Women Watch Afrika
Who attended the Assembly and what are they concerned about?
The Assembly was made up of about 50 people. Most were young to middle-aged refugee Muslim women originally from Somalia, Sudan, and other African nations who now live in Clarkston, Georgia. There were also about 10 African and African American youth from a combination of Project South and Clarkston High School. The energy of playing children, with the older ones looking out for the younger, showed their importance in this community. Some Black and white representatives from non-profit organizations that provide services or information for Clarkston refugees were in the audience. A few participated in the program, including a woman from Georgia WAND who explained how the use of atomic energy and weapons endangers our health and safety.
Most of the Assembly addressed two main concerns: the impact of Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM) on women’s childbearing and the impact of police brutality on the daily lives of their sons and daughters. Women testified that on top of the many other problems caused by FGM, in America they are unnecessarily pressured to have Caesarian sections instead of being allowed to experience vaginal births. Not only is this more expensive and more dangerous, but it also limits the number of children a woman can have since they are not supposed to have more than one or two C-sections. They explained that in their culture, women who do not have eight to twelve children are not worthy of respect. “They say that a woman with only two or three children is not a good woman.” Husbands have sometimes divorced wives so they can marry someone capable of having more children. In Africa, some men bring home a second wife, but women in Africa are also helped to have multiple vaginal births and receive more family and community support in child care.
Some of the women stated that although they had come here so they and their children could be free from the violence of war (such as one woman who spoke of losing all of her family members in the war in Sudan) and although they appreciate the many new freedoms they can have as women in this country (especially access to education), they are shocked and frightened by the numerous police murders which remind them of what they had tried to escape. “I don’t like the police getting into my life.” After hearing about so many Black children being shot, they worry whenever their sons are late returning home, even though they know their children are not dangerous to anyone. As one mother pointed out, “A child needs to be able to learn. They should not be in danger just going to the market.”
The young men and women told about people in their neighborhoods being killed by police officers as well as by people from the community. They expressed anger about having been stopped by cops who claimed that they looked like an overly vague description of alleged robbers. “Apparently, they’re going to think I have a gun only because I’m Black.” They also recognized that “We are all in danger,” whether male or female, young or old, and that “whoever they kill has relatives who hurt because of what they did.”
What are the shared analyses of the problems?
One reason the women gave for their receiving so much pressure to give birth only by Caesarian sections is that American medical professionals don’t understand that most women who have been cut can have safe vaginal births. They are also aware that doctors appreciate being able to charge two or three times as much for C-sections and to schedule them at convenient times for the doctors. Their personal experience has taught them that American doctors are not often open to learning from either refugee women or medical professionals from Africa.
Both the mothers and the young people agreed that the lack of respect and the racial profiling they receive from the police is wrong. One youth reported, “I know people of different races who love guns and they are not stopped by police. But they ask Black men for IDs countless times.” They also criticized the media for perpetrating false stereotypes. “When you see a cop shooting a Black man, the first thing they show is the Black man’s mug shot from a traffic violation. They try to make them look awful.” No matter how angry they feel, these young people realize that an uneven balance of power restricts their ability to stand up for themselves. “When we hear about the Atlanta Police Department arresting someone and then killing them, we want to be able to march and sing freedom songs, but it’s top-heavy and we have to hold ourselves accountable.” This does not mean that they do not want change. For one, safety would mean “being able to walk down the street without being a target because of my skin or how I dress or what I say. I could be seen just like anyone else, not like a potential thief.”