What We Do
The Sheeko Sheeko Project
The Sheeko Sheeko Project is part of the NFF Immigrant and Refugee campaign, funded by the Ontario Women’s Directorate. In essence, the project is a campaign to promote positive change through education, with the aim of ending violence against women and their children within the Somali-Canadian community in Toronto, Hamilton and Kitchener. The work of the project centers on raising awareness about abuse in families and its impact on the individual and the community at large.
Our key mission throughout this project is to share knowledge so that members of the Somali community will have:
- Increased awareness of the warning signs and risk factors for abuse against women
- Increased knowledge about available resources for abuse against women
- Increased confidence to offer support to others and make referrals
We also work to provide women in the Somali community with a safe space in which to share their stories and support other women. The model we use to exchange dialogue is the peacemaking circle model, which promotes equality, support and friendship, care, compassion and understanding. The circle is also a confidential and nonjudgmental environment, upholding universal values such as empathy, unity, respect, validation, honest, active listening, support, etc.
Sheeko Sheeko – an interesting name, but where does it come from?
The word sheeko in Somali means story. When family or community elders say to family and friends “sheeko sheeko”, it signals that everyone present should gather in a half circle the front of story teller. The story teller opens by repeating the phrase “sheeko sheeko” (meaning sit still, I have story to share with you) and the audience replies “sheeko hariir” (meaning narrator, you have our full attention; please tell us a story that is smooth as silk, full of wisdom and imagination).
Traditionally, Somali women socialize with friends and neighbors every afternoon to share sheeko iyo shah (stories and tea with delicate sweets). The stories they share mostly have a moral lesson but can relate to any number of topics - whether for entertainment or sharing knowledge, or updates of the day’s events, or discussions regarding serious and important issues in their community. Somali men usually gather in the evening and share sheeko fill with poetry, proverbs and politics.
Historically Somalis are known for their astonishing complexity and volume of oral literature and unique narrating style. Somali history was also passed down orally for a long time, and still is. Traditionally, Somalis still prefer to communicate through word of mouth – by telling stories about the issues that matter to them, memorizing the wisdom and the moral of the story by heart to be preserved and passed to the next generation.
The reason we named our project Sheeko Sheeko is exactly because of the cultural significance story telling has held in Somali tradition. Furthermore, each and every one of us has a story to tell and wisdom to share, and the ability to make a difference within themselves and their surrounding environment.