Supporting Somali Couple Communication

Since 2004, WellShare Community Health Workers (CHWs) have supported Somali couples through one-on-one and group education on child spacing and family planning. WellShare staff, Adar and Abdirahman, educate community members on several topics, including:

  • Benefits of child spacing for individuals, families, and communities
  • Contraceptives methods in the U.S., including long-acting reversible contraception
  • Dual contraception and the benefits of preventing unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections
  • Couple communication related to child spacing and reproductive health decision-making

Related to couple communication, we offer advice about the benefits of communicating, knowing that couples are often healthier and happier if they do so. We offer communication tips (i.e. listening actively, choosing a good time and place, and having multiple conversations over time, etc.) to men and women. We also give ideas for conversation starters with partners on a topic that is otherwise sensitive; for example, suggesting starting with the health or financial benefits of child spacing. Adar, in particular, is trained to educate about different types of communication (passive, assertive, aggressive) to encourage individuals to think about how they talk about these topics.

As part of our child spacing work in the Somali community, we evaluate couples’ confidence in talking about the subject. In 2016-17, we found that only 47% of females and 60% of males felt confident to speak to their partner about child spacing. Following education by a community health worker, 90% of females felt as though they were more confident in their ability to communicate with their partner about child spacing and 82% of males felt as though they were more confident in their ability to communicate with their partner about child spacing.

In 2015, WellShare partnered with St. Catherine University to learn more about this topic in the community. We learned that the majority of community members that we talked to reported discussing child spacing with their spouse at some point in their marriage. You can read more about our research here: Couple Communication Research.

Informed by our findings, WellShare created Child Spacing: Somali Family Decision Making Supported by Islamic Scholars and Healthcare Professionals, a Somali-English video. This video is a new focus and educational tool and offers a picture of how a conversation could go, encouraging and supporting couples to engage in their own conversations.

Child Spacing video was launched in the community at an event last October that was attended by community members and leaders of all ages.

We’re proud to report that a local Somali newspaper, Tusmo Times, recently published this work. You can read more about it by clicking the links below:

Thanks to our many partners that make this work possible: St. Catherine University (community research); Kilimanjaro (community event); iDream.TV (video production); and Minnesota Department of Health (project funding).

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