Mercy, AdvocAid’s social worker, conducting a ballgame as part of a psycho-social session in the Makeni Correctional Centre.
Living behind bars, only able to leave the shared cell for nine hours aday, many women’s thoughts circle around the same issues and questions day in, day out:
How many years will my sentence last?
When will I see my child again?
Will my community and family accept me after being released from prison?
Added to these thoughts comes a monotonous daily routine, sometimes interrupted by visits from outside, but mainly characterised by long hours of waiting for the time to pass. Left alone with their thoughts and worries, some women develop mental health issues such as depression.
To tackle this, AdvocAid’s social workers have been offering monthly psycho-social sessions, since September 2018, in five correctional centres across Sierra Leone. These sessions aim to help incarcerated women manage stress, resolve conflicts and build resilience. The sessions vary: some teach the women about coping mechanisms to deal with emotions such as anger, frustration, desperation or sadness, others incorporate games, dancing or other creative ways of expressing your self. Whilst some women enjoy verbal ways of processing their experiences and challenges, others prefer storytelling, singing or speaking to a social worker one on one.
After every session, the participants get the chance to share what they enjoyed and their ideas for improvement. Over the past year, with the help of their feedback, AdvocAid has been able to adapt its support to meet the individual needs of each woman. Thanks to that, the sessions are a great success today. As one of the participants put it:
“This session is great. I am most times worried about my case whenever I remember my offence but from this session I have learnt ways to cope with my emotions through the use of the positive reach scheme and how I should deal with negative thoughts through the happy moments coping techniques.”
On behalf of the women and girls we work with, thank you for your continued support for AdvocAid. Each and every donor, however big or small their contribution might be, helps us adapt our activities to respond to the acute needs of the women we work with.
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