-WICCE in a creative way, which was helpful and opened up discussions about sexuality in an African context to bring this to reality.” (Juliet) The aims of the workshop were to enhance the knowledge and skills of the staff team in creative writing strategies for use in their ongoing work with women and girl survivors of conflict and post-conflict sexual and gender-based violence and torture in Africa, Latin America and Asia as well as internationally. Analysis of international writers with a particular focus on the African region, were utilised to enhance analytic skills: “It has been writing that has made me think deeply and it has been inspiring to read literature and good learning for me. In the context of our work we hear a lot of stories but we don’t know what we can do with them and I have learnt we can do a lot more. No-one has previously given me the opportunity to express myself and write not even at school, and through this experience I will encourage my children to write.” (Helen Kezie-Nwoha, Isis-WICCE)
Workshop attendees were also actively engaged in creative writing strategies to assist in healing survivors following traumatic experiences including a focus on women’s empowerment, the use of silence in narratives and how to break silences regarding human rights abuses. Increased knowledge and skills in publication and writing PhD proposals was also included. The feedback from the workshop was extremely positive, including the following: “The experience has been good in terms of the way we have analysed the stories and put these into the perspectives of women and violence. To connect with the person’s life has been very interesting as it touches you. We could change the way we report women’s experiences and reach a larger audience. I liked the pieces we analysed and the feminist issues and I feel I can now write.” (Suzan Nkinzi, Research, Monitoring & Evaluation Officer, Isis-WICCE)
Dr Helen Liebling has recently published the following related articles:
- Liebling, H., Davidson, L., Akello, F.G., and Ochola, G. (2014). ‘Improvements to National Health Policy: Mental Health, Mental Health Bill, Legislation and Justice’. African Journal of Traumatic Stress 3 (2), 55-64.
- Liebling, H., Winter, D., Ruratotoye, B., Slegh, H., and Brown, R. (2014) ‘Resilience in the face of adversity: Case studies in Sierra Leone and Eastern Congo‘. Clinical Psychology Forum 258, 61-65.
A book chapter is also in press, due for publication in 2015:
- Liebling, H. (in press, 2015) ‘Conflict and Post-Conflict Sexual Violence in Africa: Case Studies of Liberia, northern Uganda and eastern Democratic Republic of Congo’. In Sexual Crimes: Transnational Problems and Global Perspectives by Ackerman, A. and Furman, R (Eds.).
Helen has been invited to speak at the Exhibition on Gendered Experiences of Post-Conflict in Edinburgh, September 29th-October 9th 2014, which aims to provide a discussion led by NGOs practitioners and academics on the topic of the impact of war on women and young people, as well as their role and agency in the post-conflict setting.