Research BlogsInternational-Women's-day-research-Blog

International Women’s Day is marked on Friday the 8th March,  so it may be appropriate to share some of the issues related to gender that have been raised in my research on Equity Diversity and Inclusion (EDI), Secular Mindfulness and Social Justice.[1] A number of studies have shown that the practice of mindfulness on a regular basis can offer a range of benefits for all in dealing with stress, anxiety and chronic pain, as well as with numerous health issues. All women, regardless of gender identity including CIS women, transgender women, and non-binary individuals.

The term ‘cisgender’ or (cis), is often used to distinguish from ‘transgender’ or (trans), which refers to people whose gender identity differs from the sex that they were assigned at birth.  When discussing violence against women, it’s important to consider that whilst cisgender women have specific experiences and challenges they face due to their gender there is a much broader context to consider that includes, trans women, non-binary, and gender non-conforming individuals, who may face different or additional layers of discrimination and violence. Efforts to combat violence against women, trans women, girls, and non-binary individuals must be multifaceted including legal; protection and education and awareness building.

The concept of intersectionality is vital when talking about violence against women, including cis women. The term ‘intersectionality’ was coined by Kimberlé Crenshaw and it highlights how different aspects of a person’s identity (e.g., gender, race, class, sexuality) intersect and how these intersections contribute to unique experiences of oppression and privilege. For instance, the experiences of violence faced by cisgender women can be influenced by their race, socioeconomic status, age, and other identity factors. Efforts to address violence against cisgender women encompass a wide range of strategies, including legal reforms, educational programs, societal attitude changes, and support services for survivors. These efforts aim to prevent violence, support survivors, and challenge the societal norms that arise at the intersections of multiple identities.

Women often face societal pressures related to body image, work-life balance, and caregiving responsibilities. Mindfulness practices can help manage stress and anxiety associated with these pressures. The regular practice of mindfulness allows for the embodiment and cultivation of a non-judgmental awareness of the body, which can be particularly helpful for CIS women struggling with societal beauty standards. This allows them to appreciate their bodies for their functionality rather than solely focusing on appearance. Further mindfulness fosters self-compassion, allowing CIS women to be kinder to themselves and address inner criticism. This can be especially helpful in navigating difficult emotions[2]

Likewise, there are also benefits for transgender and non-binary women using mindfulness: [3]

Research states that mindfulness can help with addressing dissociation and dysphoria and therefore support transgender and non-binary individuals navigate body dissociation and dysphoria.  By focusing on present-moment sensations rather than negative self-perceptions, they can develop a more neutral relationship with their bodies.

“ Mindfulness helps us get in touch with our own truth and…identify what gender or sexual identity feels most authentic and right for us.”  Heather Zayde, LCSW [4]

According to the Center for Mindfulness & Gender Justice,[5] Mindfulness practices can also create a safe space for exploring and understanding one’s authentic gender identity. By quieting the mind, individuals can connect with their internal experiences related to gender.  Transgender and non-binary individuals often face discrimination and social marginalization. Mindfulness can equip them with tools to manage difficult emotions and cultivate resilience in the face of these challenges.

Increasingly mindfulness-based techniques are used for those with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and in trauma informed mindfulness and  trauma sensitive mindfulness. (TSM) [6]

Violence against women is defined as any act of ;

“Gender-based violence that results in or is likely to result in physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of acts such as coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life”. [7]

Violence against women, trans women, and girls, as well as non-binary individuals, represents a profound and pervasive issue worldwide. It manifests in various forms, including physical, sexual, psychological, and economic abuse. These acts of violence are deeply rooted in gender inequality, discrimination, and societal norms that perpetuate the marginalization and oppression of these groups. Physical violence includes beating, mutilation, and other forms of physical harm. Sexual violence encompasses rape, sexual assault, forced prostitution, and others forms of sexual exploitation. Psychological violence involves emotional abuse, harassment, stalking and other tactics designed to cause psychological harm. Economic violence refers to denial of resources, opportunities and services, which can trap individuals in abusive situations. The practice of mindfulness in some cases, can support those who have suffered such abuses and offers space and empowerment and resilience building skills to overcome those in need.

The important role that mindfulness can play in addressing PTSD for women is especially relevant as globally, women and girls are disproportionately affected by various forms of violence, often by someone they know, including intimate partner violence. Cultural, societal, and legal norms in many places either condone such violence or fail to adequately protect them. Trans women face a high risk of violence, discrimination, and stigma. Violence against trans women is often characterized by extreme brutality and can be perpetrated by both individuals and institutions. They face barriers to accessing justice, healthcare, and support services due to discrimination and lack of legal recognition. Nonbinary individuals often confront violence that is invisibilized by societal norms that do not acknowledge gender beyond the binary. Discrimination, misgendering, and exclusion compound their vulnerability to violence and limit their access to support services.

Finally, the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health report a study by Zajacova et al 2023,[8] that shows,  [9]

“… higher levels of pain in sexual minority adults, particularly those who identify as bisexual or “something else.” The authors suggested that the stigma and discrimination faced by members of these groups may increase the risk of pain.” [10]

Given the number of Mindfulness Based Interventions (MBI’s) said to support those suffering from chronic pain, perhaps mindfulness can offer a mechanism for those dealing with pain associated with their gender identity. Cisgender women can play a role in the broader gender equality movement, which seeks to address and dismantle the patriarchal structures that contribute to gender-based violence and inequality. This movement includes advocating for the rights and well-being of all individuals across the gender spectrum, recognizing that gender equality cannot be achieved without addressing the needs and rights of transgender, non-binary, and gender non-conforming individuals as well.

In conclusion, when discussing women in the context of mindfulness gender and violence, it’s important to approach the topic with sensitivity to the nuances of gender identity and the intersectionality of different forms of oppression. Efforts to combat violence against cisgender women must be part of broader initiatives aimed at achieving gender equality and ensuring the safety and dignity of all individuals, regardless of their gender identity. At the individual level mindfulness can be a useful practice to help address these issues, however, many teachers maybe unaware that past trauma may make some exercises more challenging and that some adaptations maybe necessary to avoid inadvertently tiggering unsafe feelings and in creating safe spaces and changes in the use of language.

International Women’s Day is a day to raise a range of issues relating to women, here in this short blog I have tired to highlight some current work on this topic and over the coming year, I will continue to research into issues relating to Equity, Diversity, Inclusion (EDI). Please do get in touch with me if you have any thoughts or comments on this issue, I would love to hear them.




[3]Healthline: How Mindfulness Can Support Transgender and Nonbinary Practitioners:





[8] Zajacova A, Grol-Prokopczyk H, Liu H, Reczek R, Nahin RL. Chronic pain among U.S. sexual minority adults who identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual, or “something else.” Pain. March 30, 2023. Epub ahead of print.




Shirley’s PhD is sponsored by The Mindfulness Association. You can Read other research blogs HERE.