Before the pandemic, many Bengali womxn in the Bronx were already spending most of their time alone at home. Laal’s 2019 Needs Based Assessment found that 62% of Bangladeshi womxn surveyed in Norwood spent more than 8 hours a day alone.
Since the start of COVID-19, social isolation grew to an even greater effect on the mental health of womxn in the community. Furthermore, South Asian women residing in the US are at particularly high risk for intimate partner violence, with 40% reporting IPV in their current relationship. Within the Bangladeshi community, DV is normalized. For context, a recent study has shown that over 80 percent of the currently married women in Bangladesh have experienced IPV at least once in their lifetime. Such violence includes, among others, physical, mental, sexual, economic, and various forms of control. The percentage of women who have experienced both physical and sexual assault overlaps significantly: an average of 45% of Bangladeshi women who report experiencing partner violence also report having experienced domestic violence.
Of lifetime experiences, controlling behavior was most common, reported by more than half of ever-married women (55.4%), followed by physical violence (49.6%) . The marginalization of Bangladeshi immigrant women in the US is a reflection of the dreadful reality in their culture of origin, where DV is a daily and frequently fatal reality for thousands of women and girls in Bangladesh. Moreover, social isolation and post-migration stressors, make Bangladeshi immigrant women more vulnerable to DV.
During the pandemic, Laal created Laal Mohila Shomiti, our first Womxn’s Support Group, a safe space where womxn could come together to talk about concerns that affect them. By creating this space, Laal also enabled its participants to take a more significant role in shaping current and future Laal programs.
For our Spring-summer 2023 programs, The Womxn’s Support became a workshop led by two mental health professionals, Rubana Hossain, and Mousumi Sabina, to help create awareness about mental health among our membership. We are incredibly grateful to the Asian Pacific Institute on Gender-based Violence for awarding us the ARP DV Grant which allowed us to hire our two instructors.
This workshop will take a culturally specific approach to mental health by contrasting and comparing them with the multicultural dimensions of living in the United States. Rubana and Mousimi will lead sessions on emotional literacy, and conduct group sessions on different topics such as stress management, anger management, dealing with anxiety, setting boundaries, and more.
They will also conduct 1:1’s with the Laal’s staff to reflect on their work with Laal and ways to take care of themselves while serving Laal’s womxn.
Laal must enhance accessibility to a culturally competent mental health provider as well as create a community among the women to reduce isolation.
By creating a peer support group led by mental health professionals, our goal is to establish a supportive atmosphere that allows survivors to improve their skills to cope with challenges, eradicate feelings of shame and self-blame through sharing of experiences and thoughts, and help DV survivors in gaining a feeling of empowerment, control, and hope.