Jane Iya is a clinical psychologist, trained midwife and volunteer with the Makerere University School of Medicine, Research and Ethics committee. Read about her experience facilitating a Group Support Psychotherapy session for a group of majority sex workers between the in the town of Nansana, on the outskirts of Kampala.
What motivated you to take up the facilitation besides that it is a job that pays?
During the training, I realized that GSP can be helpful to more people because I also had personal problems and I benefitted from GSP.
How did you convene the group?
When we were looking for girls from 10 to 24 years in a Community-Based Organization in which I volunteer, there were ladies who were commercial sex workers who were sharing their problems that I introduced GSP to. We also went around Nansana and spoke to different groups of women. After a few of the women shared their problems, we requested if we could assess them for depression. Eighteen scored highly and we managed to get seven participants, none of whom missed a session.
What facilitated your work?
The venue was convenient because it was within the community and chosen by the ladies themselves.
What challenge did you face?
Some of the participants would come to sessions with alcohol. I felt that was a little uncomfortable but I was able to address it.
How did the COVID-19 pandemic affect the GSP sessions?
Towards the end with the lockdown, time keeping was not maintained by some of the members who were wary about moving in the evenings since our sessions started at 4pm.
How were the participants generally on the first day?
They were very unsure of what to expect from GSP. By the second day when they got the facts about depression and how the process worked, they became more comfortable.
How have they changed over the weeks? Be specific
By the end of the sessions, some of the sex workers had come up with ideas on how to make alternative sources of income because they did not want to continue that work. They had felt that they did not have many options given their backgrounds and lack of education. The managed to give help each other with ideas.
Is there a moment that stands out during the 8 sessions? Describe it.
The session of venting out depressive feelings was very touching and emotional. This made them build a closer bond and out of that session arose individual sessions.
There was a participant who was a mother whose three children were in the village where they were not going to school and some of them were sick. She shared that the father of the children had refused her to bring them to the city where she could afford to take care of them and send them to school. That is what was depressing her. After sharing that emotional story, some participants contributed transport money and clothes for the children. She was able to go and bring back at least two of her children.
Do you think that those who came only came for the transport refund you were giving them?
I don’t think that would be a motivation for most of them who were sex workers because they make a lot more than what they were getting from me.
What made the GSP sessions a success? Explain
With GSP, the problems and solutions are within the people.
What would you tell those who trained in GSP but are not conducting GSP sessions?
I have been sharing my experiences with the people that I trained in GSP with and asking them to try and convene groups even in their local communities because there are always people that need help. After COVID, I anticipate that there will be more people that need our help.
Will you go ahead to facilitate other groups in the future? If yes or no, why?
Yes, if I am given the opportunity I will. I have learned a lot from them and would like to continue helping people too.
If you were to change one thing about the GSP, what would it be? Explain
Session five dealing with emotions involved me doing most of the talking and I don’t think the group enjoyed it as much. I think we could make it more engaging and actively involve them. On the last session, I noticed that one of the participants was a drug user but I could not help her much because of the lockdown. Maybe GSP could look into follow up because there are some cases that need to be referred to other people who can deal with cases which we are not equipped to handle.
I would also categorise some of them according to age group and occupation when necessary. It was difficult to discuss some subjects with the sex workers because they were not comfortable doing so in front of the no-sex worker participants.
Were you able to bond with the participants?
Did the group meet your expectations?