Social determinants of women’s mental health

P.H.O.E.B.E. Zimbabwe is a specialist, holistic well-being project for women who struggle with depression and other psycho-social health conditions. Our work aims to enhance women’s access to resources and help decision makers to understand the role of social determinants in women’s mental health.

Supported by the Ministry of Health and Childcare we are leading the development of pioneering lived-experience led, peer mentor and recovery college, treatment in the country for women.

P.H.O.E.B.E, is receiving technical advice and support from the Department of Mental Health, Ministry of Health and Child Care (MoHCC),  DFID, Centre for Global Mental Health, University of Zimbabwe, College of Health Science, Department of Psychiatry and numerous other stakeholders in the United Kingdom. This is the only project which aims to amplify the voices of women and girls with mental ill health and demand that decision makers act on gender mainstreaming mental health services in low income countries.


  • Gender equality and destruction of harmful norms.
  • Recovery through lived experience activism.

Aims of Project

  • To empower women and girls with lived experience of mental ill health to actively participate in the planning, delivery and evaluation of their projects.
  • To advocate for women’s mental health needs to be placed at the fore front of the global development agenda.
  • To provide an understanding of intersectionality as a lens to identify systems of oppression and discrimination, their impact on women and implications on program and policy formulation.
  • To encourage a rights based approach in mental health provision and demand gender equality

What drives our work

We believe that none of the sustainable development goals can be achieved because “there can be no health without mental healthWorld Health Organization (WHO) Mental Health Action Plan 2013-2020.

Our overall aim is to bring a spotlight on the need to put women’s mental health needs in the global development agenda. In order to ensure successful strategies for working with women and girls, it is necessary to scrutinise the contexts, relationships and politics within which women create meaning and social identities in low income countries. As we assess these women, we note that they exist with multiple marginalised identities and must live with numerous systems of oppression and discrimination, thereby increasing their vulnerability to trauma. Globally, poverty disproportionately affects women, who account for 70% of the world’s poor (UNDP, 1997, cited in WHO, 2000).

In addition, the World Health Organisation(WHO) notes that ‘the unequal and precarious economic situations is heightened amongst women in Africa, where the intersection of colonialism, conflict and natural disaster, harmful gender norms, the debt and economic crisis, gender inequalities, and gender based violence are ever present. Intersectionality scholars argue that these systems of oppression are mutually reinforcing mechanisms of control and discrimination and women are trapped through the generations.

PHOEBE’s work explores the impact of sustained oppression on women’s well-being and suggest strategies to inform public policy to address resultant inequalities in women’s mental health needs.

Supported by the Centre for Global Mental Health, P.H.O.E.B.E aim to advocate for and to share the stories of the women they serve. Our project also aims to be a platform for further learning for practitioners, as we advocate for lived experience activism, gender equality and destruction of harmful traditional societal practices.