From where I stand: After surviving Sexual Gender Based Violence, I am now an advocate for peaceful families
Alice Chandia Kenyi, 40, is a Volunteer Psychosocial Assistant in the refugee hosting district of Adjumani. With funding from the Government of Japan, UN Women in partnership with Transcultural Psychosocial Organization (TPO) Uganda provided mental health psychosocial support to Kenyi and she is using the skills to reach out to others in her community and advocate for mental health wellbeing.
In 2018, Alice Chandia Kenyi’s life was in despair. Kenyi lives in Mgbere village, Adjumani Town council, Adjumani District, which is a refugee hosting community. The 40-year-old mother of five did not have her own source of livelihood and depended mostly on the income that her husband earned as a teacher. When her husband was jailed on allegations of corruption, the family’s source of income was cut off. Kenyi, did not have any income generating activity and turned to her parents for support but that same year, they also lost their jobs. Left with no means of survival for her household of five children and several other dependents, Alice’s life twisted from agony to trauma and into mental and psychological distress.
“I wanted to be alone because there was nothing left for me and my children. No one wanted to associate with me or even give a helping hand”, Kenyi narrated the genesis of her psychological distress. With such a huge burden, Kenyi suffered insomnia, withdrawal from those around her including her children and lost interest in things she previously enjoyed.
In 2021, UN Women with funding from the Government of Japan partnered with Transcultural Psychosocial Organization (TPO) Uganda to provide Mental Health and Psychosocial Support (MHPSS) services to refugees and members of the host community in Terego and Adjumani districts. A total of 952 persons, including Kenyi benefitted from these services.
“I attended the psycho-education sessions and felt safe to open up about my challenges. TPO Uganda staff visited me at home and counselled me. That is when my recovery journey started,” said Kenyi with a ray of hope on her face.
TPO utilises the Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) modality where participants receive therapy in groups of 12 people and undergo up to 10 sessions. Kenyi was enrolled into a CBT group where she received counselling, therapy and training on positive coping mechanisms and life skills. Upon completion of the sessions, participants also gain livelihood and entrepreneurship skills and are supported with start-up capital to enable them to engage in income generating activities.
Kenyi is a member of Amaalu (translated as ‘we are one’) Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) Group, which received start-up capital of UGX 900,000 (USD 244). In January 2022, Kenyi accessed a loan of UGX 350,000 (USD 95) from the group pool to start a bakery business in her community, from which she currently makes a profit of UGX 12,000 (USD3.22) per day. Being in a good mental health state has also enabled her to seek employment with an NGO in her community which alongside the small business has enabled her to keep her children in school.
“I am now able to take good care of myself and my family. When my husband was released from jail, he became an alcoholic, but I have I used the knowledge that I gained from TPO Uganda to support my husband and he is on the road to recovery. I am also able to counsel other community members who are experiencing similar challenges. In 2022, I supported five women to deal with stress and other challenges” added Kenyi.