By Noa Mohlabane
Our vision: We are a diverse network of women willing to risk
being different with one another, our families, communities, workplaces
and organizations. We are committed to a process that builds personal
and community well-being on the strength of self-knowledge rather than
the distress of oppression. Because we believe that enduring progressive
change begins with, and is sustained by, persistent personal growth,
we bring to people a model for personal and organizational effectiveness
that replaces silence with information, assumptions with a diversity
of insights, and powerlessness with a sense of personal responsibility.
Making our vision a reality: We develop community leadership
and personal growth through a network of peer-led support groups. Our
peer support network is open to any woman or girl who wishes to use
the Sisters & Allies peer support
group model to create positive change in her life and for her community.
We hold monthly support group development meetings, weekend retreats
and facilitator trainings as well as peer support training in collaboration
with other community-based agencies.
Who we are: We have always had a directed focus on the full
participation of low income women and girls. We are a diverse network
that recognizes the value of working across the historical barriers
of age, race, class, etc. For example, over 50% of participants at our
most recent weekend retreat were women of color and 45% were low income;
ages ranged from 7 to 87. Women who live in battered women's shelters
and public housing are in peer support groups with staff of community-based
organizations and women of wealth. Mentorship relationships emerge naturally
out of these relationships in all directions. Sisters & Allies has been
a grassroots, volunteer organization for the last 13 years.
our vision grew: This work began in 1983 by and for African American
women and girls addressing issues that impacted health and well-being.
In 1988 the training opened to include all women and girls committed
to developing themselves, strengthening their families, and building
their communities. Our parent organization, Be Present, Inc., also provides
leadership training for effectiveness and inclusiveness in organizational
and community efforts.
Meaningful Collaboration: We provide training in peer support
group development to community-based organization staff and participants
in local small business development, training and welfare-to-work programs.
Our most recently completed training contract consisted of twenty-five
residents from Oakland Housing Authority and Enterprise Community/Empowerment
Zones (ECEZ) who spoke five different languages. (We did the entire
training with simultaneous translation).
impact of our vision: Our peer-support method breaks isolation,
identifies goals, overcomes obstacles, provides mutual support, develops
leadership, increases self-esteem and confidence, increases English
fluency for immigrants, encourages nurturing childcare, supports entrepreneurs
and inspires hope - components that are particularly essential for women
who are making the transition to employment and self-employment.
© 2000 by Individual Authors