Women Face Many Challenges After Conflict

Gender equalitySocial issues

Notes to broadcasters

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Pain, stress and confusion are common emotions experienced by many people as a result of conflict or emergency situations. The following script is intended to encourage discussion about these feelings. It includes a radio-drama style discussion among three village women, a testimonial from a relief worker and from a man who has returned home after the war. You can use them as individual stories, or broadcast them together as one longer program.

There are other ways to help people in your community, and especially women, deal with emotions during or after conflict:

  1. Reinforce the idea that feelings people have are normal. When you interview local people, include questions that invite them to talk about their own life and family. However, leave discussion of traumatic events to professional counsellors.
  2. Promote community events and encourage them to attend. It is more difficult for people to deal with complex emotions when they are isolated. Support efforts to bring people together.
  3. Create special programming for women. This can take many forms – group discussions, interviews, or radio dramas. Invite women to call the radio station if they need help from the community. For example, a woman might be looking for lost relatives, or need help with child care or chores.


Hasana, Amba and Makeda, Women farmers
Diallo, young husband, returned from war
Margaret, relief worker


When a community experiences a war, everyone suffers. But women are affected in ways that are often not seen. With men gone to war, the responsibility for basic survival rests on women’s shoulders. They become sole providers for their families. The extra work leaves little time and resources to take care of themselves.

Today we’re going to listen to the voices of villagers. These villagers live in a country that has been at war. The war is now over, and many of the men have returned, but not all. Many women support large families by themselves. Everyone tries to cope with different feelings and emotions. Let’s join Hasana, Amba and Makeda as they discuss some of these feelings.


Talking about feelings


It’s good that we are getting more rain this year. Now the crops will grow.

Yes – it looks like we won’t have to worry about a drought this year. We’ve had so many things to be afraid of recently. We were afraid of the war. We worried that it wouldn’t rain, and that our crops wouldn’t grow. We worried that we wouldn’t be able to feed our families.

I didn’t think the war would ever end. I’m so glad that my husband is home. But the war claimed two of my sons. (pause) At least I don’t have to be afraid that my other children will have to fight. They’re too young to go to war.

It’s time to think about good things again.

I have a hard time thinking about good things, Hasana. My husband is gone. I think he’s dead but I don’t know for sure. Not knowing is very difficult.

I know how much it hurts, Amba. My sons are gone. I try not to cry. It doesn’t do any good. Instead, I work. It helps me forget.

You should not bury your heart, Makeda. You need to let yourself be sad. Pretending that you are strong will not make the pain go away.

One thing that makes me feel better is talking to both of you about how I feel. I could be home doing this work all by myself. But it’s good to work together, so that we can talk.

We feel less lonely and afraid when we talk with our friends. It makes us stronger.


Scene 2:
Saving time in the fields

In this next scene, Amba and Hasana are discussing ways to save time on the farm. Let’s listen in as they talk.


Amba, every time I see you, you are working so hard. You have lost your husband and your brother, yet you still feed your family. How do you manage?

Hasana, I have done my crying. Life is very difficult since I lost my husband in the war. But I must continue to feed my children.

But, how can you do it? There are not enough hours in the day.

That is my challenge – to find more hours in the day. And I am finding ways to do that.

You are?

Yes. Since I lost my husband, it’s true, I must do the work of two people, or more. But I’m learning to farm with less time and less money. In the past, we had enough money to buy fertilizer. Now I have no money. And anyway, I have no time to apply fertilizer. So I’ve found a new way to feed my crops.

How is that possible?

I take the manure from the livestock and spread it on the fields as fertilizer. But I don’t spread it over the whole field. I don’t have time, and I don’t have enough manure.

Well, where do you put it then?

I mix the manure with the soil only around holes where I’m going to plant the maize. That concentrates the nutrients and helps the maize grow stronger.

So really there are two benefits of applying the manure near the planting holes.

Yes! I save time, and my maize grows taller!


Scene 3:
Dealing with fear

So far in today’s program we’ve learned about some of the feelings that women experience because of war – feelings of sadness and stress from losing loved ones and having to take on more of the burden of providing for their families. As we’ve heard, talking about these feelings with other women can be very helpful. Now we’re going to hear from Margaret, a relief worker, who is also affected by the armed conflict.


My name is Margaret. I have come as a relief worker to this small village. People think that because I have come here to help them, I’m always strong. But it’s not true. Sometimes I get scared too.

A few months ago, I was living in a village not far from here. One day, somebody came to the village and told us to run and hide. We were going to be attacked. We were going to be killed.

For many weeks, I couldn’t sleep. I had bad dreams about things that might happen. I thought every noise in the night was a man who was going to kill or rape me. I was actually sick with fear. I couldn’t eat, and I had headaches. My heart would beat too fast and sometimes I felt like I couldn’t breathe.

I’m not so afraid now that the war is over. But we are still confused. It helps to talk to others. I was surprised to find out that many people are feeling a lot of the same things I am. It’s a confusing time for everybody.

Scene 4:
My wife is depressed

As we’ve heard in our program today, women experience many emotions when their community experiences a war. Feelings of sadness, stress and confusion are just a few of these emotions. Talking about them with other women can be very helpful. But men are also affected. In the next scene, we’re going to hear from Diallo. He has just returned from fighting in the war and his wife seems different. Diallo asks the advice of a wise elder …


My name is Diallo. I’ve come home after many months of being away. I had to leave my village to fight in the war.

When I first came home, my wife was very happy. For the first few days, she smiled all the time. But a few days later, she became angry with me. I didn’t do anything to make her angry. And then she said she was sorry. But the next day it happened again. And I didn’t do anything.

And sometimes she cries. She always turns away from me so I won’t see her, but I know she’s crying.

Why does she get angry with me? Why does she cry? I thought she would be happy that I am home. But now she doesn’t look happy, and I don’t know what I did to make her so sad.

Your wife thanks God that you are home, Diallo. But she has been trying for many months now to do the chores, work in the fields, and feed the children …all by herself. She has been through many months of worry, overwork, stress and fear.

This is her way of letting go of the hard times. She knows that there is peace now. But her mind is still at war. She has lived with fear for so long that it’s hard for her to remember what life was like before the war started.

You can help her by talking to her when she cries. And when she gets angry at you, talk to her about why she is angry.

The most important thing is to understand that her feelings are normal. She is glad you are home, but she is still trying to let go of the hard times.


As we have heard in our program today, recovering after armed conflict is not easy. Different people cope with fear and uncertainty in different ways. It takes a long time to feel safe and secure again.

You might think that there is something wrong with you if you are having trouble making sense of the world again. But nothing is wrong with you. Be patient with yourself and others. Remember that everyone suffers during times of conflict. Talking about your emotions with others is one of the best ways to understand that what you are feeling is a normal reaction during a difficult time.



  • Contributed by Victoria Fenner, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada.
  • Reviewed by Maureen Lynch, Director of Research, Refugees International, Washington, DC, USA.

Information sources

  • Resilience in conflict: A community-based approach to psycho-social support in Northern Uganda, Glenn Williams, Caroline Aloyo Obonyo and Jeannie Annan. International Service Volunteers Association and UNICEF, 2001.
  • Common responses to trauma, by Dr. Patti Levin, 1988.