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Empowering Communities Through Talk Therapy

Friendship bench has trained over 2000 community health workers to offer talk therapy to people struggling with depression in the communities. The vision is to have a Friendship bench within walking distance - for everyone. This has made it easier for the community to have access to the Friendship bench within the communities they live in. Friendship bench Grandmothers (Gogos) or community health workers offer talk therapy both in the community and at the community Clinic facilities. 

Gogo Synodia Shekede

Meet Synodia Shekede a 70-year dedicated Friendship Bench grandmother who offers talk therapy to people struggling with depression in her community. Gogo Synodia is a mother of one and stays with her two grandchildren whom she takes care of. She walks for about a kilometre to the clinic where she sees most of her clients. Her journey with Friendship bench started in 2016 where she received training on Problem Solving Therapy which from what she explained has also empowered her to problem solve challenges that she encounters in life, and this has helped her to stay stress free most of the time and to look younger than her age because of her self-care practices.

Most of Gogo Synodia’s clients are people living with HIV whom she meets at the facility when they come for treatment during her health talk where she sensitizes people about mental health. These health talks are important as they help people to learn about mental health. Gogo Synodia highlights how most people in her community associate mental health with witchcraft, ngozi and rituals which shows how the community has little knowledge about mental health.

One story touched Gogo Synodia, a heartbreaking narrative of a young woman who entrusted her virginity to a partner only to contract STIs and HIV, resulting in a life- time diagnosis for this client. Moved by this story Synodia listened attentively validating her client’s feelings and providing a non-judgemental environment for her to share her pain. Gogo Synodia not only offered practical guidance on accessing medical treatment and support services but also served as a source of emotional strength and hope for her client. After her session with this client Gogo Synodia also felt she needed to talk to someone as this session was not easy for her, she talked to her supervisor a nurse who offered her counselling and she felt better after talking to a colleague.

Gogo Synodia has touched many people through her work, one time at the market she came across a client whom she had helped, and she could not recognise this client, but this client called her and reminded Gogo Synodia how she had helped her when she was struggling with depression. Gogo Synodia expressed how it makes her happy to see her clients free and happy which helps her see the impact her work has on people in the community. She encourages all her clients to join the Circle Kubatana Tose support group or to find projects they can do which can keep them busy.

It is important to have someone to talk to when going through a difficult time, whether it’s a professional therapist, a trusted friend, or a compassionate Friendship bench grandmother like Gogo Synodia. Talking to someone about our feelings and thoughts can lead to one’s healing and growth, by embracing the power of talk therapy and prioritizing mental health we can make the world a better place where everyone feels seen, heard and valued.


As we celebrate International Women's Day, it's important to recognize the vital role that grandmothers (Gogos) like Synodia Shekede play in our communities. On this special day, we honor all our Friendship Bench grandmothers contribution to the well-being and empowerment of communities in all 10 provinces of Zimbabwe. Happy Women's day vana Gogo, we really appreciate you all! :)


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Apr 15
Rated 5 out of 5 stars.

What a wonderful idea!

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