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Trauma-Informed Approach in the African Feminist Space


In my tradition, relatives never die and the ancestors are always with you. We spend a lot of time and resources revering relatives who have transitioned into the spirit world. So, one day after we made ritual for my beloved ancestor, it came as no surprise to receive a request to keynote at a feminist festival in Kenya. She was a powerful woman in the physical world who left a legacy of powerful male feminists in an oppressive African society. My invitation to Kenya had her handprints all over it.

The irony is that my role was to bring dialogue about being trauma-informed, historical trauma and collective healing, but I still marvel at the level of trauma-informity (if that's a word) of the entire event. We can all learn from this!

Upon my arrival, I was greeted by four men at the airport who tended to my every need, including providing me with snacks, drinks, water and a warm chocolate chip cookie when I arrived at the hotel. Nothing was left to chance. The women who organized the event thought of every detail. The festival was a three day event, but I was booked into the beautiful resort for 7 days to accommodate the time difference and independent excursions. I had nothing to worry about because they had already thought of every way to make me feel safe and loved.

I am not exaggerating when I say that there were 585 women from the 55 different African nations all convening to defend the rights of African women.  On every day of the festival, each keynote, breakout session and healing session was translated into English, French, Portuguese and Arabic so that each woman had the opportunity to speak about her trauma in her (close to) native tongue and so that each of us could hear her story in ours. I say "close to" because we have to remember that there are thousands of African dialects and it would therefore be impossible to translate into every present cultural dialect.

We ate all of our meals together and had many opportunities to connect. There was an elder from Gabon who was particularly special. Something about her made me feel so happy and thankfully, we kept seeing each other. Finally, there was a young woman who translated as I said, "there is something so special about you. I'm happy every time I see you." To my surprise, she said, "Me too! I feel the same about you!" From that moment forward, our faces lit up, we hugged and kissed each other every time we met. The relationship was based on mutual love and no words were necessary. We never had a full conversation and I still think about her and smile. I devoured conversations with women from South Africa who told me about the courageous women they work with. The women are day workers who often take jobs cooking and cleaning in houses. Recently, men have been hiring one of the women and refusing to pay them without receiving sexual favors or outright raping the women. The women I met organized functions in their region so that all the day trade women could become friends. Then, they created a database of abusive men with the description of their cars and addresses. The women now have access to the database and when one of the abusive men drives up, all the women begin screaming and yelling at them and refuse their employment! The men are publicly shamed, which is disgraceful in Africa.

Northern Africa presented a very interesting picture at our festival. I met beautiful black African women from places like Tunisia and Morocco. Their stories are painful because they have the unique experience of the intersectionality of being black women in an Arab African nation. One of the women talked about the high incidence of rape endured specifically by black Arab women in Morocco due to their lower status in the country. A lovely woman from Tunisia told me about a common myth from her homeland. It is believed that black women can cure anything. So, when men have AIDS and other incurable diseases, they rape the black women believing that they will cure it. Instead, the women are violated and then infected. Three women from the Western Sahara Region (an Arab territory bordered by Morocco, Algeria and Mauritania), who have never traveled on their own, stood up to tell their suffocating stories. I was so happy they could speak in Arabic. As the women told of their suffering to the sea of mostly black African faces, we all expressed the African equivalent to Western clapping and cheering. Regardless of region, language, religion, dialect or culture we all understand the high-pitched call accentuated by our tongues that flail up and down in our mouths, "lalalalalalalalalala". It is the cry of solidarity and agreement. A sound dripping with love and affection. The women were overwhelmed by our gesture toward them.

I loved that in the afternoons, we were treated to a variety of healing modalities from all over Africa. It's so wonderful to be in a space where people embrace that we are all different and therefore will respond to different ways of healing. There was a type of talk therapy available from an African perspective with African women psychologists. But, then there was Clay Therapy, Palm Healing, Drumming, Dancing, Boxing, Tarot Reading, Art Therapy, Womb Healing, Post Abortion Healing, Herbal Therapy, Learning about Healing Herbs, Massage Therapy and so many more.

All of the events were held in beautiful outdoor spaces, shielded by canopies, with thick, very green grass under our feet on the shore of a river, which is home to dozens of hippopotami. Large round African cloth pillows allowed for floor seating or laying in addition to the more traditional cushioned bench seats. Every hour and a half, it was time to move and sing. We had all female drummers and artists that provided for our neurological regulation and added interconnectedness. This was my favorite part. We were all dressed in the traditional African clothes from our myriad of cultures. Each of us has dances that are distinct to our traditions, religion, and cultures. As proud as we are of our particular origin, we love to celebrate and respect each other with dance. Sometimes we dance in a line and other times, we form 2 lines and one by one we go into the center and perform our moves with our unique style, flair and humor. There is no wrong move. No one is mocked. It's a moment when we can be totally authentic and FREE. It is our time for interconnectedness, music, rhythmic sensory input, hugging, laughing and love.

Ultimately, my experience was like being cocooned in a womb of healing for an entire week. Being on African soil was nurturing. The African cuisine was delicious. Wearing traditional African clothes everyday without strange looks was delightful. The ease of loving strangers and being loved was so healing. The tears roll down my cheeks recalling that feeling and longing so much to experience it again. Then, I laugh because I have enough experience now to know that whenever you think you are teaching something, know that you will be schooled. This is the beauty of trauma.

We still have space available in the 2nd Cohort of Historical Trauma Training.


in collaboration with


We are the only entity offering a comprehensive, 48-hour Historical Trauma Specialist Certification Program. The Program is broken into 6 levels and is built on a foundation of BIPOC cultures and neurobiology. It is taught from a multicultural perspective, injecting traditions and ideology from various cultures from around the world. In this inclusive study we rely on the ancient tradition of storytelling, visual art and interconnected relationships to intentionally explore difficult topics. The indigenous teaching methods are woven with current academia and research, along with coveted knowledge from Medicine Women\Men, traditional historians and cultural leaders from various African, Native American, Aboriginal and Asian communities to solidify the following topics: 

  • Indigenous Wellness
  • Salutogenesis
  • ACEs & PACES Science
  • Historical, Collective and Intergenerational Trauma
  • Epigenetics
  • Colonization
  • Structural Racism
  • Race-Based Traumatic Stress
  • Anti-Racist Attachment
  • Cultural Attachment Theory
  • Indigenous Attachment
  • Neurological implications of Historical Trauma
  • Alignment of Neurobiology with Desired Behavioral Outcomes
  • Leveraging Neurobiology to Support Healing
  • Fossil Fuel Capitalism as an Extension of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade & Native American Genocide
  • Climate change as a catalyst for violence and prolonged suffering in BIPOC communities all over the world
  • Understanding the injurious relationship between the Western model of pathogenesis and the pervasive system of White Supremacy and its effect on BIPOC communities.
  • A Full Expression of Resilience
  • Reculturing
  • Decolonization
  • Reconnection to self
  • Commitment to creating an environment of Belonging
  • Simultaneously healing BIPOC communities and Mother Earth
  • Cultural Shift as the Antidote to Homelessness, Violence, Trauma, Climate Change

The program will also investigate the impact of Collective Trauma on:

  • Mexican Americans,
  • Africans throughout the Diaspora
  • Native Americans
  • People of Jewish Decent
  • Puerto Ricans
  • Hawaiians
  • Asian Americans

The Historical Trauma Certification Program takes participants on a journey from wellness to dis-ease and finally provides insight on how to facilitate healing for tribes, communities, families and individual survivors of Historical Trauma. 

The Historical Trauma Specialist Certification Program is designed to embrace people from various sectors. It’s ideal for educators, administrators, behavioral health workers, mental health professionals, physicians, law enforcement, and judges. We have trained adoptive parents and people in multicultural families as well as humans serving, leading, advocating for and working with people of color. We welcome students and anyone interested in understanding race, culture and trauma. 

Each level is an immersive 7-hour training that concludes on Day 2 with an additional 2-hour Talking Circle implemented to process the training with time for Q & A. Additionally, each level of the training provides an opportunity for small break-out sessions to build relationships, consciously process course material and share life experiences, thoughts and ideas around the course topics. The purpose of our program is to incite change. Trauma is healed through relationships and in life’s day to day moments. Historical Trauma is often a painful topic that requires special consideration and opportunities to build rapport with colleagues. Cultural shift demands self-reflection and the ability to see the world through multiple lenses. 

Through the end of 2022 the cost of the entire program is $1500 when paid in full. Each level is $299 when paid individually.

Register Here:

Entire 48-hour Program $1500


Level 1 Jan 11, 2023 9a-4p

Level 2 Feb 15, 2023 9a-4p

Level 3 March 8, 2023 9a-4p

Level 4 April 5, 2023 9a-4p

Level 5 May 10, 2023 9a-4p

Level 6 June 14, 2023 9a-4p

*Each level will be available on-demand following the live virtual presentation if you are unable to attend live.

For more information contact:

Iya Affo

***If you have already completed Level 1 or both Level 1 & 2 prior to August 2022, please reach out to Iya for further details.

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Comments (4)

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Oh my goodness, Jane!! I cannot even tell you! It's called the Feminist Republik and it is put on by an organization called Urgent Action Fund- Africa. It took place in Naivasha, which is about 2 hours outside of Nairobi. They do the festival every 3 years and this was the 2nd one. Security is very tight because many women or their families' lives can be in danger for attending the event. We were defending the rights of all African women and some are a part of the LGBTQ2AI+ community as well. People can only attend via invitation to keep the integrity of the space. If you have an interest in the org or attending the next festival, I can put you in touch with the organizers.

Last edited by Iya Affo
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