Suffering in silence: a Canadian-Somali case study

  • Bokore N
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Abstract

The Horn of Africa, and specifically Somalia, is now being recognized as
one of the worst places for women to live (Abdi, C. M. (2005). In limbo:
Dependency, insecurity and identity amongst Somali refugees in Dadaab
camps, Refuge: Canada's Periodical on Refugees, vol. 22, no. 2, pp. 614;
The Guardian (2011). Somali refugees abandon babies at Dadaab camp, The
Guardian. Available at
http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/aug/14/somalia-refugees-abandon-bab
ies-dadaab; The Guardian (2011) Afghanistan worst place in the world for
women, but India in top five. The Guardian. Available at
http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/jun/15/worst-place-women-afghanista
n-india). Somali women refugees, particularly those living in the South
of Somalia, face heightened possibility of rape and sexual humiliation,
and are subject to ever-changing religious restrictions and punishments
(Abdi, C. M. (2005). In limbo: Dependency, insecurity and identity
amongst Somali refugees in Dadaab camps, Refuge: Canada's Periodical on
Refugees, vol. 22, no. 2, pp. 614; The New York Times, 2011). Some of
the latest religious restrictions are that bras are forbidden and women
must purchase specific clothing from stores owned by religious leaders.
Also, pregnancy out of wedlock, which includes pregnancy as a result of
rape, is forbidden and punishable by stoning (BBC (2009, November).
Somali woman stoned for adultery. Available at
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/8366197.stm). A recent 2011 Sharia law
bans unrelated men and women from shaking hands, walking or talking
together in public. The consequence of disobeying is punishment by
public flogging (BBC (2011, January). Somalia's al-Shabab bans mixed-sex
handshake. Available at
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-12138627). After settling in
Canada, these past traumas intersect with the resettlement challenges
faced by Somali women refugees. This often produces health-related
issues that women struggle to overcome within a monocultural medical
system that is not always responsive to their needs (Danso, 2002;
Galabuzi, G. E. (2002, November). Social exclusion. A paper and
presentation given at The Social Determinants of Health across the
Life-Span Conference, Toronto, ON; Bokore, 2009). This paper explores
the connections between trauma and resettlement in the lives of
Somali-Canadian women, and how this can in turn effect the next
generation via intergenerational trauma'. Through personal experience,
community-based conversations and existent trauma research, I will then
outline how social workers can respond to this unique nexus of needs.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Somali women refugees
  • barriers to resettlement in Canada
  • social work practice
  • the impacts of prolonged trauma

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Authors

  • Nimo Bokore

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