In 2010, three women in Finsbury Park began offering a support service for Somali women from their living room, called One True Voice. They provided confidential space for women to talk about their lives and get advice from friends. The organisation has continued to grow and co-ordinator Ninna Ismail spoke to us about the fantastic work they are doing.
“We started One True Voice because whilst there are over 48 Somali organisations in Islington, none are just for women”, says Ninna. “We wanted to create a safe haven for women where they could come to us in 100% confidence and trust us to let us know what they’re going through.”
The group moved to the Finsbury Park Community Hub on the Andover Estate in 2011, where they are currently based. They run drop in sessions at the hub from Monday-Wednesday, as well as coffee mornings, sewing classes, and organise a range of social events.
“I volunteer here on my days off from work,” says Ninna. “We rely completely on volunteers, they keep us going. Sometimes we hold events with up to 300 women and children which we can only do because of our volunteers.”
The organisation has been growing steadily and they now have a funded admin assistant three days a week. Women are welcome to drop by the centre to receive support and advice from Ninna and the team.
“The biggest things we deal with are to do with housing, welfare and employment. Some women that come to us have never been to school, but now they need to find jobs. So a lot of the work we do is finding care work for women. We help them with their homework if they start studying towards a qualification. There might be cases when a client needs more specialist help and then we’ll signpost them to the appropriate organisation, for example issues around immigration.
“We’re part of the Finsbury Park women’s forum, which is a great network to be a part of. Each year one of the members runs the forum and this year it’s us. We recently organised a huge event for International Women’s Day with all forum members. We hired out Andover Hall and everyone came. There’s a great sense of community cohesion here, between the Turkish, Iranian, Middle Eastern and Ethiopian communities nearby.”
Whilst 70% of their clients are from Islington, they also support women in the neighbouring boroughs of Haringey, Camden and Hackney. One True Voice provides one of the largest local networks for Somali women and building a strong level of trust is integral to their success.
“I enjoy giving back and spending my time with women, I really like to help them,” explains Ninna. “Every individual has a unique way of communicating and I’m lucky to be helping them. We have a connection that brings us together, which you need to make you feel safe. Most women can come here, take off their scarf and relax. I’m humble to be here.”
Find out more about One True Voice and get in touch.
Their drop in sessions run 10am-3pm, Monday-Wednesday, at Finsbury Park Community Hub, Corker Walk, N7 7RJ.