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25 years of AMICA – Participatory Evaluation of Psychosocial Work in Post-Conflict Regions

“Today, when we see each other on the street, we greet each other, we embrace each other.” Elma, who wants to remain anonymous, smiles when we ask her how she is feeling today. Surrounded by all the other women and friends who, just like herself, have had to confront the long-term consequences of war, she tells us: “AMICA is like a second home for us”. Elma joined our project in Bosnia-Herzegovina 15 years ago. In 1994, we opened the first shelter for internally displaced women and children. During the past few months we have spoken to women such as Elma to find out more about our impact in the region.

 

Bosnien Evaluation 1

Our partners in Bosnia-Herzegovina conducted interviews with around 100 women from Tuzla and neighboring villages. Picture: AMICA e.V.

Why we get involved – 25 years of AMICA in Bosnia-Herzegovina

What kind of knowledge and which skills are necessary for women’s organizations working in the field of psychosocial support for women and girls? Which services are particularly important, in order for women in post-war regions to not only be able to survive – But to enable them to access resources to lead self-determined lives? What is needed for women to overcome trauma and actively contribute to peace and reconciliation processes in society?

Since 1993, AMICA cooperates with two women’s organization in two different entities of the country. What started as a small initiative delivering emergency aid in the midst of conflict quickly grew into a model project for psychosocial work within a few years. Between 1993 and 2015, we ran numerous projects dedicated to emergency aid, therapeutic work, health care, legal aid and education. The aim of this evaluation is to critically assess the impact of our work – on an individual level, as well as on an institutional and societal level – through interviews, questionnaires, group activities and interviews.

It is possible to transfer the results and learning experiences of the impact assessment in Bosnia-Herzegovina to other regions. Therefore, the evaluation is not only essential for the successful implementation of our work in other countries, but can also be of value for other organizations who work in similar fields.

Bosnien Evaluation 2

All of the material including questionnaires, diaries, and interviews is currently being reviewed and put into writing. Picture: AMICA e.V.

What we do – Self-critical Analysis

We started the evaluation with a large-scale re-processing of our archives: 25 years of psychosocial work in conflict and post-conflict regions has left a valuable collection of letters, drawings, pictures, documents and personal histories in our office in Freiburg. Re-structuring these historically relevant testimonies of contemporary witnesses formed the basis of our project.

In the course of the following months, our partners in Bosnia-Herzegovina conducted interviews with around 100 women from Tuzla and neighboring villages, using a questionnaire which we had developed. Additionally, a small group of women told us about their current living situations in more detail. Do they feel at home where they live today? Do they feel like they belong to a community? How do they evaluate their self-confidence? With the help of diaries, a handful of women documented their everyday lives to answer these questions.

A producer accompanied us on site on numerous occasions to document the process with his camera. Lastly, interviews with several experts from the civil society as well as the governmental sector, who have worked with us during the course of the past 25 years in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Germany, were conducted.

What we are achieving

“I have been working at the sewing room since 1995. In all those years, many women passed through the project house. Today, some of these women, who participated in the sewing courses with me, are very successful and have opened their own boutiques “, one project participant tells us. “They are strong, capable and self-reliant. If I hadn’t come to AMICA, who knows what would have happened to me.”

Another participant tells us she learned to cope with “difficult and sad situations” in her life.  These stories and testimonies already paint a vague picture of our contribution to sustainable and community-based support structures for women and girls in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Our work has adapted over time according to changes in external circumstances and needs and wishes of women and girls on site.  Accordingly, the main focus in the early years of our work focused on humanitarian aid. In the context of our cooperation with local organizations, our work began to focus more and more on reconciliation and economic empowerment, as well as on lobbying and advocacy work. This year we started our new project in the country which deals with the protection of female witnesses of war.

All of the material including questionnaires, diaries, and interviews is currently being reviewed and put into writing. The first results will be published during our international conference on empowering refugee and displaced women and girls on 19th September 2018. Find out more about the conference and how to register here.

 

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This project is supported by Renovabis, the Apfelbaum Foundation and the Peter-Dornier-Foundation.

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