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  • African Immigrants
  • Volume 13 | Winter 2009

from the chair

The Honorable Pamila Brown

Dear Colleagues,

I am truly excited to bring you this issue of our eNewsletter.  This issue addresses the unique issues that African women face as victims of domestic violence, both in Africa and as immigrants in the United States.  African immigrants are a chronically underserved population in U.S. domestic violence legal services.  There are very few outreach programs dedicated to serving the population, and there are cultural barriers that prevent African women from seeking assistance on their own.   We hope that this issue will encourage you to reach out to the African population, both at home and abroad.  We also hope that this issue will provide to you a perspective on how you can consider the specific cultural perspectives of the population you are serving to better your own practice. 

I am thrilled that three practitioners with extensive experience working with African populations have provided articles for this eNewsletter. 

In her article, “Understanding Cultural Perspectives on Domestic Violence in African Immigrant Communities,” Heidi Boas explores the cultural and legal barriers that prevent some African women from obtaining legal protection in both their home countries and as immigrants in the United States.  Ms. Boas, an Equal Justice Works Fellow at Catholic Charities Immigration Legal Services in DC, gives concrete suggestions on how American lawyers can better assist African survivors of domestic violence in a clear and actionable way.  

Then, Sheri Laigle, a therapist with years of experience working with African immigrant victims of violence, describes experiences of African immigrant women who use the U.S. justice system to escape victimization.  Laigle has delineated steps that African women take in the journey to independence using the stories of survivors in the African Women’s Empowerment Group at the Montgomery County (MD) Abused Persons Program.

Finally, we are fortunate to have Zainab Mwatawala, a Tanzanian attorney and currently an intern at the Commission, share her thoughts about domestic violence and the law in her home country.

As always, the Commission welcomes information from you regarding resources or promising practices on this critical area of domestic violence practice.  Our heartfelt thanks to all of you for your work on behalf of survivors.

The Honorable Pamila Brown
Chair, ABA Commission on Domestic Violence