Women, especially minority women, are more likely to be sole caregivers in the home while also working outside the home. When civil war broke out, many Somali immigrated to the United States because it was seen as a place where hard work was rewarded. In the US, many Somali women work outside home to send money back home and make better lives for themselves. However, because of cultural norms, many remained solely responsible for childrearing and care of the home. The Isuroon Project, a nonprofit organization, formed by local Somali women’s rights advocate, Fartun Weli, works to empower women to break the silence and speak about their lives and health issues.
According to Weli, cultural beliefs are often more powerful that what they learn from school or hear from a physician. This can lead to high levels of treatment failure for medical conditions. Weli explained that there is a lot of mistrust in the Somali community towards Western medicine. This is often compounded when those treating the patient fail to understand the cultural norms in Somali society where it is not culturally accepted to discuss issues of mental health that may compound other medical conditions.
Weli hopes to improve the lives of Somali women by empowering them through the Isuroon Project. Change begins by empowering women to talk about their experiences and builds new leaders in their community. Weli see’s many needs in the community, from health education to access to higher education and job training, but emphasizes that real change only occurs when you empower the community itself to make change.