Women’s Circles: a group psychosocial intervention for women
Women’s Circles is the key model that underpins Buena Semilla. It is a community-based, community-led group psychosocial intervention which consists of support groups (Women’s Circles) for vulnerable Indigenous women. When we say “vulnerable,” we are including for example single mothers, adolescent mothers, victims of violence, women in extreme poverty, mothers experiencing psychosocial distress, and women with unwanted pregnancies. The Women’s Circles create a space facilitated by trained women peers, including traditional midwives and community health workers.
The Women’s Circles are a co-designed, community-based collective space where women can build their self-esteem, share difficulties each face and collectively find solutions, strengthen their social support networks, improve their emotional wellbeing and gain confidence in their skills for navigating the specific challenges they face. The goal is to reinforce long-lasting change that has the potential to extend across generations, improving maternal and child health and wellbeing.
The Circles consist of 12 sessions held every two to four weeks and led by trained women peers or community health workers. Within the Circles, individual and group activities draw from a broad range of approaches, including indigenous practices, popular education, arts-based and learning-through-play activities, occupational therapy and cognitive behavioral therapy – all of which engage women through processes of reflection, conscientization, problem-solving, relationship-building and skills-strengthening, supporting them in becoming agents of change in their own lives and families. The goal is to reinforce long-lasting change that has the potential to extend across generations, improving maternal and child health and wellbeing.
The Model was created through ongoing Participatory Research, starting in 2010, with women (including traditional midwives) living in periurban K’iche and rural Mam-Mayan communities in the Western Highlands of Guatemala. Participating women co-designed the methodology and content of the intervention, focusing on their own everyday challenges and dreams for a better future.
Buena Semilla’s approach draws strongly from decolonizing methodologies and the work of Paulo Freire and Augusto Boal, specifically their focus on popular education, conscientization and social mobilization for change. These are key components to all our project activities.
Deliberative Dialogues: a social mobilization protocol to engage men and women in co-designing strategies to address mental health and wellbeing in their communities
By request, Buena Semilla is now expanding its initiatives to engage men – and to include adolescents, elders and traditional healers through an intergenerational, intercultural approach to health and wellbeing. Community mobilization is critical in spurring and sustaining the complex, locally relevant solutions that are needed for improving the health and wellbeing of marginalized communities of Guatemala and beyond, especially those that have experienced complex histories of systematic oppression. Engaging men in these efforts – including adolescents, elders and traditional healers, all of whom are rarely integrated into maternal psychosocial interventions – is also critical.
Men – and their own state of mental health – play a determining role as partners, fathers and community members. Elders and traditional healers hold ancestral knowledge, are an accessible and culturally safe pillar to women’s health in many indigenous communities, and are important drivers of gender norms, collective identity, social cohesion and the transmission of resilience factors and endogenous resources. Finally, adolescents represent the future of communities and are innately innovative and uniquely placed to integrate strategies into their contemporary, socio-cultural reality