Bonding and bridging : a case study of four Somali women’s organizations in Norway, Oslo. Their roles, activities and the collaborations existing between them


Publication date



Høgskolen i Oslo. Avdeling for samfunnsfag

Document type


Master in International Social Welfare and Health Policy


This study aims at finding out basic information and factors that contribute to the establishment of four Somali women‟s organizations in Norway, particularly in Oslo, to describe their main activities, roles, visions, and also to establish whether any form of collaboration or links exist between them. I interviewed some of the officials of these organizations using a structured interview guide. The other objectives were to assess the social and economic impact of the many organizations on members of this minority immigrant group who have settled in Norway, and also to find out whether the presence of these organizations serves the needs of their members and the purpose for which they were established. The data I obtained indicates that most of these organizations were established in order to assist their members with the various problems facing Somali women after coming to Norway. Despite common belief, the leaders of these organizations emphasised that the organizations were not founded based on the different clans originating from the regions from which the members came from in their country of origin, Somalia. The coexistence of organizations with overlapping or even competing fields of interests and activities can be explained by the fact that there was a certain mistrust that existed between the different organizations of this particular community, which played a significant role in formation of these organizations. When it comes to membership, most of the women and girls joined these organizations in order to obtain assistance with the various problems facing them after coming to Norway. Such problems were for instance, lack of basic necessities including accommodation, appropriate clothing for the winter, employment, language barriers, racial discrimination, and also to maintain a form of social identity within their ethnic community. Most of these organizations also provide different types of training, such as in the Norwegian language, Somali culture, traditional music and dances and health care, as well as discouraging the practice of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). Some of the organizations also teach the women skills such as tailoring, cookery or catering and offer professional courses, which prepare them for job opportunities in their new host country of Norway. Furthermore, some of the organizations managed to receive economic help in order to provide the women with swimming lessons and other activities. Other notable activities undertaken by all of the organizations whose officials were interviewed were: teaching members about their individual rights, promotion of gender equality, tips on how to live in the new country peacefully without infringing on the rights on others such as neighbors, the country‟s laws, health care services, lobbying and looking for jobs and national training and employment opportunities to enable their members to be self-reliant. Their efforts are also geared towards preparing members for successful integration into the Norwegian community so that they can contribute fully to national activities. The findings also indicate that there are numerous challenges facing these organizations of Somali women, which include illiteracy among their officials and leaders. They face failure to hold elections regularly, poor organization of activities, lack of financial acumen and hence lack of remuneration of the officials working for these organizations. Other problems are the lack of offices or adequate rooms for use as classes, meetings and training venues. In addition, the socio-cultural background has some negative impacts since the Somali women are religiously unable to interact freely socially with people of the opposite sex. Traditional and cultural practices like Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) are still widely practised among the Somali society. These drawbacks constitute the main challenges contributing to poor running and inefficiency seen in some of the organizations according to the findings. Concerning the issue of collaboration and networking, the findings suggest that the officials are aware of the existence of other similar organizations in Oslo and other cities in Norway, but they are not collaborating effectively. This is because of the lack of adequate resources and set guidelines for such organizations, in addition to the lack of technical know-how. The few organizations, which engage in limited collaboration, do so in areas such as holding training and a few seminars together. They also collaborate in celebrating their national holidays such as the Somali Independence Day and Islamic religious celebrations that take place twice a year called “Idd”. The officials however, expressed their willingness to strengthen collaborations so that their activities and operations can be improved. Some of the officials are trained in a professions such as in the field of health e.g. nursing counseling and community social work, but none of them is trained in management. Some of the strategies that may help improve the situation according to the interviewees include provision of management training for the officials and voluntary workers, providing employment opportunities in collaboration with local authorities, giving financial assistance to the organizations to enable them to carry out planned activities.


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