Welcome to the Discussion Room for MHPSS in Africa

This room aims to facilitate the sharing of experiences, lessons learned, and good practices on integrating MHPSS into peacebuilding in the African region.

The room is open for any input you may want to share but to start the conversation it has been framed around two main themes with guiding questions. You can respond to one/more/none of these in your contributions, but please indicate on which of the themes/questions below you are sharing your insights. Kindly note that content translation is available on the top-right corner of the page, where you can choose among 100+ languages.

In your responses, please introduce yourself and tell us whether you have a self-care regime or whether your organization provides staff care to ensure your wellbeing. 

We propose the following guiding questions:

Theme 1: Your experiences 

  1. How do you/your projects integrate/partner/collaborate with the other field?
  2. What have been your successes and/or challenges in linking your work with the other field?
  3. What context/regionally specific elements are you considering and including in your programming on linking MHPSS and Peacebuilding?

Theme 2: Enhancing integration

  1. What resources would your organization need to be better able to work in a way that integrates MHPSS into peacebuilding?
  2. What are the regional and/or cultural considerations that need to be kept in mind when integrating MHPSS into peacebuilding?
  3. What recommendations would you like to make to UNDP regarding the integration of MHPSS into peacebuilding?

Disclaimer: Please note that the room will be open from 11 October to 9 November 2021. Access of UNDP externals to the rooms is based on pre-registration only.

Comments (60)

Friederike Bubenzer Moderator

Good morning friends around the world-we are delighted that you are interested in joining this online platform and would love to hear your thoughts on how to better link the fields of MHPSS and peacebuilding-all your comments are very (very) welcome.

We look forward to hearing from you!

Kiduo M.M

Friederike Good Evening from Here. I appreciate seeing this discussion being on board and am more interested in being part of it. I will start with little thoughts on this topic.

Kiduo M.M

I remember working in the Nyarugusu Refugees camp. On a similar reflection, my office was in the middle of refugees tents where you witness the daily routine of the community members (Refugees). The refugees' community had observed that the MHPSS programme gives potential space for their story.

Another reflection, being in a small office in a marginalised community in Dar es salaam (slum areas). You experience the hustles of the marginalised community. Then you hear at-risk youth observed that the MHPSS programme sustaining their talent and raising their voice in the community.

I will bring more thoughts on the community intervention for MHPSS and Peacebuilding in the coming days. I will be adding past experiences with the voice of the marginalised community. I will unpack with a technical eye and better practices.
 

I'm happy to be here.  I will be learning and exchange thoughts with everyone here. In future, I will remember the moment we had.

 

Friederike Bubenzer Moderator

Thanks for joining Kiduo M.M and for your reflections.
I'd love to hear more about the MHPSS programme's storytelling work; do share!

Dau Dhieu

Having been part of the south Sudan trauma healing initiative for the past few years, I have come to love the topic of mental health and well-being. It has come to my notice that, this trauma healing initiative should be been implemented right after the signing of peace in 2005 when the comprehensive peace agreement was signed between the south and the North. there is a evidenced existence of historical and recurrent trauma in my country and it is never addressed fully by those implementing partners. I believe, peace building can only sink into the healed minds and souls. peace can be assimilated into daily lives of people if they are healed from the past trauma and their is indication of safe environment. Being part of this group will be of great advantage to me and others who might want to help in my country. I strongly recommend mental health and trauma healing to be integrated into schools curriculum in the country so that people get heal and shift from survival mode to thinking mode.

Kiduo M.M

Dau Dhieu Welcome, brother. I'm looking forward to learning about your journey and your perspective on better practices. 

Friederike Bubenzer Moderator

Hi Dau; thanks for your important comment. I love that you say 'peace building can only sink into the healed minds and souls'. Can you explain (maybe even from your person experience of working on the topic) why you say this?

If you could also tell us a little more about the methodology of the trauma healing initiative? Was it successful? If yes, why? 

Dau Dhieu

Friederike Bubenzer There are old wounds that must be healed for people to begin to trust the peacebuilding process. trauma creates mistrust among the citizens. take for instance myself talking about trauma healing to the people my tribe mates had put in that traumatic situation, how will they trust me or believe the healing and the peace that i am talking about? it is not possible.

 

Kiduo M.M

Dau Dhieu  I would share some thoughts on resources for the organisation.The need for the fund could be a better answer for the organisation to some extent. I think the programme needs tools that guide programme sustainability. Make sure there is time for reflecting on what has been working and reframing the programme sustainability.

Babu Ayindo

Thanks for sharing this Dau. I am also reminded that the late Dr John Garang and the SPLM Economic Commission recognized way back in 1994 that community based trauma healing and reconciliation was integral in the process of transition from "war to peace." I wish you well in your work.  

Angi Yoder-Maina

Babu Ayindo - it was even put in a policy document if I remember your story correctly. I find that many leaders who have been a part of armed conflict understand more than others without the experience about the need of social healing if they are going to achieve the future they fought and died for.

Mathew

Dau Dhieu from you mentioned how does two tribes that have been involved in conflict heal old wounds that have been inflicted. I would like to point us to the Gacaca courts in Rwanda- a system of 12,000 community-based courts that sought to try genocide criminals while promoting forgiveness by victims, ownership of guilt by criminals, and reconciliation in communities as a way to move forward. 

Then the question would be was this system trauma informed - Yes or No 

What components or aspects of MHPSS can we learn that seems to have been applied consciously or accidentally ? 

Can it work in other context ? like yours .

Thank you. 

Eric Mwenge

Theme 1:

Our  experiences 

My name is Eric L.wa Mwenge, resident of Sweden ( but native of the DRC)!  Our regional movement  , namely Mov’humana (movement for humanist actions) operates in three conflict and post conflict areas(Burundi, Rwanda and DRC)! Our members automatically considered that mental health and well- being should not only be a key issue in addressing other community and individual problems but also a cross- cutting question in all intervention, and especially in peacebuilding! 

2. Successes and challenges : 

2.1. our successes : After implementing several narrative theatre forums with different communities as an approach to address traumas collectively and reinforce collective resilience and coping mechanisms, the approach opened an easy way for people and group of people to come together even conflicting communities ! 
2.2. With limited experience the daily is that people who are embarking to the réconciliation route through our movement’s program are exposed to bounce back to their original position or become indifferent towards all the conjugated efforts in peacebuilding ! A more holistic program would be envisaged to be more sustainable ! A part this above challenge, the global pandemic of COVID- 19 had limited community participation in different traditional  meetings! 

3. Networking all the local mental health and psychosocial committees creates energy which is boosted by the synergy of different actors from local to the regional levels! These linked up actors have transforms themselves activists of peacebuilding and social change agents! Instead of being considered MHPSS’s actors our local members are considered as peace makers and social value promoters ! 

Theme 2: Enhancing integration

1. Needed resources : 

- capacity building for local actors in MHPSS approaches ( technical support ) 

- support in organizing meetings ( both locally and regionally) [financial support ]

- Exchange sharing with other actors in other regions and  countries (professional  support) 


2. Cultural considerations to be kept in mind working in the Great Lakes Region : 

- Always use do no harm 

- involve local leaders (in and outside society you operate in)

- Working carefully with sensitive issues although relevant such as the question related to redistribution of resources, gender issues ( the case of lgbt), stigma around individual counseling sessions, trauma healing is so crucial but still not understood the way it is known in Western countries ( need to clarify to a larger population the relevance of such a program), Many ‘humanitarian approaches have left entire populations morally dependent on materialistic aids which develops collective apathy towards MHPSS programs! 

3. Recommendations : 

- Develop a more integrated approach where MHPSS and peacebuilding programs  MUST be  designed, implemented and evaluated by locals (directly)

- Give priority to training programs in MHPSS and peacebuilding 

- Supporting local MHPSS settings financially, technically and professionally.

- Promote a networking approach (see the three levels of social capital ) 

- Identify genuine and innovative models of MHPSS co- created by locals after several years of experience ( ex of CEEDECO whose members were trained by Prof Yvonne Sliep trained since 2005 with the financial support from War Trauma Foundation) but since then this organization had been struggling to adapt their MHPSS to different context and now they developed Mov’humana which a wonderful instrument that can address many challenges of cohabitation and well- being in the Great Lakes region !

Eric L wa Mwenge 

Ceedeco / Mov’humana Project support officer

Tel : +46704121231

ericlwamwenge2000@yahoo.fr

Kiduo M.M

 Eric Mwenge Thanks for your thoughts and perspective. For the programme that focuses on addressing traumas collectively and sustain collective resilience for a particular community. How do you measure the results? Also,   what are the key consideration in achieving collective resiliences at the community level for the DRC context?

Eric Mwenge

Kiduo M.M Your questions are so relevant Kiduo! Regarding the measurements we have used different approaches but will just mention few of them :

1. On behavior level: observation of new identities within communities based on collective values, women becoming engaged and allowed to act in their society through an easy access as full member of local decision- making instances, observation of less stigma and discrimination among members ( since they feel they have a new identity)!

2. on resilience level phenomenon such ‘’fear of expressing my  idea because the other one will stigmatize me’’ attitude is less and less vanishing ! Such openness of mind is contributing enormously to a rehabilitation and healing process and collective peacebuilding ! 

Friederike Bubenzer Moderator

Kiduo M.M Thanks for raising the question about results; this is so important. Yes, what is our evidence that a more integrated approach is 'better'; how do we measure this?

Yvonne Sliep Moderator

Great resource Angi, the title captures good indicators for change: Growing connection, agency and resilience.  

Kiduo M.M

Eric Mwenge Thanks for your thoughts. These are insights that support best practices in integrating MHPSS and Peacebuilding.

Kiduo M.M

Angi Yoder-Maina Thanks for your thoughts. These are insights that support best practices in integrating MHPSS and Peacebuilding.

Kiduo M.M

Eric Mwenge  I would share some thoughts on context/regionally specific elements.
I have learned from the Save the Children programme on HEART (Healing through Education and Art). I would reframe elements for the MHPSS into Peacebuilding. The programme needs of using art as a means for the targeted group to self–expression and critical skills development. Also, make sure the participation and engagement of community members in the programme designing and implementation. Have a plan for reaching groups with special needs. These elements will work on integration for the MHPSS and Peacebuilding while considering context and other factors.

Yvonne Sliep Moderator

Thank you for your interesting reflection Eric. I have followed your work for a number of years. Can you add some reflection on why you think Narrative Theatre works as a strategy to link MHPSS and Peace Building. We are taking note of your recommendations. 

Greetings 

Yvonne

Eric Mwenge

My reflection on why NT is a strategy to link MHPSS and peacebuilding is that it facilitâtes communities to come together in a very traditional and genuine way! It helps create new social and collective identity in a particular society! For example, through the Mov’humana regional network although people can portrait themselves as ‘ hutu, Tutsi, Bantu, Twa etc these identities are less referred to in the interactions and discourses between the network’s components in the three countries!
 

The new collective identity is becoming more prominent over other identities among Mov’humana activists! The regression of ethnocentric feelings reduce egoistic and harmful behaviors! Through new collective identity individuals feel more safe and trustful and cooperative the above statement reflect the description of the bonding level of the social capital! On social bridging level of the social capital, Mov’humana itself is a good example. Hundreds of local MHPSS committees created thanks to NT forums were linked to one another and all together formed Mov’humana ( a CBO) or program ) which is a peacebuilding network in the region! Without the NT it would be difficult to succeed bringing together potential conflict ethic groups and nationalities! But without any magic and with expertise of trained Psychosocial practitioners of the Narrative Theatre Approach, communities are coming together and adhere to ‘ one family of humanists’ ! From this demonstration, one can see how MHPSS activities lead to peacebuilding organisations ( with impact on social cohesion and social fabric, Resilience  reinforcement and cohabitation to name few)! 
The other reason is on the third level of the social capital used with the narrative theatre approach: Social linking! If I have to consider the example of the regional Mov’humana Network, there is a very positive cooperation between the Network and a Swedish organization named Svalorna Afrika ( www. Svalorna africa.se)! Mov’Humana members had also been enabled to have regional meetings with government authorities in Bukavu, Uvira, Sange and Mboko where authorities were alerted (through regional crusades of the Mov’humana ) about the issues that affect children, women, youths, disabled people, older people, families and local duty bearers! Narrative theatre were used to hightlight all these phenomenon! The narrative theater thus would be recommended to be used as an alert- launcher to authorities, and other stakeholder since it is used in a very diplomatic way that no once feel harmed by it performance’! 
Thank you Dr Yvonne ! 

NB: Since the Ceedeco and Mov’humana Website is closed now, I can shared videos, pictures and other reports when needed! I think the videos are more explicit ! 
/ Éric 
 

Yvonne Sliep Moderator

Thank you Eric for these rich examples. Your passion for this work is very clear. Do you have documentation that you can share as resources. Looking forward to our discussion. 

Iria Carballo

I have recently joined UNDP with their Peace and Community Cohesion project in South Sudan. Previously I have been working in Social Care and as Psychotherapist in Europe, mainly Ireland. Despite of my short time within this project, it is clear for me that trauma within the community needs to be addressed to allow the success of peacebuilding initiatives. Thus, within our project I am currently coordinating trainings about Trauma Healing and Psychosocial Support, allowing local institutions to develop knowledge, tools, and skills to train more trauma healing and psychosocial support counsellors in their communities, creating a network of trauma awareness and support. During this short time, I have already seen small communities with grievances come together after a training. Thus, sharing their experiences helped them realize they share common problems, common pain, and they realize about the importance of collectively resilience to overcome trauma. Mental health is many times overseen when we talk about development, addressing other basic needs considered more urgent or important. However, the same way you can’t race with a broken leg, you can’t success on peacebuilding if the community is struggling with mental health issues.

Regarding the important topic of self-care, as a mental health professional I have developed my own self-care regime, which has been very important for me to avoid burn-out. Currently, given the hard living conditions of my duty station, my organization also provides self-care allowing periods of Rest and Recuperation each 6 weeks.

Now, giving answer to the guiding questions:

1.1. As I have already mentioned, the way our project is integrating MHPSS into peacebuilding is by addressing the trauma within the communities due to the recent conflict and the ongoing instability and violence. To leave the trauma unaddressed invites a virulent repeat of cycles of violence, and that is why it is so important to address it to work towards peacebuilding and reconciliation.

1.2. The success so far has been seeing communities coming together and sharing their experiences, leaving the trainings with a sense of belonging. The trainings have allowed an open safe space to share experiences and realize they are not alone, normalizing their symptoms and reactions, and, therefore, having a therapeutic impact on the participants. The challenges faced so far are the lack of resources in the area in terms of psychosocial supports. Even if the trauma awareness of the community improves and they have a better understanding of trauma, it is hard to provide the support they need longer term due to the lack of enough psychosocial services and infrastructure (counselling services, community centres, safe spaces…).

1.3. Given the big influence of Peace Committees and different Ministries in the area, we are coordinating the trainings with their collaboration and participation. Thus, as Eric was saying, even though they are working on MHPSS they consider themselves peacebuilding agents, showing the thin connection between both MHPSS and peacebuilding.

2.2. A cultural consideration to have when integrating MHPSS into peacebuilding is being aware of the religious believes in the communities. When conducting the trainings, we had to be culturally sensitive with this and other topics, making sure they understand the content of the training without feeling their believes where disrespected.

2.3. Given that one of the challenges identified after our trauma healing trainings has been the lack of resources to refer people to after identifying a need, it is important to strengthen the networking of already existing services in the area while they continue to grow.

Kiduo M.M

Thanks for your reflection Iria Larrinaga Carballo. Please,  share with us this your experiences on this concern. How do you respect a community culture (Cultural sensitive) at programme intervention? on follow up,  how do you sustain the intervention while respecting the culture of the community for South Sudan Context? 

Friederike Bubenzer Moderator

Thank you so much for this rich input Iria Larrinaga Carballo. I am thrilled to hear about your work. Much like Kiduo M.M am keen to know whether there is any work/exploration of researching and working with local/ traditional supports that exist and which contribute to resilience and PSS wellbeing. 

Yvonne Sliep Moderator

Thank you for your elaborate sharing Iria. You bring a very important point forward namely self care and care for each other as one of the cornerstones of this work. In this way there is a clear awareness of how challenging it can be to walk the talk as well as embodied experience how well it pays off to invest time in self care to result in higher productivity. You are also showing how the work is linked on many different levels. 

Iria Carballo

Kiduo M.M the trainings we have done have been facilitated, created and delivered by locals of the different regions after being trained in trauma. Thus, after having their training, they have selected the topics more relevant for their regions to deliver their trainings in the community, adapting it to their particularities and cultural context. As they share the same cultural context, plus the knowledge gained during their training, they have the ability to be sensitive to heir community, understanding them and explaining the theory being sensitive.

This is the reason why we don't train directly the community, we support and train locals to adapt the knowledge to their particular context as they now better the reality of South Sudan, and particularly, each of their communities.

Iria Carballo

Friederike Bubenzer I have just joined the project, but usually we initially conduct assessments, through focal groups many times, to hear the needs of the communities we work with. Moreover, we are in the process of coordinating a meeting with different organizations and institutions in the area working on trauma healing so we can share experiences and challenges within the work we do, learning from each other and offering a coordinated support, to learn from each other, connect resources and offer a coordinated support.

Angi Yoder-Maina

Iria Carballo - I think you have pulled out a key aspect of our work in this field. That is how to break the cycles of violence.

We must begin to break the cycles of violence and pain. But as Dr. Eduardo Duran said in a talk I was listening to this morning “since we haven’t been taught the truth of this dynamic, then we continue just either self-destruct or destroying others, destroying the planet, & this is where we find ourselves today."

Here is a copy of his interview from the Collective Trauma Summit 2021.. I highly recommend it. "An Indigenous Lens on Psychotherapy as a Soul Healing." It is an excellent resource with a very powerful understanding of the cycle of violence and why breaking it is an important part of collective healing practice.

https://drive.google.com/open?id=1anmyhTLObAA-HRrGVleASvFdHMiAjuBE&auth…

Kiduo M.M

Iria Carballo Thanks for your thoughts. I wish you all the best with your new role at UNDP. These are insights that support best practices in integrating MHPSS and Peacebuilding.
       

Kiduo M.M

Iria Carballo  I would share some thoughts on recommendations to UNDP. We are all aware that UNDP has a new strategic plan for 2022 – 2025.  I would recommend taking time to reflect, brainstorm and learn from the past intervention on peacebuilding from the past strategy plan will be a wise decision for the African continent considering the sustainability of the integration of MHPSS into peacebuilding. I support the focus on government engagement or participation in the intervention. I strongly recommend having the focus on people and with a people-centred intervention. Also, each progress should aim in making the community ownership the intervention as they will be able to take better practices forward while sustaining their resilience. My last recommendation will be to let's achieve assistance to people. Also, we should listen to the assistant that people can bring to the integration of MHPSS into peacebuilding at the community level.

Mandela 'Ade' Matur

My name is Mandela ‘Ade’ Matur, I am an author, a spoken word poet and professionally a Creative Arts Therapist. I am from South Sudan working with HealthNet TPO as a MHPSS Advocacy Officer. I like to look at the aspect of mental health in peacebuilding from a community perspective and from the context of my country right now.

South Sudan Conflict has destroyed so much more than infrastructure, livelihoods, and human security. It goes deep into the fabric of society, destroying link after link of the solid chain. And with the different ongoing community conflicts, people continue to experience negative emotions of fear and insecurity, making it difficult for true emotional healing to take place. Once these feelings of hatred, fear, and mistrust are not prevented, it becomes easy for them to spiral into deeper cycles of violence. By understanding this interconnection between conflict and emotional wellbeing, I suggest that mental health interventions should simultaneously work towards conflict transformation. Communities and different cultures interpret the manifestations of trauma according to their own understandings of illness. And in order to respect these interpretations, approaches that seek to improve mental health by working with rather than against these cultural beliefs need to be adopted.

And that starts by recognizing that instead of imposing different mental health programs upon communities, the communities themselves should have the capacity to develop and implement techniques aimed at addressing the effects of trauma. This has provided an alternative to western psychiatry methods that frame suffering as a scientific problem that needs solving without acknowledging traditional, cultural and religious aspects that may be relevant to societal cultures. Although medical interventions have their uses, a greater emphasis on non-medical approaches can benefit traumatized individuals, families and communities. And this is something we have been working on as HealthNet TPO, to be able to make this healing community based. (I will highlight our work sometime within the week)

So, in order for populations traumatized by years of repression and war to recover, they require feelings of safety, calm, empowerment, connectedness, and hope. To help achieve this outcome, MHPSS programs need to put more emphasis on the social aspects at both the individual and community level. Focusing a lot of efforts too at the individual level would also negate inherent human resilience; that is why collective psychosocial interventions can go a long way in restoring damaged social strand, especially when paired with economic development. It is very important to recognize how witnessing and experiencing violent conflict and its vast social, economic, and political consequences have a harmful effect on the well-being of and the relationships among communities.

Basically, any attempt to address mental health in a community setting that has been affected by years of war to achieve peace must take some of these realities into consideration, working carefully to convey the relationships between diseases, treatments, institutions, social structures, and the people they seek to assist. With careful planning, programs can potentially develop appropriate forms of structuration capable of reshaping biases in a way that creates new identities based on ideas of cooperation, forgiveness, peace and healing. If successful, these systems can lead to greater mental health and the transformation of conflict bringing about changes in the individual, the communities and the context itself & restoring peace within and between individuals, communities and society.

 

 

 

 

Yvonne Sliep Moderator

Thank you for your elaborate input Mandela. I am also interested in hearing how you apply your creative expertise to the work. All the enthusiasm is very inspiring. 

Kiduo M.M

Mandela 'Ade' Matur I would share some thoughts on the regional and cultural considerations.I think more should be kept in mind. The focus should not be an outsider or the insider looking in but your human being looking around the community. Then move to remain committed to contributing to progress or sustain sustaining the integrating MHPSS into peacebuilding. Learning from the existed social trust when focusing on what to implement and what will be achievable. After finishing understanding the culture of the community next phase should be what, why and how will the culture relate to the implementation objective and programme sustainability. Also, the team should take time and observe how are people demonstrating ownership of the intervention. 

Kiduo M.M

Mandela 'Ade' Matur Welcome, brother. I'm looking forward to learning about your journey and your perspective on better practices. 

Kiduo M.M

Mandela 'Ade' Matur Thanks for your thoughts and perspective. Considering of context and initiative have done on the ground for the South Sudan Context for some time. Do you see the integration of MHPSS and Peacebuilding will sustain community engagement and transform the current situation into a better and different story?

Mandela 'Ade' Matur

Thank you Kiduo, and to answer your question, yes integrating MHPSS and peacebuilding can go a long way in transforming the conflict. It starts by recognizing the communities' understanding of trauma and mental health in general. Once that is established, you will get to understand that they relate more to collective traumas. So if MHPSS interventions are tailored around collective healing like for example the use of community based sociatherapy which has worked perfectly in Rwanda, and also being able to recognize that these communities have their approaches to healing and conflict transformation and working with them instead of against the approaches they can relate to.

Most of the community based approaches from the locations we are working in foster social connection and cohesion, adapting some of those can bring unity among communities breaking the chains of intergenerational traumas and promoting peace.

It is a process...

 

Angi Yoder-Maina

Mandela 'Ade' Matur - Healing is a process. And as peacebuilders, we understand if people and societies are not whole there is no peace. And for me, this is not clinical - rather this is around social harm and the need for social recovery and repair.  

I love what Dr. Christine Bethell noted at the collective healing summit in 2019, “we’re a society organized based on trauma, so we need to go from being trauma-organized to being trauma-informed—and then, eventually, healing-centered.”

This begins to connect with WHO's pyramid framework describing the optimal mix of services for mental health (see attached) where community care and self-care are the largest part of the pyramid (really starting to focus on community-level prevention).  When you stop seeing the pyramid in the biomedical framework but rather in the social and cultural framework, in many countries enduring chronic violence, this is not where health workers are but this is where peacebuilders, pastors, imans, community mamas, uncles, teachers, and others who I call "enlightened witnesses" live.  This is the realm where community-based peacebuilding and social transformation lives... While in the more specialized services (up the pyramid) - this is where MHPSS has the expertise...  A good friend of mine is keen to say, "The reality of what we are up against is there are not enough dollars in creation to hire the number of experts we need to help (transform) our society….So rather than focusing on the question of how to integrate the two fields - how do we start to focus on what people actually need - rather than focusing on the needs of two the fields?

Perhaps a way to consider how to integrate the two fields is to look where each field has its expertise (within the pyramid) and to build referral pathways between the two levels so that we build off each of strengths. 

Kiduo M.M

Mandela 'Ade' Matur Thanks for your thoughts. These are insights that support best practices in integrating MHPSS and Peacebuilding.
       

Kiduo M.M

Angi Yoder-Maina I would share some thoughts on the integrate/partner/collaborate.
I have observed the international actors forming partnerships with the local actor (civil society). Establish facilitators and community member committees for supporting the programme implementation in the community through the ToT programme.

Angi Yoder-Maina

Kiduo M.M - was the experiences you have experienced positive or negative?

I have seen some very unhealthy power dynamics. I believe that people must own their own healing processes and that often when power dynamics are unequal this is very difficult for local communities.

Also in my experience, the MHPSS come in as "experts" - and counselors give a lot of advice rather than letting individuals and the community come up with their own solutions.  

Friederike Bubenzer Moderator

There is so much exciting input happening here, thank you everyone!!!!

Angi Yoder-Maina

Thanks to everyone who has shared their reflections above. I enjoyed going through them and ingesting your thoughts about this subject. I have been thinking and working on these issues for the last couple of decades (or more!).

In the last 20 years, I have come to see social healing as one of the most important but forgotten issues for peacebuilders, but also for those also working in humanitarian, governance, as well as human rights, all across Africa (and even globally).

My name is Angi Yoder-Maina. I am the Executive Director of the Green String Network (https://green-string.org/). GSN is a regional organization based in Kenya supporting a healing-centered peacebuilding approach working with local organizations to develop and design healing-centered and trauma-informed programming across the region, including in Somalia, Ethiopia, South Sudan, and Kenya. In Kenya we are working with both the Kenyan police and civilians and in the other countries it is all community prevention work. We are also now using the model to work with youth 10-24 years old in Kenya with a pilot project from the Grand Challenges Canada (GCC).  

I have attached a copy of our systems map that shows the healing-centered peacebuilding approach with a critic of the MHPSS models which I do not feel actually in practice engage with social transformation.

At GSN we use storytelling, watercolor illustrations, and embodied practices to help people articulate both their pain but also their joys as they recount the lived experiences they have been through, and recognize how these experiences shape their behavior. Then we use these methods to unlock new ways of thinking, behaving, and feeling, so that they can live more full and peaceful lives as individuals and communities. This healing process is the first and fundamental step towards building peace, wellbeing, and prosperity in the long term. The healing stories honor the human journey from pain to creative empowerment, limitation to inspired new possibilities, and fear to compassionate contribution.

GSN fills the gap between peacebuilding, mental health, and development/governance, drawing on evidence of what works in each of these fields to deliver an approach that is unique and culturally relevant. All of this adds up to the process of collective social healing. It is the missing piece that allows us to build the foundations for well-functioning and cohesive institutions, communities, countries. This is what makes peace work.

We are now on the 8th generation of our Wellbeing and Resilience (WebR) Framework (https://sites.google.com/green-string.org/adaptation-portfolio/home) which is now including a digital version that we are now working with a new regional Fintech start-up to link livelihood and savings groups to both persona and social healing processes. 

GSN’s research, practice, and reflections clearly indicate while a clinical approach to healing can be useful in a limited setting, it does not comprehensively respond to the question of healing within the African cultural context. Healing in our context requires a more holistic model which utilizes cultural resources, individual agency, and peer-peer support.

GSN’s practice shares the assertions Alex Kamwaria and Michael Katola from their study of the Dinka of South Sudan when they write:

“Healing also encompasses the idea of ‘wholeness’, which the Dinka [and other African people] value as a state of balance and harmonious relationship between people, God, ancestors, and nature. Health is a state of complete wellbeing based on a way of living, conduct, and behavior in relation to others. It gives due respect to the dignity of the person and brings about a link of the person with God, ancestors, community, and environment.”

The process of healing and breaking cycles of violence requires each of us in seeking to return balance, strengthen relationships, restore dignity and enhance healthy relationships with the community as well as with the "other".

Here is an example of our work: 

 

Theme 1: Your experiences 

How do you/your projects integrate/partner/collaborate with the other field?

We are storytellers, healers, MH practitioners (including coaches and critical physiologists), police officers, artists, young people, community activists, political and community leaders, and every day people. It does not seek to integrate two fields but rather seeks to provide an integrated model. 

What have been your successes and/or challenges in linking your work with the other field?

Where we have witnessed integrated models - the two fields only try to work together and not very successfully. Our conflicts and the violence we engage with are multi-disciplinary and multi-sector - our approaches to engage with the violence must also be. 

The traditional Mental Health Approach.

The approach is used by specialized mental health non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and governments. Overall, there is a lack of funding, national capacity, and limited infrastructure for programs.

The western-style mental health services are visible primarily during the humanitarian intervention period, and usually scale down in the “post-conflict” stage when the initial post-conflict boom ends and the funding support for such programs wane.

The most common approach is the Psychosocial Support approach within the humanitarian realm.

The approach is used by the United Nations (UN), NGOs, and others in primarily the humanitarian phase, during and immediately after conflict, and is regulated by established norms and frameworks such as the Inter-Agency Standing Committee’s Guidelines on mental health and psychosocial support in emergency settings.

And while psychosocial support interventions are important they are often only bandaids as they more often than not address the symptoms and not the underlying root causes of social injustice, marginalization, and chronic violence.

The way psychosocial support interventions are developed in the humanitarian space is usually not sustainable after initial emergency funding ends.   So often in the post-conflict period, when the focus transitions to reconciliation, institutional building, and governance, psychosocial support programs end - just when social healing is most required. 

What context/regionally specific elements are you considering and including in your programming on linking MHPSS and Peacebuilding?

Security sector (both police and military), youth (10-24), leaders, community members, artists, human rights defenders, women's groups, savings groups, and livelihood (particularly with the new FinTech application). We plan to stay in East Africa and the Horn.

Theme 2: Enhancing integration

What resources would your organization need to be better able to work in a way that integrates MHPSS into peacebuilding?

Local partners who wish to engage with this work using our integrated healing-centered model, contextualized for their sector and/or geographic location.

What are the regional and/or cultural considerations that need to be kept in mind when integrating MHPSS into peacebuilding?

As Dr. Babu Ayindo likes to quote, Nigerian Ben Okri "A people are as healthy and confident as the stories they tell themselves." Through story, we make meaning of the reality of what happened and what must be faced.  Storytelling is a part of every culture in the world.  Our brains take in facts and organizing them into a story. Once created, that story (a person’s perception of reality) then allows that person to sort reality to conform to it. Consequently, the first building block of a person’s resilience is crafting a meaningful story and then supporting it with facts. Thus cultural context when dealing with issues of violence, abuse, marginalization, conflict but also healing, peace, and reconciliation is really important.  

We have found this is one of the biggest things that must be invested in. 

Here is a short video that explains why we invest so heavily in cultural adaptation.  

What recommendations would you like to make to UNDP regarding the integration of MHPSS into peacebuilding?

1. The first is that we start to talk about social healing in peacebuilding as a foundation for all the other skills that are built and lessons that are taught. If healing is engaged in - peace works better, development is real and government functions.

2. Secondly we must prepare peacebuilders to face pain in their work. Helping them develop embodied practices so that they can tap into them later when they need them is critical.

3. And lastly we all need to understand the organizations working in the peacebuilding field have been impacted by the very pain that is very present in this field.  Helping our peacebuilders understand how to work in and lead healing-centered organizations will go a long way to supporting them later in their field but I also believe transform our field.

It is with great hope that peacebuilders and others working within chronic violence environments will begin to understand that the impacts of pain are not mental illnesses, but normal responses to violence, abuse, inequity, and marginalization. Today, ignoring it and doing nothing is no longer an answer because, if the symptoms are left unaddressed, the symptoms will become not only emotional and mental ill-health but will also continue to negatively impact the larger society. 

In order to do something about chronic violence, systems and organizations must change. It is no longer an option to ignore the issues and not to act.

Yvonne Sliep Moderator

Thank you Angi and others for sharing resources. In this way the platform is more than a discussion forum but also building networks and capacity building. 

Dau Dhieu

What recommendations would you like to make to UNDP regarding the integration of MHPSS into peacebuilding?

I will give my recommendation for the case of South Sudan. for the effective integration of MHPSS into peacebuilding, I see there is need for MHPSS to be first prioritize because, our people are stuck in the survival brain due to the long history of war in the country and the continuous cycle of victimization and aggression which makes it hard to give room for the cycle of healing which is the genesis of peacebuilding process. Having said that, i recommend that:

1. launching a countrywide MHPSS program that will be done across the country and to the people at the grasssroots

2. integration of the MHPSS into educational curriculum for the healing process to be understood.

3. grassroots consultation with the people on what they need to be done in the integration of MHPSS into peacebuilding.

4. UNDP should scale up the funding of the MHPSS projects across the country and allow the citizens to do it by themselves. good funding should be allocated for MHPSS for south sudan.

5. develop MHPSS radio dramas together with peace building dramas for listening across the country.

6. training of more trauma facilitators across the ten states of South Sudan who can do door to door facilitation of trauma sessions and peace building.

Thanks

Yvonne Sliep Moderator

Thank you Dau, good ideas. People have not ye mentioned radio drama programmes to raise awareness yet and it seems like an important way to disseminate information and help to break down stigma. 

Mathew

Hello everyone I am Mathew Mutiso ED- Coalition Action For Preventive Mental Health Kenya.(CAPMHK) We are an ecosystem accelerator for Mental Health investment in Kenya. Our coalition is made up 128 CBOs and NGOs in Kenya with different initiatives and programs from LGBTQ, Social Justice, Youth, Vulnerable populations, Men, Street persons, Children, Workplace, PPD.

The context of sharing of experiences, lessons learned, and good practices on integrating MHPSS into peacebuilding in the African region is often skewed towards a perspective of known traditional conflicts of war like situations example South Sudan, Somalia, Congo, Rwanda, Uganda, Chad etc

Since there is room open for any input on this conversation that can be framed around two main themes as per the guiding questions. Allow me to paint a perspective of a relative known and peaceful country like Kenya but peace and social cohesion is threatened by cultural practices like early marriages, FGM, income inequalities and injustices that affect youth between 10-24yrs and compound mental health stressors and risk and exacerbate conflict and disharmony among communities and families. 

"For peace is not merely the absence of visible conflict. Only a just peace based on the inherent rights and dignity of every individual can truly be lasting" - Barack Obama 

Theme 1: Your experiences 

1. How do you/your projects integrate/partner/collaborate with the other field?

Our Coalition has five thematic areas: Advocacy, Capacity building, Research, Sub-granting, Networking and Collaboration- One project we did is Post Partum Depression awareness campaign for teen mothers. We realized that the need for integration of perinatal mental health to antenatal care has a huge possibility of reducing adverse childhood experiences, poor birth outcomes , children cognitive development. Its also would help with the integration of into primary health care and reduce infant mortality-infanticide ,  

2.What have been your successes and/or challenges in linking your work with the other field?

Our biggest challenge has been on reducing stigma associated with teen pregnancy and the language of Unwanted pregnancy that breaks families, Discussion of early marriages and how they create mental health stress to teenage girls and put their kids at risk of ACEs or even psychosis for the mothers. Success has been seen when teen mothers understand learn basic hygiene, lactation, acceptance, reconciliation with families and going back to school

3. What context/regionally specific elements are you considering and including in your programming on linking MHPSS and Peacebuilding?

Programs that touch on early marriages, unplanned teen pregnancies and FGM should incorporate and link MHPSS in their delivery. Income generating activities , agribusiness ,table banking and micro finance

Theme 2: Enhancing integration

1. What resources would your organization need to be better able to work in a way that integrates MHPSS into peacebuilding?

Funding - Our program was piloted in 5 counties in Kenya. Our target was 47 counties. Covid19 increased teen pregnancies cases by 40% country wide. 

Capacity building on similar content creation ,dissemination and compilation- We used different psychologist in different counties we would prefer to have had the same manual and program for the entire program. 

Monitoring and Evaluation - We lacked tools for documentation, Data collection that we could use to inform policy and advocate for budgetary allocation especially for CHV-within the counties who mostly work with teen mothers. ( Health in Kenya is a devolved function) 

2.What are the regional and/or cultural considerations that need to be kept in mind when integrating MHPSS into peacebuilding?

-Consider Language and local dialect translations

-Consider Negative social economic effects of early marriages, 

- Consider boy/girl sexual education and empowerment 

- Community based structures like the elders court, women forums should be incorporated 

3.What recommendations would you like to make to UNDP regarding the integration of MHPSS into peacebuilding?

Without peace there can not be development, culture and social inequities perpetuate and contribute to Mental Health issues for teens. Peacebuilding should be looked at from a holistic perspective and from different context of what contributes to disunity among communities. 

Teen Pregnancies  

Early Marriage

Associated Trauma , Nightmares, stress and Psychosis

Kiduo M.M

@Mathew  I would share some thoughts on success and challenges in the field from IRC, MSF and Save the Children.  I will start on what has been a challenge when the programme receives less attention from the community when considering using the cultural practices addressing the psychological issues make sense than adapting or leaning on the insight provided.  Less attends on the programme due to the climate condition or domestic roles which affected accomplishment of the programme on time for women group. Also, the success has been establishing community members who are part of providing and sharing achievement of the programme in the expert teams in sustaining ownership of the programme. Support a better approach for community members to express their situation in a well-trusted environment and integrate art as means for them to express their perspective. Also, the community demonstrates having a sense of hope and confidence in the daily role and future inspiration. 

Mathew

Kiduo M.M Thanks Kiduo very real challenges and success you have highlighted there. I think they would also speak on the M&E component that -Our Moderator Yvonne has flagged - Community based ownership as a basis or component that will improve evaluation and monitoring.  

I CAN South Sudan
Theme 1: When we realized the ga
I CAN South Sudan

Theme 1: Experience

When there was influx of refugees in Uganda, there was an overwhelming number of unaccompanied children, there was some relief support but the aspect of trauma healing for the children was a challenge that is when we stepped in to fill the gap. We engage unaccompanied refugee children in social and musical activities to heal them of trauma, develop their skills and give them voice to advocate for peace. We are a multi sector organization with a specific focus on vulnerable children and women and on peace building.

From a traumatic situation, today we have these children as advocate and ambassadors of peace in the community

Our work has extended from Refugee camp in Uganda to South Sudan. We have number of activities that contributes both to peace and Mental Health and Psychosocial Support such as music, culture and heritage, entrepreneurship skills development and offering start up business capitals for women

What have been your successes and/or challenges in linking your work with the other field?

We have become central of hope for our local community in Bidibidi. From working with 10 children, we now have 155 children in Bidibidi and our work has extended to South Sudan where we have 78 children in Juba, and 75 in Western Equatoria State. Our challenge has been funding to have more impact of our work in South Sudan.

What context/regionally specific elements are you considering and including in your programming on linking MHPSS and Peace building?

There should be more recreation center, more resources put to entrepreneurship skills development and empowerment of women to start up business of their own. Empowerment of local community to produce and create market for them

What resources would your organization need to be better able to work in a way that integrates MHPSS into peacebuilding?

We would need more social structures built for youth, more child friendly spaces, music equipment, art such as painting and drawing to be enforced

What are the regional and/or cultural considerations that need to be kept in mind when integrating MHPSS into peacebuilding?

The negative stereotype on girls and women being at the receiving end not as the decision makers

What recommendations would you like to make to UNDP regarding the integration of MHPSS into peacebuilding?

Peace can only be achieved with the availability of everything that makes human happy and fulfilled. There is need to focus more on building peace from the grass roots and this can be achieved by embracing the grand bargain policy and localization. Supporting grass roots actors to be able to serve at the local level and influencing government to welcome the localization agenda

Yvonne Sliep Moderator

Thank you for sharing your ideas, resources and recommendations Mathew. People on this continent are so active,

Yvonne Sliep Moderator

Mathew you and others also make the important point of lack of monitoring and evaluation knowledge and tools. In relation to MHPSS the individual is often the unit of analysis but that is quite Western orientated. It would be interesting to hear your thoughts on communities and even organisations being the unit of analyses. So indicators of change would take a contextual and holistic approach.

Rita Angelini

Dear colleagues,

Thank you for your contributions so far. We are glad to inform you that the closure of the room has been extended to 9 November, in order to allow your widest participation possible.

As such, we encourage you to continue sharing your regional perspectives and experiences, and involve other colleagues if possible.

Warmly,

Rita

Shillah M.Mwavua

I am Shillah Mwavua a clinical psychologist working in the public sector in Nairobi Kenya. I am a trainer , mentor , researcher and practitioner .Yes i have a self care routine that is embedded in day to day activities.  

Theme 2: Enhancing integration

  1. What resources would your organization need to be better able to work in a way that integrates MHPSS into peacebuilding? As a trained practitioner time is the most prized resource ,and being in public sector there are many opportunities of intergrating MHPSS into peace building in terms of direct service delivery to those who have been affected with mental illness resulting from conflicts /Violence. Having clear referral pathways for those who have been displaced and empowering community mental health champions to identify ,link and support those who may require MHPSS. Therefore to us strong partnerships and collaborations with partners who are skewed towards service delivery and strengthening of referral pathways  is very important.
  2. What are the regional and/or cultural considerations that need to be kept in mind when integrating MHPSS into peacebuilding? Language and socio-cultural  beliefs and structures of all the communities involved are very critical especially when it comes to MHPSS interventions. Some intervention that work well in one community may not augur well in another ( Cultural idioms) Their understanding and practises towards mental health are also very critical as they will help design and intergration of the same.
  3.  What recommendations would you like to make to UNDP regarding the integration of MHPSS into peacebuilding? awareness creation and advocacy on the importance of mental health, (clearly differientiate Mental health and mental illness) state clearly the role of MHPSS in peace building -•It restores the social fabric that binds and supports people within their communities, •Is essential for breaking cycles of violence and building sustainable peace. Demystify myths and facts about mental health. People need to understand the prevalence of mental health disorders resulting from conflicts zones and why MHPSS  important for survival 
Yvonne Sliep Moderator

Thank you for sharing your experiences and innovative ideas on the platform yesterday. Such a rich discussion. One of the themes briefly touched on was indicators of change. We would love to brainstorm a bit more on this topic. In very concrete ways, how would you know an individual, family, community has more peace of mind? How would you know there is true ownership of taking on board promoting peace and psychosocial support, especially on a community level? 


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