Learn More About the Ottawa Somali NetworkWritten by Chelby Daigle
The Ottawa Somali Network is a group of young Somalis living and working in Ottawa in various professions who are passionate about community organizing.
Muslim Link interviewed Network members about the group’s origins and future plans.
How did the idea for the Ottawa Somali Network begin?
Founded conceptually in 2016 by a young Somali OceanPath Fellowship Alumni, Faduma Gure, the Ottawa Somali Network is an asset-based and community driven platform that has been co-designed by various members of the Ottawa Somali community.
The OceanPath Fellowship provides graduating students from the University of Ottawa. The year-long Fellowship is designed for students who have a meaningful connection with a community of their choosing, locally, nationally or internationally and an innovative idea of how this community could be strengthened or developed. Gure’s idea was The Ottawa Somali Network and we have continued to develop on this concept.
Faduma developed the foundation for an interdisciplinary health network in Ottawa’s Somali community. She conducted interviews with key stakeholders in the community, held group meetings, attended community wide forums, functions, and other relevant events, conducted research on the development of networking platforms, and developed resource lists and documents to be used in the development of the network. Her fellowship culminated with the development of a steering committee for the network, as well as the acquirement of funds to hire on a full-time project coordinator based in Ottawa.
Faduma was a member of the Ottawa Somali community, where she was also born. She spent her undergrad and graduate school years learning more about issues impacting the community, and her years studying interdisciplinary health sciences at the University of Ottawa exposed her to the notion that solutions are best made through concerted efforts.
The Ottawa Somali community is a relatively new community in Canada, and although there is a large population of Somalis living in the city, many people have long felt disconnected from members of their community and their respective work. Attempts to address community wide issues have long been fragmented, and in developing a comprehensive, interdisciplinary network consisting of a range of stakeholders, it was Faduma’s hope that for the first time, issues could be addressed in a more collaborative manner.
The network officially launched on January 14th 2018 with its inaugural “Awoken Brunch”.
Although Faduma Gure has moved away from Ottawa to study as a midwife, OceanPath Fellowship alumni Abdiasis Yalahow has continued with the network.
Our mission is to promote the health and well-being of our community by connecting, bridging and optimizing the capacity of networks that are looking to serve the Ottawa Somali community. We aim to act as a catalyst to optimize all that already exists in our community. We believe the best work is done by the community, for the community and on the terms of the community. We hope to build on the assets that already exist within our community.
Who can get involved with the Network’s events?
Our events are open to anyone who self identifies as Somali and is interested in forming community connections. We encourage Somalis from all walks of life who call Ottawa home to attend.
A unique reality of Ottawa's Somali communities is that you are relatively young with over half the population being 30 and under. Do you feel that this network could help to bridge the gaps between established Somali Canadian professionals, recent post-secondary graduates, post-secondary students, and high school students, in order to address some of the challenges that such a young community would naturally face navigating post-secondary education and the job market?
Yes, our focus is to provide more spaces for Somalis to meet each other and benefit from each others’ strengths. We all bring different knowledge and experiences that are of benefit to others. We hope people can meet and share.
Unfortunately, Somali Professionals experience the reality of being BOTH Black AND Muslim in the Canadian workplace, meaning they face a diversity of forms of systemic and individual discrimination. How will your network offer support to Somali professionals when it comes to navigating these challenges?
This certainly is a reality of the lives of Somalis in North America. Our network is currently trying to build the capacity to support groups who are doing this work as well as encourage others to become more aware by sharing information. One of our key focuses is to encourage and facilitate more community connections for impactful peer mentorship to better their careers and/or simply meet more people and get inspired.
We are happy to discuss this further but it would require and benefit from lots of time and contemplation. Should a Somali community member be passionate about this issue, please reach out to us so we can support them in their efforts by connecting to people who are doing this work or give them some support to create a response.
How is your network accommodating the fact that Ottawa's Somali communities speak both English AND French. Can Franophone Somali professionals participate in your activities in French?
We understand and appreciate the diversity of Somalis in Ottawa. What unites us is bigger than what divides. The interviews completed by Faduma Gure included Somalis of all backgrounds. We endeavour to increase our language capacity to create connection opportunities in French; if you are a French-speaker and have great ideas, please reach out!
How can people reach out to find out about your upcoming events or get more involved in the “behind the scenes” of the network?
If you would like to be involved in the “behind the scenes| work of the network, send us an email!
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