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Abstract

The current study aims to explore African women’s experiences of violence during conflict. The research was undertaken in 2009 in part fulfillment for a Doctorate degree in Clinical Psychology. Previous research on women refugees’ experiences has focused on the negative impact on psychological functioning despite indications that they show great strength and resilience. Using qualitative methods the study sought to identify the impact of violence on mental health as well as develop a greater understanding of the roles of resilience, coping and identity. Women from Somalia and Zimbabwe who attended a refugee centre in the UK were interviewed; analysis of the results identified a relationship between resilience, access to rights and support and identity. It also recognised cultural and societal influences and experiences in the United Kingdom as contributing factors. Findings support the move toward a more holistic model of understanding refugee women’s experiences. However, the study also reveals the importance of support and treatment assisting women to utilise their resilience in reconstructing their identities from traumatic events and recovery process.

Note on the Author

Katie Sherwood is a Clinical Psychologist, working in Child & Family Services in the National Health Service, Worcestershire. The current research was submitted as partial fulfillment of the requirements of the Degree of Doctor of Clinical Psychology. Katie hopes to go on to carry out further research in Africa with war survivors.

Helen Liebling-Kalifani is a Lecturer-Practitioner in Clinical Psychology, Coventry University. She is a member of African Psycare Research Organisation, Uganda, and helped to establish and run the clinical psychology masters course at Makerere University, Uganda. Together with Isis-WICCE and APRO, she has been working with war-torture survivors since 1998. Her PhD followed up earlier intervention work in Luwero and is now published as a book. She has been awarded ESRC funding, the Phil Strong Research Prize, an Applied Research Fellowship, Royal Society and British Academy funding for her ongoing research with war survivors.

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