Empowering women through a holistic approach to healing

“Before the [trauma healing] training I was always angry. I found it difficult to talk to people and I cried a lot when I was alone…” Anita, a participant

Anita was not alone, which she soon found out by gathering with other women, sharing their stories and undertaking projects together. AFSC-Burundi supported its local partner, Friend’s Women’s Association (FWA) in a project aimed to empower and heal 480 of the most vulnerable women in the communities that witnessed fierce battles during the war and continue to live with the results of conflict: a high number of widow and female-headed households, acute poverty, and prevalence of HIV/AIDS.

To address these specific needs, FWA designed a project that combined healing, counseling, and income-generation. FWA ran a series of workshops on trauma healing and peaceful resolution of conflicts.

“Holding hands in a circle, we all started to laugh and talk openly to one another," said Anita. "I felt such internal joy and happiness. Just five minutes in the training was enough to make me feel better….With the training I feel the confidence and power to overcome my problems and to help others. I can support people…when they get agitated I take time to talk with them.”

FWA established groups of participants in each community and enabled the women to set up income generation projects with a modest capital fund. Women were able to continue to gather together in a support group and within the group, start microfinance agriculture projects.

Women came away from the series of workshops with skills to:

Heal wounds: The majority of the women are now able to recognize symptoms of trauma in themselves and others and this has had a knock on affect on their physical and psychological well being.

Offer mutual support: Through counseling, visiting, and providing care, helping resolve conflicts and bringing joy to each others’ lives, all the women reported a change in their lives through the friendships they have formed during this project.

Generate income: Working together cultivating manioc, maize and beans also cultivated better relationships and trust between women. Many of the groups still meet to cultivate their fields together.