Southern Africa - Heart—Mind—Body

In response to the insecurity women and women activists experience on personal, professional and public levels and the lack of space to collectively strategise for action and safety, JASS has developed the Heart—Mind—Body (HMB) approach.

In Zimbabwe, the more recent socio-economic and political crisis has shredded the social fabric, destroyed the economy and weakened the political systems driving many Zimbabwean feminists and leaders apart and away.  Partisan politics and deeply politicised violence have left women’s movements fragmented and weakened by distrust and fear that repression and deprivation breed. In Malawi and Zambia, lack of coordination between various initiatives to advance women’s rights often result in unstrategic and erratic engagement. In this context, women’s movements have less capacity to mobilise and address violence in its many forms.

In response to the insecurity women and women activists experience on personal, professional and public levels and the lack of space to collectively strategise for action and safety, JASS has developed the Heart—Mind—Body (HMB) approach. HMB puts women’s wellbeing at the centre of women’s organising and movement building.

I believe strong healthy institutions are built on every individual within an institution having a deep sense of value, being respected and an individual sense of responsibility. ~ Rudo Chigudu, Katswe Sistahood

Prioritising the wellbeing of individual women is essential for nurturing stronger organisations and catalysing movements for real, sustained change. JASS convenes wellbeing circles of diverse women activists as safe spaces to think through issues of self-care for women who have been battered by the violence and burn out,  security and safety planning, as well as solidarity as women work together to build strategies and mobilise collectively.

We can only change men’s mindsets by firstly changing the way we relate with each other as sisters, activists and feminists and also by changing our modes of activism for better partnerships, for creating safe spaces where we can meet and brainstorm and strategize on how to influence court process, laws and policies that work, then we can begin to talk about changing mindsets. We can invite young women and girls to this space and give them an avenue to speak and voice out what they do not normally talk about, and we will be shocked to discover that a lot of girls have been bottling up cases of abuse for not knowing what to do and who to tell. This space can also be strategic for simply checking in on each other as women, sharing problems, discussing them and giving each other hope, whilst renewing our bodies for the next day. ~ Dudziro Nhengu, UN Women

The objectives of Heart—Mind—Body are three-fold

  • To provide a support system and process for women to deal with emotional and physical trauma and to begin to prioritise their own wellbeing as a personal and deeply political act;
  • To repair and consolidate formal and informal networks among women as the foundation for more effective and agile political organising and self-protection;
  • To enable women to analyse the current context and strategise on how best to  organise for change while protecting themselves using a range of strategies to strengthen women’s organising and movements.

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In Zimbabwe we are anticipating elections and a referendum in 2013, and previously our experience has been that women face rape and sexual violence in these circumstances,” says Tariro Tandi of the Musasa Project, a JASS partner that focuses on violence against women in Zimbabwe.

HIV+ women in Malawi are being poisoned by the anti-retroviral treatment (ART) provided by the government, which contains Stavudine, a drug that causes painful side effects. Due to deep poverty and inequality, many women are unable to afford alternative ART or land and fertilizer to support good nutrition to make treatment more effective. For four years JASS has supported Malawian women activists in a movement-building process to tackle critical issues affecting women. Considerable mobilization and organizing has culminated into a campaign to ensure women’s access to alternative quality ART with fewer side effects.

As a feminist activist, I’ve never had a dream as I have now because I can see us moving forward, Joyce Banda puts women on her agenda as a top priority so we have the door open and once women are together, ten, twenty, more—there’s a lot that we can accomplish. ~ Thokozile Phiri-Nkhoma, Malawian activist