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Innovative programme for healing from trauma

Partner story

Photo: © Common Threads Project

Experiences of gender-based violence have profound and lasting economic, psychosocial, and health consequences for women and girls. These challenges may include chronic medical conditions and long-term psychological symptoms resulting from severe trauma.

Using a community-based and strengths-oriented solution to respond to the challenges of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) and its enduring psychological consequences, Common Threads Project establishes therapeutic circles for women to gather for mutual support, group therapy, and to create story cloths about their experiences. Creating these textiles provides help in a variety of ways:

  • Using this traditional practice, participants can express in graphic form what they cannot initially say in words.
  • Non-verbal self-expression is critical in the healing process. With personal stories sewn in the textiles, women are able to access experiences and come to understand them in a new way.
  • The stitching itself provides a calming rhythmic meditative counterbalance to the discussion of distressing experiences, allowing for safe trauma processing.
  • Survivors are offered a way to share their stories with others who can bear witness and provide affirmation for their lived experience.
  • Women engage in a comprehensive therapeutic protocol that promotes stress reduction, stabilization, psycho-education, and uses both art and body-based healing techniques. Together they can mourn losses, overcome stigma, shame, guilt, and self-blame.
  • In the final phase of the program, participants shift focus toward the future. the group provides support and encourages personal empowerment as participants reclaim self-esteem, voice, and agency in their lives.

Starting its pilot project in Ecuador in 2012, Common Threads Project now has programmes in three other countries: Nepal, Bosnia & Herzegovina and the Democratic Republic of Congo. In the early phase, 220 women participated in Common Threads circles. Common Threads Project is in the process of scaling up and will reach out to many more SGBV survivors in the future. They plan to launch a large project serving Syrian refugee women in Lebanon in 2018-19.

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

Common Threads Project has been an Oak partner since 2014 as part of the Issues Affecting Women Programme. The programme seeks to contribute to a world in which women are safe from violence and are free to exercise their full and equal human rights.