Happy International Women’s Day!
Today, March 8, is the internationally recognized day to celebrate the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women. It is a day to acknowledge the historical and contemporary accomplishments of women as well as the progress yet to be made towards gender equality. In honor of International Women’s Day the Beyond Torture blog is featuring one of our important programs – the Women’s Group. The group empowers and supports women and serves as a safe place for women clients to share their experiences, establish trust, and build community.
The group began in September 2015, and is facilitated by Dawn Stary, American Pastoral Counselor, with the assistance of Warsan Mahomoud and Claudia Harris-Stewart, two of SURVIVORS’ social work interns. Dawn utilizes a strength-based, holistic, and recovery-oriented approach that incorporates mindfulness, spirituality, and prayer into the women’s journey to healing. The goal of the women-only weekly group is to build a level of trust and safety among the women as well as to create a safe space for women clients to feel comfortable sharing their feelings and personal experiences. It also serves as a social outlet where women get to know one another through series of questions and interactive activities. Recently the women have done activities like drawing images that represent their fear and joy, creating maps of their lives, and discussing each individual’s talents and abilities.
However, it is not without obstacles that this level of rehabilitation and empowerment is able to occur. One of the obstacles faced by the women’s group is a language barrier. To ensure that no one’s message gets lost in translation and everyone is able to express themselves comfortably, Warsan and Claudia schedule women interpreters to assist the women. Another obstacle is that every client is at a different point along their journey of healing. While it does prove to be difficult to encourage the same level of participation due to this disparity, Dawn emphasizes that this obstacle has benefited the women. It either allows women to see how much progress they’ve made or offers hope to those who are at an earlier stage of healing. Despite the diversity in culture, age, language, and healing, the women are able to find commonalities in their experiences while simultaneously learning from one another, providing empathy and support to the group. This inter-generational, intercultural, and interpersonal connection allows these women to move forward and focus on their common path along the road to recovery.
Dawn, Warsan, and Claudia all expressed joy at witnessing the transformations of the women since they began attending the group. These women, who have experienced unimaginable torture, demonstrate an unwavering level of resiliency and perseverance. In honor of International Women’s Day, SURVIVORS is proud to feature their hope, strength, and resilience for survivors of torture and women worldwide.