A recent SAPNA NYC community needs assessment study shows that about half of Bangladeshi immigrant women living in New York City’s South Asian communities experience anxiety about their Muslim identity in the current political climate.  Responses to 99 surveys conducted by eight residents within three Bronx neighborhoods documented the women’s fears of being targeted by hate crimes.  Such crimes involving women wearing Muslim attire have recently been reported by the New York Police Department.  More than half of those surveyed said that they were somewhat or very concerned about their children’s safety in schools and worried that the children would be bullied by their classmates.  The study is Part I of a participatory action research project called CLAP (Community Leaders and Advocates Program)*  and was conducted in the last few months of 2016 and into this year’s January election season.

Phase II of CLAP, slated to begin in mid-July, will train the eight project leaders in community organizing skills. These skills range from the basic note-taking and public speaking to more complex levels of facilitation and advocacy.  The women will be guided by a Bangladeshi-American lawyer, Ms. Chaumtoli Huq who currently serves as a SAPNA NYC consultant. Also, in order for the CLAP leaders to become well-versed in immigration policies and their civil rights, the eight women will participate in the following city and agency-run workshops:

1.  The U.S. Immigration System 101 run by the Urban Justice Center
2.  The Rights of Immigrants in New York City run by the Mayor’s Office of Immigrants Rights & the New York Commission on Human Rights
3.  How to Recognize and Report Incidents of Bullying and Bias-Motivated Harassment in Schools run by Advocates for Children

4.  How to Prepare for Visits by ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) run by the Urban Justice Center

As the project gains in momentum, other topics will likely be explored.

“Equipping immigrant women with legal information and skills to organize is a powerful way to build their leadership skills so they can make changes in their families, and neighborhood.  But what makes CLAP members stand out and why I am thrilled to be part of is their unique participatory methodology where the workshops were not pre-selected by outside trainers, but emerged after careful research and surveys in Phase I,” said Chaumtoli Huq.

Another important facet of CLAP Phase II will be the creation of small groups, or women’s circles to educate and empower the community at large.  These groups will aim to provide peer support and counseling to women experiencing emotional distress.  In doing so, they will help to define and address specific obstacles – such as gender bias within power structures – that Bangladeshi immigrant women face within their communities.

“The next phase in the CLAP project will help us meet in different places with women as a group. We can discuss the problems women are facing and how we can solve them. These women can also teach other women in the community what they have learned. This way information will spread and it will be easier to solve problems in the future,” said Ferdousi Zaman, a CLAP member.

Read our first CLAP Report here.

About Sapna NYC:

Sapna NYC is an award-winning, non-profit organization which seeks to improve the lives of South Asian immigrant women in New York.  The group’s objective is to better their physical and mental health, to expand their economic opportunities and to build a collective voice for them to effect change in line with their own interests.

*CLAP (Community Leaders and Advocates Program) is a participatory action research (PAR) project that draws on pedagogical ideas of Paolo Freire and other progressive social thinkers.  PAR methodology strives to transform communities as well as analyzing them and rests on the research of community participants rather than outside observers.  The SAPNA NYC organizers of CLAP in 2017 are currently:

Gulshan Chowdhury, Community Health Worker
Tehmina Brohi, Director of Advocacy and Economic Empowerment
Chaumtoli Huq, Lawyer & Consultant