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Berliner Institut für empirische Integrations- und Migrationsforschung

Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin | Berliner Institut für empirische Integrations- und Migrationsforschung | 10. ReWoven – Refugee Women and (psychosocial) volunteer engagement

10. ReWoven – Refugee Women and (psychosocial) volunteer engagement

Increasing numbers of newly arriving refugees to Germany have led to growing requirements of support, counselling and supervision in the psychosocial field, with regards to dealing with psychological strains and traumas in refugee shelters. This concerns both particularly vulnerable refugees, such as women and female volunteers, working with refugee women. The dialogically structured research-intervention-project reWoven addresses both refugee and volunteer women, exploring the relations between both groups, with the aim of strengthening existing resources within the encounter.

A further aim of the project is to analyse processes of solidarisation of female volunteers with refugee women. The focus lies on possible conflicts and difficulties in building a relation and on accordingly recommended offers of psychosocial support.

Procedure

In an explorative field study, several refugee shelters and volunteering initiatives were contacted and visited. Based on background discussions and relevant literature, we developed interview guides. In the following phase, we conducted 16 interviews with female volunteers and 16 interviews with refugee women, from Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq. In the semi-structured interviews following issues were discussed: What expectations do refugee women have towards female volunteers – and vice versa? What offers do refugee women accept from volunteers, what offers are still missing? How do female volunteers deal with their own stress regarding their engagement with women who have possibly experienced violence and discrimination? What conflicts might arise in the encounter and how can these conflicts be solved inside the relationships, dialogically?

The interviews were analysed qualitatively, based on comparative interpretations of the different project members. The cultural diversity of the team was used decidedly to discuss cultural pre-understanding and context.

During the final project phase refugee women and female volunteers were invited to take part in a dialogue group. These meetings served as a safe space for both groups to elaborate mutual perceptions, relations and experiences of gender specific violence and discrimination. In an open dialogue about women-specific, potentially traumatising experiences it was made possible to express these and develop collective possibilities of participation.