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Our Story

In 2007 a small group of Somali women started connecting after meeting through various forms of community work and participation.  We realized that there were many cool programs and initiatives happening in the city all aimed at engaging youth, but none of them addressing the specific needs of young Somali women.  Our newly formed group decided to fill this void by creating spaces that were safe and accessible to young, Muslim women of colour.  We began meeting weekly, and still do, to discuss some of the issues affecting our community across Toronto and back home in Somalia.  In addition, we got more involved in projects like Schools Without Borders’ Blitz Camp and the Emerge program, SOYAT, the Toronto Youth Cabinet and others. We also gained foundational support from funding organizations such as the Youth Challenge Fund, helping to develop our capacity as a group and organization.  Word started to spread in Somali community about Gashanti UNITY, and more and more Somali women started contacting us, wanting to join our movement.

Women have always represented strength and perseverance in the Somaili community. Somali women play a strong role in most of our families but they still raise their daughters to act like daughters or ‘Gashantis’. Our responsibilities as young women in our families and communities is to be proactive and empowered, at the same time being supportive to all those who need advice or a helping hand.   Many of our young women and sisters, while encouraged to attain educational success and advancement, sometimes are limited in terms of recreational, social and artistic opportunities due to the lack of cultural relevance and sensitivity that exists in mainstream society.  Our programs and events have become a window of opportunity for these Somali girls, whether they live in the east, west, north or south of Toronto.

Now our group has grown from our core of seven to over 40 girls that participate in our programs on a regular basis.  We hope to help young Somali women develop their gifts, abilities, and positive relationships within their families and amongst the broader community.  As for the future of Gashanti UNITY as an organization, we look forward to helping to create specific physical spaces to make room for female specific programming, and are excited to continue building a curriculum that speaks specifically to young women, giving us an opportunity to share our experiences while living in dual cultures across generations.