Peter Riddell
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15 October, 2013

British Somalis organise inter-generational dialogues in North London

Working session in progress (Photo: Hayan Amin)
Working session in progress (Photo: Hayan Amin)
Amina Khalid, a young British Somali woman, organised an inter-generational dialogue workshop entitled ‘Peace begins at Home’ in Hackney on 31 August.

As a trustee of Somali Initiative for Dialogue and Democracy (SIDD), she had previously been involved in facilitating inter-generational dialogue workshops in Brent, Harrow and Islington for the Somali community. These were very successful in helping parents and children find ways of discussing delicate issues constructively.

This is a particular challenge for Somalis in the UK, as the first generation, who came as refugees expecting to return to their home country shortly, have different cultural assumptions from their children who have grown up here.

After the riots in summer 2011, Amina realised that there was a problem of communication between the generations, and that Somalis could offer something from their experience to the whole community in north London.

With the support of SIDD, the Awards for All Big Lottery Fund and Initiatives of Change-UK, she arranged two weekend workshops in Hackney and Tottenham. The first workshop took place on the weekend of 31 August- 1 September in the Halkevi Kurdish community centre on Dalston Lane, Hackney. Thirty-five people attended, young and old in roughly equal numbers, and from a wide variety of backgrounds.

The workshop was opened by the Chairman of SIDD, Osman Jama Ali, former deputy prime minister of Somalia. Then Amina Khalid introduced the theme with a film ‘Past to Present - Bridging the gap’ which was made in Hackney. The participants were divided into two groups, older and younger, to identify the issues which concerned them most. These were presented and four key issues were identified: Communication in the family, Education and the reasons for underachievement, ‘Inner’ peace and its connection to ‘outer’ peace, and Changing Role Models. Mixed age groups then discussed these issues and what they felt would be the solutions to them.

In order to bring in other perspectives, guests of honour were invited to give their perspectives. These included Dr Yusuf Ali, President of the Anglo-Somali Society, Vicky Morton from St Michael’s Church, Hackney and Dr Muna Ismail, a research cientist.

Nadwa Abdulrahman (aged 11) in dialogue with Meg Hillier MP (Photo: Hayan Amin)
Nadwa Abdulrahman (aged 11) in dialogue with Meg Hillier MP (Photo: Hayan Amin)
The Hackney South MP Meg Hillier, another of the guests of honour, welcomed the initiative. The main theme of her talk was that she believed Hackney citizens are very tolerant, but not necessarily understanding. ‘We tolerate but are we interested to understand each other?’ Perhaps the greatest value of inter-generational dialogue is to open our minds to inter-cultural dialogue’, she said.

In the feedback at the end, one young woman of Asian background shared that it was the first time she had ever spoken to an older white man. She had feared that they would have a negative image of young people like her, and had never imagined it would be possible.

There was enthusiasm to continue the process.

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