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The personal is political! Heart-mind-body wellbeing circles in Zimbabwe

Women in Zimbabwe have faced major political and economic upheavals that have left not only their families fragmented but their bodily integrity and well-being as well. The struggle for women’s rights in Zimbabwe has been draining and traumatic, particularly the political violence characterizing the 2008 elections. Many women were raped, infected with disease, widowed, impregnated and deserted to care for unwanted children on their own. Violence, poverty, disease, care burdens and fear lead to fragmentation and exhaustion, which in turn contribute to failure all round. As women we also enact serious forms of violence on ourselves through expending much energy to strategies that benefit our children, husbands, homes, wider constituencies and organizations, yet we fail to expend the same energy to take care of our own well-being and to strengthen our spirits. Whilst it is important to put work at the centre of our lives, we must be mindful not to lose sight of ourselves, and of the essence of that which connects us as human beings. No matter how professional we strive to be, as long as there is fragmentation of the heart, mind and body we become isolated; lose our creativity, audacity and energy. The work itself loses meaning and we end up feeling perpetually angry, anxious, fatigued, lonely and useless. Much more can be said about our sisters living positively with HIV/AIDS in the face of all these stressors. Does anybody care? Do donors and governments care about providing budgets for women’s well-being?
I have been part of the heart-mind-body project initiated by JUST ASSOCIATES (JASS), an international none-governmental organization (NGO) that builds feminist movements. This project seeks to promote women’s well-being using holistic methods such as yoga, recki, meditation, body massages, beauty therapy, storytelling and counseling. Since JASS introduced this idea, I have been organizing safe spaces and well-being circles for grassroots market women to meet and re-claim their bodily integrity, in the process equipping them with skills to gain confidence, information, strategies and connections they need to organize democratic change and to navigate risky contexts. My major challenge has been financial resources to make this work possible to a wider constituency, and as a result the initiative has been limited to a few women. The other challenge is the potential to be misunderstood. Zimbabwe is a conservative society and any processes that emphasize on women alone may be misunderstood and trivialized. Political polarization also makes this work difficult, especially in the rural areas where gathering may be difficult given the forthcoming elections, thus it will be difficult to carry this work to the peripheries where it’s most needed. Doing work with only a small group of women creates further information gaps.
I can use PulseWire to connect and share ideas with other women globally on developing appropriate methodologies and creating resources for this work. I can also use the PulseWire blog to flag our workshop reports, and women from other countries draw from our experiences and introduce this work in their respective spaces.


Skye's picture

Holistic solutions


I am very interested in hearing more about JASS. It is my dream to start a center that uses storytelling and yoga to help children, particularly orphans. Where can I find more information about the program? How has the holistic health component been received by the community?

chibairo's picture

The personal is political!

The response was overwhelming from the community, and many people are still making inquiries. It is the best way of dealing with stress and fragmentation, and a very political way of demanding our rights back as women activists. I will send you more information from the experiences we have had so far, please send me your email address. Please google search JASS and search heart-mind-body on their blog.

Dudziro Nhengu

Azaria's picture

Holistic Solutions

Chibairo, Thank you for sharing this post. Holistic solution, heart-mind-body-well being are subjects that are very close to my heart. As a Holistic Health Coach and Women's Empowerment Coach here in the U.S I also used a lot of the holistic practices you mentioned.

You are very correct when you mentioned that we as women expand a lot of energy in taking care of every one else first before we have time for own self care. My hope in my own work is to empower and train a new generation of women on the importance for self care. It is not selfish to take care of you, it is your right.

I am very impressed by the work JESS and you are doing for the women in Zimbabue. I would love to see how I can get involved.

Keep on writing sister, I'm looking forward to hearing more on how this project is going.


Azaria Ulmer, CHC, CPCC
Wellness & Empowerment Coach

Real Foods Heal
Everything is food...what are you hungry for?

Sacred Woman
Empowering women and girls around the world

AmyC's picture

Untapped potential


What you are trying to offer for your fellow Zimbabwean women is such an overlooked but essential component of helping to develop and heal communities. Too often is the soul overlooked - it is only examined when there is extreme anxiety or illness - but it is so important to manage and heal oneself through alternative means outside of practices like psychology and psychiatry.

You offer a lot of information on challenges and your solutions, but it would have been helpful perhaps to give a more concrete example of how exactly you would use PulseWire and other online communities for your work.

Good luck!

KeMadagascar's picture

How remarkable!

I was moved by your story and I'd just like to encourage you to continue. You now have PulseWire and its amazing network of women : use it as a tool to promote your struggle for women's well-being...You can rely on me for supporting your efforts, ever :)

With friendship,

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