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Somali Women’s Proposal Approved by Commission on Health

 

By Janice Barbee, Cultural Wellness Center

The Backyard Initiative’s Community Commission on Health approved a proposal of the Somali Women’s Health Support CHAT (Citizen Health Action Team) on June 2, 2011 to promote communication, understanding, and support among women of the Somali community who have children in the justice system. Their project will educate Somali families about how the justice system works, help to connect women together who have children in the system in order to reduce isolation and social stigma, and help to prevent other children in the community from entering the justice system.

The Somali women who presented at the Commission meeting spoke of the difficulty of supporting their children throughout the trial process and incarceration. They also spoke of how their cultural systems of authority, personal accountability, and discipline have been undermined and displaced in the move to the U.S. Understanding the justice system is a crucial first step to rebuilding those systems of authority and supporting their youth. The women plan to create a buddy system where each woman will be linked with another woman when they visit their children in prison and will help each other with transportation. This will create a support system for the women who are now feeling isolated and feel that the legal system is inaccessible and foreign.

The group of Somali women who designed this project has been meeting since June of 2009. As they stated in their proposal: “We have been very active in our community. We have met and talked with many women from the Somali community… and discussed many issues… This issue rose to the top as one of great urgency that was not being addressed. We were very sad about the killings of three men in our community on January 6, 2010. It was a horrible reminder of how much hard work we have to do. We have heard continuous widespread support for this project as we continue to talk with women of the community. It’s our commitment to prevent crimes.”

The Backyard Initiative is a partnership between Allina and community residents to improve the health of the community. The Community’s Commission on Health’s purpose is to monitor the health of residents in the Backyard, listen to people about their health concerns, educate people about health issues and resources, and build community capacity for taking care of its own health. Residents have formed Citizen Health Action Teams (CHATs) to work on projects together they have designed to improve the health of the community. The Backyard includes the neighborhoods of Central, Corcoran East Phillips, Midtown Phillips, Phillips West, Powderhorn Park, and Ventura Village.

Street in the Franklin Bank Building.  Call the Cultural Wellness Center at 621-721-5745 for more information.

 

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