Arts to Engender Healing and Empowerment, March 2015

Arts to Engender Healing and Empowerment: The experience of the Women’s Stories Project, WCC-PPW

by lean and Molly Lee

Friday, 13 March 2015, 8:00PM

The Women’s Stories Project (WSP) is a pioneering effort to engage women to reflect on and write about their lived experiences of suppressed pain and silences. This initiative uses storytelling-sharing-reflecting-writing as a space for healing and fostering experiences of empowerment.

Various functions of arts especially art as entertainment is commonly noted. This ‘sembang’ forefronts the use of arts for personal reflexivity which embraces its psychological and healing functions, as well as availing arts to help make sense of one’s life. Indeed the arts have been effectively used to interrogate and unpack complex issues such as gender oppression, inequalities, domestic violence, sexual harassment, etc.

In the WSP we have used an integration of the various arts, within a popular education methodology as a means to recall unexplored pain, elicit talk and ‘telling’ and in the process unearth and ‘heal’ participants’ deeply buried wounds. We will explicate how various arts have been used to unearth and evoke the recollection and articulation of suppressed pain, reflection leading to the birth of a new sense of self and identity, and enabling the change of mind-sets and re-assessing lived experiences to generate new, renewed insights and viewpoints/perspectives.


lean (Chan Lean Heng, Phd)

lean is a retired academic but have been actively engaged in fostering the empowerment of marginalised groups, esp working class women, and has designed and facilitated training programs to strengthen the capacities of individuals, communities and civil society organisations for over three decades. The WSP is a continuation of her work to foster women’s empowerment and agency. As a feminist popular educator she has used the arts as creative and evocative ways of facilitating people’s reflexivity to make sense of their lived experiences, recreate meaning in their lives and reclaim their subjectivities and agency.

Molly Lee, Phd

Molly is a retired academic who returned to Penang from a foreign posting in Thailand. As a retiree, she wants to contribute to society and so she became a member of WCC. She got involved with the Women’s Stories Project as a member of the support team. Her role was to document the project, take part in all the workshops as well as the small group sessions. She was also part of the editorial team in getting the women’s stories ready for publication.


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