Art for resilience: Stories from young mothers in Senegal

Art can be a powerful tool for recovery and resilience. In Dakar, Senegal, five mothers recovering from sexual exploitation and abuse collaborated with French-Senegalese artist Delphine Diallo to tell their stories.

The result is a powerful photo series documenting stories of recovery and resilience. For the project, Diallo produced individual photographs of the five mothers, each of whom placed their own personal collage elements around the portraits. The project helped the young mothers navigate and share their harrowing experiences.

For example, Marième, 15, was first assaulted at age 11 by a man living in the same shelter as her family. In the aftermath of Marième’s assault, her mother chose to beat her out of anger.

“After the attack I felt all alone and had no support,” says Marième. “Other children would tease me and insult me on the streets. They would call me names like ‘prostitute.'”

Marième was raped again at 12, resulting in her pregnancy.

All five women depicted in the photo series live in La Maison Rose in Dakar, a shelter for women and girls recovering from sexual exploitation and abuse.

Says Coumba, 26: “Arriving here felt like I’d had a mask over my eyes and now it’s been taken away. Now, I can see clearly and I can see reality.”

The series was launched to mark International Day of the Girl on 11 October, which advocates for gender equality and the wellbeing and progress of girls across the globe.

See the series and read the young women’s stories here.

Featured photo: Delphine Diallo/Save the Children

#MeWeSyria: Youth-led storytelling for social change

The innovative programme, #MeWeSyria, empowers young Syrian refugees to share their narratives, voices and vision for change through storytelling and communications.

As highlighted in an article on the UNHCR Innovation website, the programme integrates therapeutic, artistic, and communications frameworks to develop self-awareness, promote recovery and wellbeing, and restore some control and hope in a world of chaos. Through collaborative storytelling exercises, these young people practice working in creative teams, leadership, and creative problem-solving skills, while honing their role as agents of change.

For example, youth in refugee camps in Jordan and Turkey are given video cameras to share their stories in creative ways. In the video below, young people film conversations between their future and present selves.

#MeWeSyria is so important for two key reasons. Firstly, by enabling young Syrian refugees to take the lead and tell their story through collaborative and creative ways, these young people can focus on hope, innovation and positive change. Furthermore, they help move the narrative on Syria away from extremism, loss, and helplessness towards healing, empathy, and resilience.

#MeWeSyria’s director, Mohsin Mohi Ud Din, powerfully expands on this in an Al Jezeera feature story: “In the process of storytelling we find the ingredients of peace and of change-making and sustainable development. Because without empathy, without pluralism, without self-expression – without these things being taught and exercised by Syria’s youth – then you’re just going to have a camp filled with young children that are going further and further into isolation, and further and further into extremism.

When we look at the world right now, we see a world on fire. We see the failures promoted. We see those that have the microphone and yell the loudest, they have the control of the stage. And if we let this continue to happen – if we let those with evil intentions have the microphone, have control of the video – we’re going to lose and miss out on supporting and valuing young change-makers and the creative enterprise that exists among Syria’s youth.” Watch the video below.

In addition, the programme creates a platform and avenue for the rest of the world to empathize with, hear and share the stories of hope and peace from these young people. In the UNHCR article, the authors – Mohsin Mohi Ud Din and Michael Niconchuk – expand on this point quite eloquently: “Just as we pay special attention to tragedy, we, as their audience, should learn to listen better, nurture and value their hope, and take their successes, and not their sufferings, as a rallying cry to protect, support, and value their change-making lives.”

Indeed, as the authors note, “Youth are not just consumers or containers. They too are the creators and curators.”

Learn more about #MeWeSyria via the following links:




Art for change: Art therapy helps boy who fled war keep nightmares at bay

The text below has been extracted from the article, ‘Art therapy helps a boy who fled war keep the nightmares at bay’, by Gisèle Nyembwe for UNHCR. Photo: UNHCR/Giovanni Capriotti

Art therapy is helping Miguel, a six-year-old refugee in Canada, manage fear and anxiety. Conflict in Colombia killed his grandmother and forced his family into exile. Making a cage out of clay to trap the ‘villain’ has allowed Miguel to confront and work through his agonizing feelings, in order to better cope with them. Furthermore, drawing has enabled him to address feelings of isolation and anger, and make the connection between his behaviour and his interactions with others. Read more