Robinah Alambuya (second from left), a woman who proudly and vulnerably describes herself as someone living with a psycho-social disability, arrived to Creative Action Institute’s (CAI) Creative Mentor training with an emotional support person, feeling a little nervous about socializing and integrating into a group of women that she didn’t know.
26 women were gathering from five countries – South Sudan, Rwanda, Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda – as incoming mentors and cohort partners in the East African Girls Leadership Program for 2018-2019. They were coming to develop their skills as mentors, as facilitators and as advocates in order to create personal and systemic change in their communities. They work on issues of girls’ education, ending gender-based violence, early child marriage and female genital mutilation (FGM), addressing the HIV epidemic and creating access for sexual and reproductive health services.
Robinah is the Director of the organization, Triumph Uganda, which supports the rights of girls and women with disabilities throughout rural Uganda. She is a fierce advocate and powerful public speaker, having addressed the United Nations about her lived experience, sharing wisdom from the heart about what is needed to move our societies forward in achieving true gender equality and human rights for differently abled people.
CAI’s 3-day intensive training on the Foundations of Creative Mentorship, held in Limuru, Kenya, invited the women to sit in circle and share their knowledge, questions, struggles and best practices they have discovered in their work to empower girls and lift up their communities. We explore how to create emotional safety for the girls in a trauma-informed way that honors emotions and the experience of the body. The women engaged in skill-building practices for deep listening, asking generative questions, affirming themselves and lifting up the strengths of others. They discovered that as mentors, they don’t have to provide all the answers but instead they learned how to support the girls to think critically and find their own solutions.
Robinah eagerly engaged in different activities of self-awareness, transforming limiting beliefs, appreciating herself and others, envisioning goals for her future and using art to educate and mobilize communities. She learned about the importance of resourcing herself through intentional acts of self-care, so that she could be more available and present to engage with the difficult traumas of the girls she worked with. As she engaged in pairs and small groups, she built her confidence and felt safe in the group to express herself in new and creative ways.
She opened her heart and shared her story with dignity and vulnerability – and she deeply soaked in the love she received from the group who respected her wisdom as an elder.
As a part of CAI’s trainings, the women sign up to open and close each day with a creative expression, which could be a poem, a song, a story or a game. Robinah signed up to open the second morning with a song that she had written herself, inspired by the healing and transformation she was experiencing in the Mentor training.
She asked the women to practice playing air guitar while she taught them the lyrics of the song. In a loud and proud voice, she sang, “I am loved. I am accepted. And my wounds will be made whole.” Everyone danced and joined Robinah, enthusiastically rocking the air guitar, and all voices rang out and sang the refrain over and over again in perfect harmony “And my wounds will be made whole!”
We all felt the power of song, the power of sisterhood, and the power of belonging to the whole so we could remember our wholeness. We learned that to be resilient in this world, we have to deepen our relationships with our bodies and each other. We need to embody the world that we want to live in by building a culture of appreciation and radical inclusion.