Gabrielle Rocha Rios is a culturally competent and psychology informed coach for women changemakers in the workplace. She has been an active member of Girls’ Globe for several years, covering topics related to mental health and gender equality.

You’re pursuing a PhD in International Psychology – and you’ve recently become a coach for women who identify as changemakers. Why did you choose to become a coach?

I was really inspired by other women I’ve met over the last few years in the psychology field who work as coaches. My PhD concentration is in organisational psychology, and my research has focused on mental and women’s health and wellbeing in the workplace. As I’m genuinely passionate about this area, I felt that coaching would be a great career path for me. 

I’ve worked and volunteered with several international non-profit organisations over the past four years (including Girls’ Globe!) and have also studied a lot about the sector during my PhD and master’s in International Affairs. To me, changemakers are those who work for a cause and who want to make a difference in the world on issues such as human rights, social justice, and gender equality: they are activists, advocates, humanitarians, and those working for a cause in an NGO, charity, international development organisation, and other related roles.

I’ve seen first-hand the unique challenges that those working in these fields face (particularly women), such as difficulty finding work-life balance when working for a cause you care deeply about, burnout, and compassion fatigue. I wanted to become a coach for women changemakers because I genuinely believe in the importance and necessity of their work as well as the importance of caring for themselves as much as they care about others.

Can you tell us what transformation you hope to support these women with? 

My biggest desire for my clients is that they are able to care for their wellbeing while working for their causes. I believe it’s so easy for those of us who work for a cause to focus 100% on the work and end up forgetting about ourselves in the process. I truly believe in the importance of self-care when doing this type of work, and I hope to support my clients as they transform self-neglect patterns into self-compassion and self-care practices.

What’s one thing do we need to think about as changemakers to care for our wellbeing while leading movements of change? 

I truly believe mental health is the most critical aspect of self-care and wellbeing for changemakers. Mental health is rarely discussed in society in general, and I have seen even more silence about it in fields such as humanitarianism and international development. 

One example of this is that I undertook a short training program on safety for international development professionals working in a dangerous zone. The training included tips for what to do if we were faced with traumatic situations like being kidnapped. Still, the training had no mention of the psychological impacts of such experiences and how the workers could get mental health support.

Even if we’re not working in war zones or refugee camps, being exposed to information on difficult issues such as race-based violence and sexual assault can harm our mental health. I believe this is ultimately a systemic issue that needs to be addressed. Organizations must provide mental health support to their workers, such as psychological first aid training and helping workers to access mental healthcare. Meanwhile, I cannot encourage changemakers enough to take care of their mental health, in big and small ways – from seeing a mental health provider if they can access it to doing things they enjoy in their free time and taking breaks from work when needed.

You’ve been an active member of the Girls’ Globe community for many years now. What has the Girls’ Globe community supported you as a leader in your field? 

The Girls’ Globe community has supported me in learning about issues that girls and women face around the globe that I otherwise wouldn’t know. As an international professional, this awareness has been crucial in helping me become a more empathetic and culturally aware professional and scholar. Through the Girls’ Globe community, I learned about global issues that I didn’t learn much about, if at all, in my academic career, such as female genital mutilation and abortion stigma.

The bravery and openness of our members in talking about difficult and taboo subjects have also inspired me to do the same. During my master’s, for example, I researched topics not many people, even in the field of international affairs, talk about: gender-based and sexual violence. After writing about my research for Girls’ Globe, I received a message from a survivor of sexual violence in conflict thanking me for talking about this topic. I realized then the importance of talking about these difficult and taboo topics because doing so is how we can change the world and heal.

How can our audience get in touch with you for your coaching services? 

They can learn more about my background and coaching approach on my website (www.rocharioscoaching.com) and reach out via email (info@rocharioscoaching.com). I also have an Instagram for my coaching practice (www.instagram.com/rocharioscoaching) where I share news, research, and inspiration related to mental health, wellbeing, and self-care for women changemakers.

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