In January, the Women’s Exchange (WE) group in Ban Bon, Bangkok held a meeting titled “How to Build a Healthy Life.” The meeting focused on addressing mental health challenges felt by migrant women. Fourteen migrant women participated in the meeting, including the group’s local WE leader. Most of these women work in seafood and slipper factories in the Bangkok area, where they work roughly 10 hour days, 6 days a week. MAP staff facilitated dialogue around stress and stress management, including how to cope with it internally and how to support others struggling with its harmful effects. The purpose of the meeting was to create a safe space where participants could discuss their mental health openly, in the hopes of calling attention to the importance of self-care and legitimizing the stigmas around mental health.
Women identified shopping and over- or undereating as unfulfilling responses to stress in their everyday lives. One woman described the experience of spending too much of her salary on unnecessary items in response to feeling overwhelmed, which in turn contributed to her stress because she had insufficient funds to cover her living costs. As potential alternatives to these behaviors, women came up with more positive responses to stress such as exercising, meditating, gardening, as well as talking with friends and family members. It is significant that the women came up with these strategies themselves, facilitated by their female migrant leaders, because it fosters trust amongst participants and ensures that the strategies are relevant to their lived realities. Women came out of the meeting eager to apply their learning, with support from, and faith in, one another.
A WE leader leads participants through an activity to identify healthy ways to manage stress.
Women listen as a WE leader discusses misconceptions around mental health and stress.