RAW IN WAR, THE NGO MAKING A DIFFERENCE FOR WOMEN IN CONFLICT ZONES

On this side of the world, peace is often taken for granted. It seems almost impossible to us to comprehend what it must be to live in conflict zones, where lives are constantly threatened. 

 

We often give our lifestyle for granted, forgetting that not everyone is as lucky.

 

That's why the work of non-profit organizations, such as RAW In WAR - Reach all Women in War - is vital. Not only for the work they carry out on field but also for raising awareness. The latter is as important as the field mission as it helps to remind that places, where the safety and stability of people are at stake, are not rare exceptions.

 

The members of Raw In War have made it their mission to support female human rights defenders working in conflict areas, and help to end the abuse and persecution against them. 

They work in collaboration with local communities on behalf of women who are victims of conflict, and ensure that areas of "forgotten conflict" are provided with sufficient economic funding.

 

The organization, founded in 2006 by Mariana Katzarova, a Bulgarian journalist with 25 years of experience working in conflict zones and human rights organizations. In the last 13 years, the work of RAW in WAR has grown exponentially, and its Committee of Supporters now counts more than 100 influential cultural and political leaders, including several Nobel Peace Prize Laureates. 

 

One of the main awareness-raising events is their annual literary prize, the Anna Politkovskaya Award. This award was established and dedicated to Politkovskaya, a Russian reporter, who devoted her life to fighting for what she treasured the most: the freedom to speak. Unfortunately she ended up paying the highest price for it. This award aims to celebrate her courage and that of hundreds of women that, like her, stand up for their rights, refusing to be silenced. 

 

This week we have been honoured to be able to talk to Friederike Behr, a RAW in WAR Trustee, who kindly took some time to talk to us about her experience at RAW. 

 

Friederike is currently based in Dushanbe, Tajikistan, where she works for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). A long-standing member of the RAW In WAR, she joined the cause at the very beginning of its history: "The project was started by a good friend of mine, we had long discussed how an NGO should look like and why RAW would make an impact. It was logical for me to join", she says. 

 

Talking about her work with the organization: "In the past, we provided funds and training for women working with women suffering from war and conflict, though trauma awareness and psychological support”. 

 

She continues: “Our focus is to help women network, find support and education, build up solidarity and take a break from their daily work, celebrating their achievements and being celebrated for their strength and resilience. Via advocacy and public events, we draw attention to these women's work, the conflicts they face and the fate of people living in such conditions."

 

Through Friederike’s words about her experience at RAW, it appears clear how her dedication and passion arise from working with these women, to provide them with a sense of empowerment.

 

She talks about one of her more memorable experiences: "One of the Anna Politkovskaya Award recipients was very busy, but we thought it was important for her to go to an international conference, an event where she could speak freely and draw attention to the causes and cases she was working on. She did not want to, could not be bothered to apply for a visa. We filled in the form with her and it seemed as if she had way more important business to attend to. At last, she got the visa, but her passport got lost. By the time it was found again, she's already missed the flight. Luckily, she could book a new one through the embassy. In the end, she spent a week in an environment free of fear and intimidations, where she met relevant people for her work. I could see that she really had taken a break, she looked as if she's been on holiday. She was really grateful for the trip and went back to work with newfound strength. The people she met at this conference later stood up for her when it was necessary”.

 

She explains what it meant for her: “It is a small story but it was exactly what was important for me - to help a woman working in difficult conditions to take a break, get her strength and motivation back, knowing that she is not alone in her struggle”.

 

She has many similar examples: “Another time, I was drafting a report about the support we provided to women working with other traumatised women. I spoke to them over two days and realized how much they were suffering, how much our support meant to them. The mere fact that I sat there listening to them was precious, for me in order to understand their situation as much as for them to speak out".

 

By listening to her story, her happiness and satisfaction in her work and doing really come through. She did not hide the challenges of her job, but often the greater the challenge, the greater the satisfaction. Helping and seeing how small supports make a huge difference in people’s lives are incredibly valuable lessons that, I am sure, Friederike will never forget and nor should we. 

 

I want to conclude with a quote by Svetlana Alexievich, one of the recipients of the Anna Politkovskaya Award in 2018. She wrote: "We need you, Anna, and your belief that not hatred, but love for humanity will save us". 

 

Friederike and the whole team of RAW in WAR really are following Anna's example and, through their work, they are proving that love for humanity, freedom of speech and women’s rights that make a difference in this world.

 

If you are interested in seeing what you can do to help, please visit their website:

http://www.rawinwar.org

 

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