Art workshop explores Somali women's neonatal experiences

Posted on October 25, 2022

Artist Hafza Yusuf on the right, stood with a fellow community member stood in front of her artwork

Bliss took part in a workshop in collaboration with UCL to find out about women from the Somali community's experiences of neonatal care.

Tower Hamlets-based Somali textile artist Hafza Yusuf facilitated an art workshop, hosted with Safia Jama MBE, Chief Executive of Women’s Inclusive Team, to bring together researchers from University College London, Bliss and women from the local Somali community. Many of the women who attended had experienced operative birth and/or neonatal care.

The workshop created a place for Somali women to talk about their views on new technologies that can support antenatal care.

They also shared their own experiences of operative birth and neonatal care, while creating art inspired by traditional Somali textiles.

Key themes that arose were advocacy, culture, faith, loss and trust within the care system. Ultimately we learned that the community's experience of care, for the most part, wasn't adequate. Overall they need better translation services, mental health support during and after care, sibling and family support, and crucially, inclusion in their babies' care.

Many of the women felt unable to advocate for their babies and some of them began to seek private healthcare.

Artwork 2 with descript

Peter Bradley, Director of Services at Bliss, said, "We are thrilled to have been involved in this workshop with UCL, Hafza and the Women's Inclusive Team, and are very grateful to the women from the Somali community for talking about their experience and sharing their stories with us.

"Hearing about their experiences of care will help us to shape our work around the many different needs of families, and tackle the barriers such as those around language and communication.

"Ultimately it has emphasised again that changes are needed to make sure all families are heard, supported, informed and confident - that they are able to be at the centre of their baby's care on the neonatal unit.

"At Bliss, we are committed to supporting all neonatal families and providing inclusive information and support, with a focus on parents facing health inequalities. We will continue to strive to develop new services and improve existing services so we can support every family that has a neonatal journey."

Since the workshop, Bliss, The Institute for Women's Health and the Women's Inclusive Team have organised to meet with the Neonatal Care Coordinators to discuss learnings from the workshop to inform their practices and create change within neonatal services.

Umal, an attendee, kindly shared her story with Bliss. She gave birth to three children prematurely and details how her faith and family continue to guide her through difficult times.

Artwork 1

Using the art created by attendees and inspired by the stories shared at the workshop, Hafza created six A2 digital fabric prints. The colours are vibrant, capturing the strength and resilience of the women involved.

The artwork is being displayed at an exhibition named 'In Theatre' until 6 November 2022 at 28 Brick Lane, London, E1 6RF, and is free to enter. It is an immersive pop-up installation exploring how AI and robotics will revolutionise surgery now and in the future.

In honour of Somali week, 23 October - 30 October 2022, the exhibition will display Hafza's artwork.

Exhbition 2