Culture

The Santé Sisterhood - self-directed and peer-supported healing

Strong and resilient women create strong and resilient societies

The Santé Sisterhood - Jeya and Hannah

Written by Hannah Bowman and Jeya Lorenz

How many times have you heard the same story of a woman having to remove herself from her current situation (job, city, relationship, living independently, university...) in order just to cope because she’s reached breaking point leading to burn out, stress, anxiety, chronic fatigue…?

“I quit my job and moved out of the city because I had a nervous breakdown” 

“I stopped working because I was so exhausted I couldn’t move in the morning and was then diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue”; these are some of the reasons Jeya, Hannah and a small group of women have joined to start The Santé Sisterhood. 

These human conditions are taken for granted in our society as something we may all encounter in our lifetime, but that does not make it normal. It is not normal or necessary to endure huge amounts of stress, malnourishment, and overexposure to toxicity in your day to day life. 

Despite endless scientific advances in western medical and healthcare practices, we are getting sicker. The pervasiveness of chronic illness, autoimmune disease, pain and fatigue, energy loss, depression, anxiety - some of the most common conditions - is undeniable and on the rise. Current medical models, which are in any case being rapidly being dismantled and removed from the hands of the people, cannot and will not contain the crisis. We live under the myth that western healthcare advancements are the only solution, and that continuing to pour money into technological, medical and pharmaceutical research is the only path forward. Global health and wellbeing is diminishing while we are living longer than ever before, unhealthy and under-nourished, consuming more and more to try and fill the hole. 

The disruption to our natural cycles, endless over-stimulation, stress of capitalist power-over and growth-based working practices, over-exposure to noise, toxins, chemicals, and mass migration is what is killing us. We spend more and more time indoors, online, working, consuming food and substances with no connection to where they come from or how they got to us. We are totally disconnected. The health of the planet is the foundation for collective human health, and the planet is dying.

Photo by Imogen Forte

Women are disproportionately affected by auto-immune diseases (such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, diabetes, asthma) making up between 75-80% of sufferers. It is being recognised by the scientific community that autoimmune and other diseases are on the rise, and this is due to increase in stress, and environmental factors such as chemical exposure, displacement, over-use and over-circulation of foods, medications, products etc. (NCBI, Patient, Harvard Medical School, British Society for Immunology). Women are also disproportionately affected by common mental disorders. The World Health Organisation states that: 

“Unipolar depression, predicted to be the second leading cause of global disability burden by 2020, is twice as common in women […] Gender specific risk factors for common mental disorders that disproportionately affect women include gender based violence, socioeconomic disadvantage, low income and income inequality, low or subordinate social status and rank and unremitting responsibility for the care of others.” (WHO)

Women have long been ( in many spheres unfashionably) connected with creative and regenerative energy, connection to the earth, the body, and it’s cycles. Women have held innate and learnt knowledge about health and healing and in many cultures have been the pillars of community health alongside wise men. In a rapidly changing global context, where the environmental factors which affect our health are extreme and increasingly dangerous, perhaps reconnection to innate and natural healing practice is key. 

Unfortunately, people cannot rely on their governments and current systems to ensure that they are healthy and well. These systems, while vital in a number of contexts, do not support the plethora of ailments and challenges facing humans today; they are highly patriarchal and based on authoritative and narrow knowledge. Moreover they are hugely at risk and may not be accessible in the near future. Can we take back agency over our own health and wellbeing? More and more women are calling for balance, purpose, re-connection and ‘re-wilding’, seeking health and wellbeing outside of current conventional practices offered in their societies. However, many lack agency and space within which to do this.

Photo by Imogen Forte

People healing themselves together

Reclaiming personal health in the age of disconnection

A regenerative approach is needed and starts small. People, women in particular, hold so much knowledge about themselves, their health and their minds and bodies. People know what makes them feel good, alive, joyous, strong and what makes them weak, low and powerless.They do not need a GP to tell them this, but perhaps imagine no other space in which to share what is happening for them mentally, physically and emotionally.

We are beginning to recognise that we are disconnected, lost and that we have gone a long way down the wrong path. Internal morality, personal sustainability and freedom are human needs. Hyper-capitalist societies are not designed to meet these needs, destroying our internal and external eco-systems simultaneously. Like the wasteland around them, people become slow, muddy, dry and lack energy.

Outside of western health practices, people would have (and still do in many places) lead their own health journeys. Needs around mental health, loss, energy, digestion, reproduction, childbirth, menstruation, vitality etc. are managed by the community, by experienced knowledge holders and/or groups of women supporting each other with their own experience, or experience handed down to them by others. Indigenous medical traditions are supported by encyclopaedic bodies of knowledge developed in an intimate relationship between the local environment, vegetation, climate and geography. These are owned by and relevant to the community within which they are practiced, used between people with similar experiences and understandings of themselves and the world around them, with the individual placed at the centre of their healing. 

Can we begin to restore past ways of supporting and healing? Can healing and health be placed back into the hands of the wise women, away from the hands of patriarchal and money-driven medical systems and big pharma? 

The Santé Sisterhood - self-directed and peer-supported healing is key to social change

Strong and resilient women create strong and resilient societies

The Santé Sisterhood was founded by two women, who like many others, found themselves disconnected and lost, and knew many others like them, before embarking on a long journey of self-directed healing. They are now cultivating a powerful agency over health and wellbeing, taking a regenerative approach to health in the context of a global crisis.

The foundation of the collective’s understanding is that empowerment is key, and that women hold a wealth of innate knowledge and wisdom about their minds and bodies which is invaluable to themselves and others, and we often de-value or shut off from. The collective offer 1:1 mentoring from a pool of experienced and intuitive women, including experienced coaches, healers, community workers, communication and dialogue specialists, mindfulness practitioners and more. They offer holistic assessment, connection with a relevant mentor, and mentors in turn support each other in development and knowledge-sharing. The aim is to cultivate a growing pool of resilient women, able to adapt to their changing circumstances and the adverse effects this may be having on their health and the health of the world.

Taking health and healing into the hands of those who it concerns is a step towards regaining strength and resilience in a complex and radically shifting society. Perhaps women supporting women to regain autonomy over their own health and bodies is a step towards localisation and restoration of community healthcare. Perhaps starting small we can begin to reinstate the values of innate wisdom, self-knowledge and the power of the collective in the context of health and wellbeing. If women can learn to reclaim and remember themselves and their health and their bodies, the site of all thought and action, then they will be more able to go out in the world and shape their communities. Strong and resilient women create strong and resilient societies, de-centralised and adaptable to change and uncertainty. 

The sisterhood also offers support for some of those who need it most via low-income application options. If you would like to find out more about the sisterhood, get involved or enquire about mentoring, get in touch with Hannah or Jeya at hello@thesantesisterhood.com, or visit their website www.thesantesisterhood.com.

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