To explore the feasibility of introducing music and dance into therapeutic work with women suffering of war trauma, Musicians without Borders (MwB) implemented a pilot project in October 2009. In coordination with the NGO Snaga Žene, based in Tuzla, Bosnia and Herzegovina, MwB’s female vocal ensemble and two Bosnian female music professionals worked for a week with women in the Snaga Žene house in Tuzla, in two refugee settlements, in the village of Potočari and in the town of Srebrenica. The responses from the women, even those most impacted by traumatic events, were overwhelmingly positive. Professional therapists were surprised by the strong and positive effect of the guided movement and singing activities on the women.
The follow-up project From Woman to Woman started with small, slow steps – as the wounds of the war are deep and music has been forgotten and abandoned by the traumatised women. Music, as a celebration of life, has been locked away for a long time, but has gradually been brought back into the their lives over the past 10 months, to the point where most of them say they cannot wait until the following week’s music activities resume.
The music workshops, coordinated by Almerisa Delic, a local musician, combine musical elements such as singing, body percussion, listening to music, improvisation with percussion instruments, and body movement/dancing with stress-release breathing exercises and teambuilding activities. This contributes to an experience that gives the women a sense of belonging and creates a safe place in which to begin processing their emotions in a creative way.
In addition to the music and relaxation workshops, an all-women choir – Brave Roses – has been set up in Tuzla, under Almerisa’s guidance. Apart from providing a physical space for musical expression, the choir is also meant to be a way of bridging the divide between the women from the town and the women who live in the refugee camps, and in Srebrenica and Potocari. Brave Roses has sung with, and for, the women in the camps, as well as the women in Srebrenica. This has contributed to breaking down the barrier of social isolation, helped the women reconnect with one another, with processing their individual and collective grief, and provided solidarity through singing together.
Our vision for the next stage of the project includes a more systematic integration of music therapy elements into our workshops, by having certified music therapists further train and give advice to the local project team that implements the community music activities.
More details on the foundations of this project, success stories and updates, as well as ways to support it can be found here: From Woman to Woman on Indiegogo.
Author: Iulia Socea, Project Manager