Looking back and looking ahead…

January 3, 2014 News Staff Corner 0

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2013 has been a very productive year for Monsoon United Asian Women of Iowa (Monsoon) and its sister program Nisaa African Women’s Project (Nisaa). We provided direct services to 70 survivors of domestic violence and sexual violence from the Asian Pacific Islanders and African communities in Iowa. Monsoon and Nisaa advocates provided civil legal advocacy, court accompaniment, civil legal assistance, counseling services, criminal justice advocacy, crisis intervention, employment counseling, financial counseling, medical advocacy/response, language services, material assistance, transportation, victim/survivor advocacy, and systems advocacy. They have worked more than 2,000 hours of direct services – working more than their schedule hours. The majority of the survivors assisted has limited English proficiency; are immigrants/refugees/asylum seekers; and female. Three males have been assisted in 2013. Our direct services program is supported by funding from the Iowa Attorney General’s Office Crime Victim Assistance Division and the Department of Justice Office on Violence Against Women (OVW). Monsoon has successfully continued funding from the state. Monsoon’s OVW funding ended on September 2013. Monsoon received $153,632 from the state funding for July 2012 to June 2013. OVW funded Monsoon’s work for FY 2012 to FY 2013 for $300,000. For FY2014, Monsoon is receiving $124,944 for domestic abuse funding and $124,945 for sexual abuse funding. Monsoon was also successful in receiving $21,000 for its Sexual Violence Prevention Program from the Iowa Coalition Against Sexual Assault. Monsoon currently have three full-time staff, three part-time staff, and three youth interns.

For community outreach, Monsoon and Nisaa jointly organized a well-attended International Women’s Day on March 2013. Monsoon’s youth interns organized monthly Open Mic from January 2013 to June 2013. A summer Filipino History and Language class was organized in collaboration with two Filipino organizations – National Federation of Filipino American Associations Iowa Chapter (NAFFAA) and United Filipino American in Iowa (UFAI). Continuing the spirit of collaboration, Monsoon also collaborated with NAFFAA and UFAI in their “Gala Sa Septyembre” fundraising event. In addition to community events, Monsoon staff presented in local and national summits and conferences. For example, Monsoon presented at the 2013 National Sexual Assault Conference highlighting our work sexual assault work. Monsoon’s Iowa City staff has been highly innovative reaching out to the community in Iowa City area. They have implemented Yoni Chat – a support group for young API females. They also partnered with the Iowa Youth Writing Project for a coloring book project. The youth program was also revamped in the fall 2013. We hired a part-time staff to coordinate the youth programming and hired two new youth interns. The youth program staff has been busy revamping Monsoon’s API Youth Council. Monthly events for the youth have been organized by the staff and the council members.

2013 was also time to lift our sisters’ work.

Monsoon is not only the fiscal sponsor of Nisaa African Women’s Program but have been providing assistance in creating/improving its direct services and community outreach efforts. Monsoon wrote the grant application for Nisaa to obtain its initial funding from the state of Iowa for $28,893 for FY2013 and was successful again in obtaining funding from the state for FY2014 for $88,752. Monsoon will continue supporting and helping in the growth of much needed services provided by Nisaa staff.

The National Organization of Asian Pacific Islander Ending Sexual Violence (NAPIESV) is another program under Monsoon. NAPIESV is a national organization established by Asian and Pacific Islander anti-sexual assault advocates developing a cross-movement analysis, as well as working to build relationships and partnerships to address sexual violence in API communities. NAPIESV believes that to effectively build a movement to end sexual violence within API communities, we must include an extensive range of API communities and voices that can speak to those connections, oppressions and social conditions. The partnership between NAPIESV and Monsoon is crucial in the growth of NAPIESV.  NAPIESV believes that technical assistance should be “deeply informed by what’s on the ground.” Monsoon was successful in obtaining $250,000 OVW funding for NAPIESV’s National Community Assessment Project for October 2011 to September 2013. And this year October 2013 to September 2014, Monsoon was again successful in obtaining OVW funding for $225,000 for NAPIESV Sexual Violence Curriculum Project.

And finally, Monsoon is also acting as the fiscal sponsor for Balik Sa Dagat Bangka Journey (Back to the Sea Canoe Journey) – an Oakland, CA-based organization. Balik Sa Dagat Bangka Journey is a community-building project with a vision of empowerment through cross-cultural collaboration by helping build a Pilipino bangka (outrigger canoe), creating watercraft experiences for urban families, and revitalizing ancient seafaring traditions on the West Coast. The organization’s goal is to create a space where the community would be able to safely experience healing from violence, including sexual violence.

Monsoon moved to a new space last May 2013. We are now located at 4952 and 4934 Franklin Avenue. At our 4934 space, we have a weekend store – Malaika.  Malaika is our initial effort in moving away from government funding to sustain our work. We are open from 10am to 2pm on Saturday and Sunday. Please support our effort!

So, what is ahead for Monsoon?

We will continue to strengthen our direct services and community building efforts by learning from our past mistakes and building from our strength!

We recently hired a staff for our outreach efforts to API males and to begin our community accountability project. We are in the planning stage of implementing community accountability/transformative justice project using methods from the “Creative Interventions Toolkit.”

We are starting a support group for survivors of sexual violence in February 2014 called “Interweaving Stories: My Stories, Our Stories.” The group of 3-4 survivors will meet for 3 months. Monsoon will use storytelling, weaving, canoe building, and movement as methods for individual trauma healing and community healing. To continue trauma informed services, our Iowa City staff continues Yoni Chat.

We are partnering with the Iowa Youth Writing Project for our Words in Action Program for youth living in Des Moines. Iowa Youth Writing Project is a collective of like-minded individuals that aims to join Iowa City’s unique literary heritage with its community, fostering creativity and writing among the children of Iowa City and surrounding communities. It provides writing, tutoring, and publishing opportunities to Iowa’s school-aged children and teens. Words in Action is a monthly event for youths who are interested in building communities through art, poetry, spoken word, theatre, and other exciting activities led by the Iowa Youth Writing Project. The first event is scheduled on February 1st, 2014 from 11am to 1pm.

In addition to the Words in Action Program, Monsoon is partnering with AF3IRM. The Association of Filipinas, Feminists Fighting Imperialism, Re-feudalization, and Marginalization (AF3IRM), is a national organization of women engaged in transnational feminist, anti-imperialist activism. AF3IRM is committed to militant movement-building from the United States and effects change through grassroots organizing, trans-ethnic alliance building education, advocacy and direct action. AF3IRM has chapters in Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego, Boston, Seattle, and New York. AF3IRM will lead Monsoon’s Summer School for Youth Activism. Watch out for more information!

Monsoon is assisting in creating a space for people of color who identify as LGBTQ*. POCQAT (People of Color Queer Allies and Trans) is a newly established organization supported by Monsoon.

And watch out for our Iowa City “Inside Out” Project!

We have a very exciting 2014 and we hope that you will continue your support by donating cash, volunteering your time, visiting our weekend store and/or attending and promoting our events. And most importantly, join us in the movement to end gender-based violence.



Mira Yusef,
Executive Director


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