“Now I am a Strong Woman”
“Now I am a strong woman, I am working and supporting my family, I am in contact with my relatives and I go out of my home.”  These are the words of Miriam (not her real name) a woman suffering from depression. She was living far away from her relatives and felt very lonely and seriously depressed. One day one of her relatives suggested she visit a psychologist and so she went to meet the psycho-social team of Medica Afghanistan. Miriam had consultations with them and now she is an active member of the community and has good relations with her relatives and society.
Medica Afghanistan-Women Support Organization (MA-WSO) is an independent Afghan women's rights organization. The organization was launched in 2002 by Medica Mondiale, an NGO based in Germany, which supports women and girls in war and crisis zones throughout the world. Since 2010 the organization has operated as an independent national organization, run by Afghan women for Afghan women. The main focus of its work is to provide psycho-social counseling, legal aid and mediation services to women and girls who have survived domestic violence and conflict including severe forms of inhuman treatment and torture. Medica Afghanistan also trains professionals – from hospital doctors to defense lawyers – to provide stress and trauma sensitive support to traumatized women and girls, we try to raise their awareness on women’s rights and persuade them to change their attitude and behavior.
Decades of war have profoundly affected the mental health of Afghan women and their families. Several studies have found high levels of depression and other psycho-social problems among Afghans, particularly women, as a result of the violence. The program manager of the psycho-social department of Medica Afghanistan, Vida Faizi says: “In Medica Afghanistan our first aim is to decrease violence against women and provide health and psycho-social services for women.”
Medica Afghanistan is fighting for women rights and beside women they also provide awareness to men. ” We are raising awareness about women rights for religious leaders, social workers, teachers, medical staff, police, staff of the Ministry of Justice and NGOs. We are also providing training to decrease these problems, also advocating for those policies, which help to reduce or decrease the violence against women and girls.” Vida Faizi says.
At the present Medica Afghanistan offers direct legal, psychosocial, literacy education and mediation services to 2,000 survivors of SGBV (Sexual and Gender-Based Violence) from Kabul, Herat and Mazar, every year. Those who visit the psycho-social and legal services of Medica Afghanistan are women and girls who suffer or have suffered from domestic violence including sexual, physical and psychological abuses, forced/child marriages, and harmful cultural practices. In addition, most of them have been denied access to health, education, employment, judicial support and other basic rights.
Psychologists and psychosocial counselors offer psychosocial support though group and individual setting to Afghan women affected by violence at easily accessible locations such as our counseling centers across the cities, women's shelters, governmental hospitals where we have counseling rooms, and prisons. They are also providing consultation and psychological services to women treated in hospitals, especially trauma patients and those with burns.
Based on Medica Afghanistan’s assessments, women clients who participated in individual counseling exhibited feelings of revenge, hatred, suicidal thoughts and hopelessness: they had lost their trust in themselves and others. Some no longer felt their lives had meaning. Most of them complained about body pain, headaches, and muscular tension as a result of family conflict, torture, and collective trauma. After the counseling sessions, they were able to control their behavior better. The women clients’ situations also improved in regards to their fear, sad feelings, body pains and sleep problems. They got enough information about their symptoms through psycho-education sessions and learned relaxation exercises, coping mechanisms and skills, and gradually they are able to apply these in daily life. “When we talk to women who have tried to commit suicide because of family problems, we try to motivate them to live and love life.”