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Nile Sisters Development Initiative (NSDI) served on the United Nations Association of San Diego (UNA-SD) delegation to the United Nations 61st session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW61), March 13–24, 2017. Attendees of the annual meeting included delegates from UN member states, civil society actors, and non-governmental organizations accredited by the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC).
UNA-SD is one of only four UNA chapters that has achieved annual attendance status, resulting primarily from the leadership of NSDI board member and former UNA-SD president, Anne Hoiberg. Ms. Hoiberg is also the founder of the Women’s Museum of California, which hosted an official CSW61 side event entitled “Refugee Women Leading Women Worldwide from Abuse to Economic and Social Empowerment.” This event focused on resilient women, such as NSDI founder Elizabeth Lou, who have transformed their hardships into opportunities to serve others.
On Friday, March 10, 2017, Nile Sisters Development Initiative (NSDI) will host a follow-up to recent community dialogues convened to discuss refugee and immigrant mental health. During the March 10 meeting, NSDI will share the emergent themes from past dialogues and will solicit community feedback.
On October 5, 2016, NSDI convened the first roundtable mental health discussion. Ethnic, faith, and community leaders from the San Diego refugee community discussed growing concerns about the mental health needs of diverse refugee populations.
Nile Sisters Development Initiative (NSDI) will be attending the sixty-first session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW61) from March 13 to March 24, 2017, at the United Nations Headquarters in New York, NY. The theme this year is “Women’s Economic Empowerment in the Changing World of Work.” The CSW is the principal global intergovernmental body dedicated to the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of women.
During the event, NSDI will be representing the United Nations Association of San Diego (UNA–SD). While at CSW61, NSDI also will be participating in the California Women’s Museum official side-event “Refugee Women Leading Women Worldwide from Abuse to Economic and Social Empowerment” at 4:30pm, Friday, March 17, 2017, at the UN Church Center, second floor.
For years, San Diego County has been the primary refugee resettlement site in the state of California. The county boasts a population of roughly 150,000 refugees and former refugees, a number equal to the combined populations of three cities within the San Diego region—El Cajon, Lemon Grove, and Spring Valley. Measured against the San Diego County population of 3.3 million residents, refugees equal one in every 22 individuals.
Nile Sisters Development Initiative (NSDI) has compiled the following list to illustrate the invaluable contributions made in five fields by the diverse refugee community in San Diego.
San Diego County is one of eight refugee-impacted counties in the State of California; it is also the largest refugee resettlement site in the State. Reports indicate at least 150,000 refugees or former refugees reside in San Diego County, an estimated 30,000 individuals from East Africa and Horn of Africa, mainly Somalia, reside within the City of San Diego. The recent Executive Order entitled, “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States” signed by President Trump on January 27, 2017, greatly impacts the San Diego region, a community that has demonstrated a culture of welcoming new Americans.
In light of President’s Trump’s Executive Order, San Diegans have shown full support of refugees by supporting Nile Sisters Development Initiative (NSDI) programs. NSDI has received increased donations of material goods and financial contributions. There was also a boost in new social media engagement by 175%, and an influx of volunteer inquiry submissions from individuals who want to help refugees in different ways, including tutor English as a Second Language (ESL), assist with professional development and job search.
On February 1, 2017, Nile Sisters Development Initiative (NSDI) conducted two orientation sessions for the certified nursing assistant (CNA) vocational training program.» The mandatory workshops provide overview of the 22-day program to prospective participants. Between October 2016 and January 2017, forty-two individuals from diverse backgrounds placed their names on a waitlist to receive more information about the asset-building program. List members represent at least five countries, including Ethiopia, Congo, Haiti, Iraq, and Jordan. Since initiation of the employment facilitation program, NSDI has served individuals who have relocated to the US from 12 countries.
The program offers opportunities for refugees, asylees, and survivors of torture to gain skills in growing industries such as healthcare. Refugees face many challenges even after their resettlement in the United States. One critical challenge is economic hardship due to difficulties in obtaining gainful and sustainable employment. To alleviate this concern, NSDI partners with two accredited schools, International Health Group, School of Nursing and Western Medical Training Center to facilitate training for qualified individuals.
On January 25, 2017, Nile Sisters Development Initiative (NSDI) presented “Female Genital Cutting: A Conversation in San Diego,” an event that included short video introduction followed by panel discussion among local experts across several sectors
In December 2016, NSDI released Defenseless Against Female Genital Cutting, a new publication covering the topic of FGC in San Diego County. The publication highlights the reality of FGC in the San Diego region, given its large refugee population. San Diego is one of six nationally designated refugee zones in the United States. Approximately 150,000 refugees and former refugees reside in the county. Locally, an underreported 8,000 women and girls are potentially predisposed to FGC.
Globally, February 6 marks the International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C). Currently,more than 513,000 women and girls are at-risk of undergoing FGC in the US. California is the most impacted state, with more than 57,000 women and girls at risk. San Diego is the largest refugee resettlement site in the state, which warrants the need for greater action.
Due to the leadership of the Honorable Senator Toni Atkins, the State of California has passed SR-17 (Senate Resolution 17) relative to Female Genital Mutilation and Cutting (FGM/C) Awareness Day. This measure will increase awareness of FGM/C across sectors and strengthen California’s response to end this practice. The measure will empower not only at-risk communities, but also stakeholders working on their behalf, with the knowledge needed to address the practice. SR-17 will enhance grassroots efforts to break the silence surrounding FGM/C.
On January 27, 2017, Nile Sisters Development Initiative (NSDI) hosted an oral healthcare workshop for members of the City Heights refugee and immigrant community. Through this workshop, NSDI was able to better understand the challenges that refugees and immigrants face when seeking dental care and to identify opportunities to improve access to dental providers.
In 2014, the California Department of Public Health reported that the primary preventable health condition among newly settled refugees is dental caries. Failure to receive preventive care can result from a host of factors, including limited English proficiency and economic and/or cultural barriers.
The NSDI Refugee Oral Health Initiative (ROHI) previously determined that language continues to be one of the greatest barriers for refugees and immigrants when accessing dental and general healthcare services. In one particular case study, the only Burmese dentist in the San Diego community had retired, leaving many with no Burmese-speaking dentist to visit for regular dental check-ups. Not many dental providers offer translational services or speak the refugees’ native language, and the ones that do often have long wait times for appointments. For example, one workshop participant stated that he had to wait up to 40 days for an appointment opening with a provider who speaks his language. Approximately 81% of refugees in attendance also reported that they would go to the dentist more often if more offices had staff that spoke their native tongue.
Every year, NSDI connects community members with refugee and asylee families during the months of October through December. During resettlement, newly-arrived families sometimes encounter extraordinary challenges that leave them temporarily unable to meet their most basic needs. Under these conditions, refugee and immigrant families qualify for emergency relief services.
In 2016, NSDI identified 93 individuals in 19 families who were in need of additional support. Thanks to the generosity of everyday San Diegans, all identified families received support as part of the year-end program. The families hail from seven different countries including Burma, Congo, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Haiti, Iran, and Sudan. Twenty-two percent of program recipients were between the ages of 0 and 5 years. Assistance provided to refugee and asylee families ranged from kitchen equipment to gift cards, redeemable at local grocery stores.