Sewing stories brings healing

Sexual and Gender Based Violence (SGBV) is pervasive in communities around the world, with heightened rates in conflict and post-conflict regions.  Experiences of gender-based violence have profound and lasting consequences for women and girls economically, psychosocially and in terms of their health. These consequences include chronic medical conditions, ostracism from communities and families and significant psychological difficulties resulting from severe trauma.

Common Threads offers unique, evidence-based psychological interventions to help women who have suffered SGBV heal.  In traditional hand-sewing groups, women gather to: sew their stories into cloth; share their “unspeakable” experiences; support one another; and engage in a programme of recovery.  This survivor- and resilience-centred approach has been effective in:

  • reducing symptoms of depression, anxiety and distress;
  • counteracting stigma, self-blame and shame;
  • enhancing coping capacities and personal empowerment; and
  • encouraging group cohesion and connection to community.

With projects in Ecuador, Nepal and Bosnia-Herzegovina, Common Threads establishes communal sewing groups for women, where they create story cloths about their experiences, while also engaging in psychotherapeutic interventions that contribute to healing and resilience. Common Threads has been an Oak partner since 2014.

Art therapy uses the creative process to improve a person’s physical, mental and emotional wellbeing. Common Threads empowers participants through programmes that allow women to express themselves through story cloths.  Creating these story cloths allows the women to express their stories non-verbally, supports them in forming connections with one another, reduces stress, builds community and creates a sense of safety.

“I feel like I’ve rid myself of a heavy load, a load I carried,” said one participant. “It’s past now. I am getting rid of things that I had carried in my heart.”

Women involved in the programme gain confidence, self-esteem and many find it a life-changing experience. “It has helped me to have strength to value myself, so that I can move forward, by myself and with my daughters,” said another participant.

To find out more about the work of Common Threads visit its website.

© Common Threads