From the editor: International Women's Day as a vehicle for change

With this issue, Intervention proudly celebrates its 15th anniversary. It is also with great pride that we note that this year, our first issue of the year, is published on International Women's Day. Originally called International Working Women's Day, since its adoption by the United Nations in 1977, each year has had a theme which has been celebrated worldwide with many nongovernmental organisations involved in the celebrations, and through projects.

Intervention is especially proud to highlight and participate in the discussion of this year's theme – International Women's Day as a vehicle for change, is it possible? Looking at most of the environments where we are working, there are certainly changes needed, such as elimination of gender based violence (GBV) and abuse, women and girls enabled to achieve their ambitions without fighting systemic discrimination, both conscious and unconscious bias are challenged, and women and men's contributions to the planet are valued on an equal basis. I am sure that a single day cannot create the widespread changes needed everywhere, but ongoing attention to gender issues (supported by such a day), and the ongoing development and implementation of interventions may definitely lead to the change we all desire. A lot has been done within our field and is still ongoing: research, resources, shared experience, guidelines and information relating to prevention and response to GBV and treatment and support to women in creating a more gender equal environment.

Current affairs

Therefore, Intervention, presents two papers that highlight interventions in which women and girls, who have been exposed to GBV have been supported in our Current affairs section in order to highlight these issues for International Women's Day. The first one is a field report by Guragain & Ghimire, called the ‘Importance of supporting victims through a mental health and psychosocial support lens to ensure justice’. Not only does it contribute to the spotlight on GBV and support for change, it is also continuation of the theme from our previous issue on mainstreaming mental health and psychosocial support into other sectors. This paper shows that it is not easy for women and girls who have faced sexual violence to seek justice. Women and girls need both social and psychological support to cope with the pressure of dealing with the court system and their personal, often confusing, feelings.

The second contribution in Current affairs continues the theme of supporting women and girls in the aftermath of GBV and sexual GBV in a personal reflection by Mogga. She works as coordinator for an emergency programme in refugee camps in northern Uganda. Worryingly, almost 95% of the new refugees are women and children, fleeing from a conflict marked by extensive sexual violence. Her contribution also shows that domestic violence, often culturally sanctioned, creates as much, or even more suffering for these women. She describes an intervention in which they support this refugee population of primarily women and girls.

Both examples show the importance and the value of supporting the women who are suffering from the aftermath of (sexual) gender based violence, which is very important. However, I would plead for more involvement of men in trying to reduce gender based violence. I hope that we can shift the focus from supporting the victims or survivors after, often traumatic, experiences, to interventions and approaches that focus on the interaction between men and women, especially in cases of domestic violence, as prevention. Domestic violence is an exceedingly harmful form of interaction between couples. Last year, I saw interventions in which people become aware of their cultural and unconsciously harmful gender ideas and behaviours, and this can have very successful results. Therefore, these forms of interventions might be a pathway to prevent domestic violence and thereby create a vehicle for change, not only for the couple, but also for their children and their future.


Our peer reviewed article section offers a host of interesting subjects, and covers a wide range of geographic areas in this well packed issue. Cherepanov addresses the Ethics for global mental health specialists. International mental health providers often work in the settings with complex needs where they are confronted with mass trauma and human suffering. She argues that, in responding to humanitarian psychosocial need, we often need to be able to pass through ethical and moral challenges. Our humanitarian principles and strategic guidelines for psychosocial intervention offer the conceptual framework and operational guidance. She stresses that working in this field require high standards for self-awareness and self-care.

El-Khani, Ulph, Peters & Calam, and their paper Syria: coping mechanisms utilised by displaced refugee parents caring for their children in pre-resettlement contexts continues the work initially presented in issue 14.2. Whereas in the previous article, the emphasis was on the challenges that parents experience in caring and parenting their children within a refugee setting, the current article address the coping skills of Syrian mothers within refugee settings. Three themes were dominant: 1) adaption to a new norm; 2) reaching out for support; and 3) keeping mentally strong. These two studies show the urgency of the need to improve the support for parents in emergency and refugee settings.

Karageorge, Rhodes, Gray & Papadopoulos performed a qualitative systematic review on refugee and staff experiences of psychotherapeutic services. They focussed on client and provider experiences of psychotherapeutic services; combining thematic synthesis and meta-ethnographic approaches. They found that, although practical assistance and advocacy are considered as important to refugees, aspects of care should be part of therapeutic processes of mutual understanding, narrative continuity and self-empowerment.

Field report

The field report of van der Veer can be read as additional information to the article of Guthie (issue 14.1) on Single Session Therapy. This field report addresses Training counsellors in low and middle income countries in single session counselling: helping mental health and psychosocial workers to get on top of feelings of powerlessness. The author describes a systematic, practical, training based approach to help people who have become stuck in their problems and might benefit from a single session of counselling. As such, it helps mental health and psychosocial support workers to offer support in situations where they could easily feel desperate.

Personal reflection

Finally, in his personal reflection, Ganesan describes the process of transforming an out-of-date psychiatric hospital into a patient friendly space. He shows that it is a matter of taking risks and by empowering patients and staff members to change the attitude and behaviour of both groups, he has been able to achieve change in a century old hospital.

Marian Tankink


© 2017 War Trauma Foundation, Diemen, The Netherlands

Tankink, Marian