Cultivating safer spaces for Muslim girls and women.
By Aileen Balahadia, Neighbor to Neighbor Program Consultant, and Elaine Chu, Senior Philanthropic Advisor
Rahmo Rashid recalls the first time she was asked to support young Muslim girls in her African community. Her instincts told her they needed to meet in a group, face to face, and in a circle. And so they did, on a Friday night, at their local mosque.
“There were about 8 girls that first time…and we grew into 100+ girls pretty soon after that,” Rahmo shared. “The need was so apparent.”
Neighbor to Neighbor awarded Muslimah’s Against Abuse Center funding in Winter 2021 to support and empower African Muslim women and young girls primarily in South Seattle. The group convenes virtual peace circles intended to be safe places to discuss taboo topics, such as gendered violence, mental health, and the effects of COVID-19. Muslimah’s Against Abuse Center is a first-time awardee of an N2N grant; however, they are not new to this work. They have served the community for many years but have operated primarily through pro bono and volunteer hours. Thankfully, a past grantee – Falis Community Services – referred them to N2N.
Their model is strong because the facilitators have similar lived experiences as the girls they serve. As women, the facilitators know what can happen to young girls without a healthy support system. Abuse, trauma, intergenerational conflict, trouble at school, and an inability to access health resources are just some of the issues that can pile up if there is no place to express the emotion of it all. And with COVID-19, mental health concern is at an all-time high.
“The pressure our girls face from religious leaders, family, and community is what makes this kind of work so important. We want our girls to feel empowered and to speak up against what is wrong. We hope to share tools, education and build friendship and confidence in our peace circles,” Rahma further explained.
Organizers work in small groups to build trust and ensure confidentiality. As a result, participants challenge taboo topics like gendered violence and cultural norms. Even the choice of their organization name was intentional and meant to spur conversation. Their ultimate goal is to name, address, support, and halt abuse in their community. That’s something N2N advisory committee member Gale Picker admires.
“This work is brilliant, and so are their leaders. The work is so critical right now. Who else can reach their community in this way? We need to resource these efforts,” said Picker.
One participant who now serves as a facilitator echoed this sentiment during a site visit with N2N.
“I’d follow Rahmo anywhere. She helped me so much and taught me how to listen to my inner voice and use that to help support others.”
This affirmation brought Rahmo to tears as she smiled and said, “This was not rehearsed, really! I’m so blessed – this why we do this work!”
The full list of N2N’s Winter 2021 grantees are listed below:
*First time grantee of N2N
**Also, the first grant ever received by the organization
We invite you to learn more about the history of the Neighbor to Neighbor (N2N) program by watching this short video. You can also read about Seattle Foundation’s Center for Community Partnerships, which houses N2N.