About 30 obese Somali Muslim women in Shakopee only got interested in fitness when somebody else paid for it via a grant-funded program.
Star Tribune Farhya Jama indicated she was interested in applying for another grant tailored to Somali-American women who want to exercise in public settings such as a gym or a pool, during a graduation party at the end of a previous program in Shakopee.
Ibrahim Mohamed discovered that Somali-American women in Shakopee had more challenges than most: they didn’t know much about exercise and couldn’t find a women-only environment to work out, which many Muslim women prefer.
“They didn’t know how and they didn’t have the resources,” Mohamed said. “They needed accommodation and also they needed motivation.”
Mohamed, president of the Shakopee Diversity Alliance, applied for and received the Neighborhood Health Connections grant from Allina Health and St. Francis Regional Medical Center. He used the $10,300, intended for health-related programming, to create the Somali Women’s Exercise program, or Somali Jimisci.
The 12-week class also met several of Allina and St. Francis’ broader goals, said Tamara Severtson, who works for both organizations.
The first group of 30 women graduated from the program last week. Participants tried Zumba, yoga and strength training classes at the River Valley YMCA in Prior Lake, and swimming lessons at the East Junior High pool in Shakopee. Both locations limited the classes to women only. The YMCA bought shades for the doors to keep spaces private, Mohamed said.
In Somalia, girls play sports like basketball at school and women walk outside for exercise, Mohamed said.But in Minnesota, “It’s difficult for a lot of us to do it,” Sharif said. Weather is prohibitive, and gyms like the YMCA are coed, which makes many Somali women uncomfortable.
To be successful, the program needed a female coordinator who spoke Somali and knew about fitness. When Mohamed asked Ayan Ali, a full-time college student and YMCA instructor, to coordinate the program, she said, “Why not? I was interested because I’m so into health.” Participants most enjoyed swimming and Zumba, a dance exercise program that also includes squats and lunges, Ali said.” (Yeah, I can just picture that in these Somali get-ups)