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Human rights defenders in Northern Bahr el Ghazal train on art therapy

By Tapeng Michael Ohure

A group of human rights defenders have undergone a three-day artistic therapy training in South Sudan’s Northern Bahr el Ghazal State.

The training organized by South Sudan Human Rights Defenders Network (SSHRDN), equipped 15 participants with coping strategies, a holistic approach towards addressing traumatic and stressful experiences.

Art therapy is an integrative mental health and human services profession that enriches the lives of individuals, families, and communities through active art-making, creative process, applied psychological theory, and human experience within a psychotherapeutic relationship.

“Artistic therapy inspires human rights defenders to recognise and express emotions through creative processes such as music, painting, poetry and spoken word,” he said in a statement,” James Bidal, head of SSHRDN secretariat said in an emailed statement.

“Creative art clinic engages multiple sense and activates many areas of the brain making therapy experience one that uses the body, mind and works to heal and emotionally strengthen human rights defenders,” Bidal said.

According to him, trauma is an extremely irresistible and sometimes incapacitating reaction to the mental abilities of human rights defenders.

“The artist clinic will help in healing emotional trauma which is real as physical injury and can be more harmful and long lasting in the lives of human rights Defenders,” he said.

“This notion proved successful in numerous ways that differ from outmoded therapy practice. Our approach is tailored to accommodate each unique individual through art, music and spoken words therapies.”  

James Aguer Garang, the lead facilitator at the training said one of the tasks faced by a society left in ruins after civil war is rebuilding of the social fabric of structural and social institutions that maintain peace and harmony.

“The trauma healing and stress management art-clinic initiative is to serve human rights defenders and communities in way that enables them to lead a process of healing and transformation in their respective societies so that they will be able to cope up with emotional healing processes,” Garang said.

Margaret Francis, a participant, said the three-day training taught her a lot of skills to be applied in daily life.

“We learned about trauma and stress management and how to handle stressful situations. We also learned that trauma can affect our emotional wellbeing as human rights defenders in South Sudan,” she said.

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