Driving towards resilience: a displaced widow regains hope in conflict-affected Libya

Samira is poised and fierce, as she recalls how she used to live before the war. Ten years ago, she would have never anticipated losing her way of living: elegant clothing, dinners in restaurants, a beautiful house. But the richness of her family attracted the attention of the militias. They stormed and ravaged her home, forcing her and the children to flee to Misrata.

It was while she was in Misrata, that her husband was killed. Samira did not have the chance to bury her husband, and this torments her to this very day. She felt isolated and helpless: as an internally displaced widow, and having lost all her savings and assets, Samira and her children’s survival depended on the generosity of relatives. For a person who had never experienced the humiliation of begging, this was unbearable. A paralyzing depression crept on her for five years.

“I was supposed to complete my studies, work, overcome inner pain and not let sadness dominate my being” but the trauma and the lack of emotional support led her to feel impotent, affecting the wellbeing of her children too. “My children were like prisoners, I did not allow them to leave the house; only sometimes my brother came and took them for a walk”.

Thanks to Cesvi’s Psychological help, this 43-years-old woman was able to overcome the grief and feel more hopeful about the future. The tailored psychological support Cesvi provided to Samira enabled her to feel comfortable and safe and generate in her the feeling of hope that her life could change for the better building on her own skills.

This aspect is the core of the Resilience model that Cesvi promotes, in order to strengthen the protection of affected vulnerable groups in Libya. The core principle is helping individuals have their inner resources emerge, so they have more means to face current and future shocks. The approach was developed in collaboration with the Resilience Research Unit (RiRES) of the Università Cattolica del S. Cuore di Milano, in the framework of the EUTF-funded project “PEERS: Protection Enabling Environment and Resilience Services” (#EUTFforAfrica). Cesvi has been implementing the project in Misrata, Libya, together with International Medical Corps, from the beginning of 2020. The project aims, along with the provision of humanitarian assistance, to strengthen both individual resilience and community-based protection, and support vulnerable individuals in the process of reinforcing their sense of self and wellbeing. Specialized Case Workers accompany the beneficiaries in the process of tapping into their resources to empower them in a protracted crisis environment, as for Samira’s case.

In addition to psychological counseling and case management, Cesvi has sponsored her driving license course tuition fees. EUTF financial support is helping her to focus her commitment towards improving her conditions, while the newfound freedom to move is expanding her ambition. “My children were very happy when I informed them that I am learning to drive, which means that they will not wait for anyone to take them out of the house, wander around in the shops and visit the parks; they’ll do all this with their mom” – she says to our Case Worker and Psychologist. Now Samira’s ambitions fly high again: she wants to start University, obtain a degree, learn English and support her children’s education. “My personality has become stronger, I always motivate myself that I deserve the best and continue my studies and obtain a university degree despite my age”.