Since launching STRONG WOMEN, Restore Hope: Liberia’s women's health and empowerment program, Restore Hope has seen “phenomenal results” and dramatic programmatic growth. Thanks to Dovetail Impact, Together Women Rise, and Restore Hope for investing in the women of Liberia!
Liberia is still dealing with a debilitating mental health crisis in the context of extreme poverty and recovery from war and disease. More than 40% of Liberians suffer from post-traumatic stress and/or major depression. For the vast majority of those who suffer, no care or support is available.
When we work with people who have been through the sufferings of a hard and too-often traumatic life, loss and uncertainty, we cannot begin with their trauma and pain, their loss and grief, their depression and despair, for those do not ever leave room for the breath, let alone recovery and restoration of hope. But deep within them there is a reservoir of innate joy, strength and resilience. That is the place from which we begin. Everything else follows, guided by the wisdom of the spirit, the love that each soul manifests in the world.
The women of Africa have been circling to support one another for millennia. While we might make a few modern, Western innovations, the program has grown from that innate drive the women of Kolahun have to make things better. And so, we follow their lead, and learn from them. In exchange, we offer a few “new tools,” tried and tested approaches to interpersonal care in groups. At the end of the day, these look very much like groups of women in circles, loving and supporting one another. And perhaps we are all learning! What’s important, and most meaningful, is that the innate joy and hopefulness of the women is being revealed.
Two years ago, Restore Hope: Liberia began enlisting women to lead the way to healthy lives and gainful, sustainable livelihoods. “Psychosocial support groups,” (women circling) are led by a trained, lay group facilitator from the community. She helps the women to identify the root causes and triggers of their distress and, more importantly, to identify their strengths and all the ways they can use their strengths to overcome adversity. New life skills help them be STRONG WOMEN and even more resilient to meet the challenges to come.
Newly acquired skills have both immediate and long-term preventive impacts. According to the World Health Organization, for every woman who finds additional strength and resilience, up to four members of her family benefit. In Kolahun, we see how women’s impaired ability to function creates profound hardship. When a woman is unable to perform her essential social responsibilities, she can become a target of criticism and exclusion; she may be less productive, have a lower income, and have poorer physical health. If she is a mother, the negative impact can extend to her entire family. Research shows that children of mothers who are psychologically challenged are more likely to have poor health, struggle in or miss school, and suffer psychologically themselves. Additionally, untreated depressive symptoms in young people are linked to increased alcohol and substance use and high-risk sexual behavior.
The goals of STRONG WOMEN are to:
Business skills and microfinance training, savings and loan workshops, and cooperative governance workshops are held annually to ensure that women who participate have the opportunity to gain the necessary skills to grow and lead a successful business and manage their personal and family finances.
At a cost of approximately $20 per client, we will have served 630 women this year. Next year, the program intensifies, and the cost of the program may go up slightly, but we are on course to serve 870 women.
By actively partnering with other local psychosocial and women's empowerment facilitators in Liberia, we will continue to reach more women to help them reduce the impact of old and new traumas and regain agency and control of their lives. If you would like to join us on this journey, be sure to stay tuned to our newsletters or contact firstname.lastname@example.org.