Proceedings of the International Dissemination Conference ‘Psychosocial well-being of women forced migrants in the Western Balkans - then and now', held on Wednesday 23 November 2016, 10.00 - 17.00 at Musée International de la Croix-Rouge et du Croissant-Rouge, Room Henri Dunant, Genève, Switzerland.
During this one-day event at the Red Cross Museum featuring dissemination of the key findings from the RRPP project ‘Engendering forced migration, socio-political transition and mental health in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia and Kosovo,’ central focus was brought to the experiences of war and forced migration and their effects on the mental health and well-being of the displaced. Drawing upon the findings of this two year project that investigated the experiences of displaced women in Bosnia, Serbia and Kosovo, this conference discussed the long-term impacts of protracted but also post-return reality throught the lens of psychosocial wellbeing. It concluded by asking how past experiences of displacement inform contemporary efforts aimed at protecting Syrian and other refugees in the Western Balkans today.
Conference gathered both researchers and practitioners form the humanitarian sector and was opened by Jasmina Opardija-Šušnjar, Programme Manager of the Regional Research Promotion Programme in the Western Balkans (RRPP) headed by University of Fribourg by introducing the legacy of RRPP’s 10 years long work in supporting the social sciences research projects and networks. Professor Brad Blitz, from the Middlesex University, Project Mentor and Dr. Selma Porobić, from Foundation for Women’s Empowerment BiH, Project Coordinator gave an introduction to the project’s concept, aims and outputs.
Opening remarks ‘International Law and the Legacies of Refugee Protection’ Were given by Professor Guy Goodwin-Gill, from University of Oxford and can be accessed here.
Dr. Selma Porobić summerised the key findings of the project that involved 12 complementary studies across the three countries and pointed out important questions that these opened up for further investigations into psychosocial impacts of war and displacement, stressing the long-term effects on mental health in the prevailig context of dominant short-term and interventionist approaches. Senior researchers, Siniša Volarević from the partnering organisaiton in Serbia, Group 484, and Anela Hasanagić from FWE BiH, introduced the findings of the extensive psychometric part of the project, comprising three studies in BiH, Serbia and Kosovo with 750 respondents in total from 34 municiplities with higest numbers of registered internally disaplced, refugee and returnee population. Alen Vodopijevec, data archivist on the project introduced the E-learning platform that he created for the prupose of accessing resources from the project and demonstrated its wider use.
Professor Eleonore Kofman, Middlesex University and Professor Blitz finally related the findings from RRPP project to its Upgrade section (June-November 2016) that included life history interviews with refugee women in Serbia and pointed out misconceptions from media that young male population dominates the new refugee waves through the Balkan route, stressing large presence of women and children and paralleling their needs to access psychosocial and health services to findings from this project.
The Documentary Film - ‘Transforming War Shattered Lives-Building Peace to Return Home’ and Q & A with Selma Porobić and Daniel Hitchens Samson, Directors concluded the Conference.