Somali Families in Norway: : A Critical Review of The Changing Socio-structural Situation and it's Consequence for the Family
Gabowduale, Kassim Gabowduale
An increasing number of Somali families have been flashed out of their homes and forced to migrate as a result of the ongoing conflict in Somalia. With the outbreak of the civil war in Somalia in the late eighties and early nineties, a large exodus of refugees fled the country. There are almost twenty three thousand Somalis living in Norway today; the majority of them settled in and around Oslo according to Statistics Norway (Henriksen 2008). Upon arrival, Somalis, still suffering from the trauma of war and uprooting, face the challenges of adapting to life in the modern Norwegian society. Adaptation implies bridging the cultural differences between Somalia and Norway, while at the same time trying to keep their cultural practices as Somalis.
This study, using qualitative methods of focus group discussions and interviews explores the changing socio-structural situation of Somali families living in exile in Norway. The research questions focus on the challenges Somali families face as they reestablish themselves as families in Norway and the impact of the changing cultural referents of these families.
It is shown that as refugees who fled a devastating war, Somali refugees are extensively affected by the trauma caused by their experiences from the civil war in Somalia. Somalis in Norway have some or all their families in Somalia or in refugee camps in Kenya or/and Ethiopia. This refugee facilities lack basic service like food, clean water and personal sanitations.
This study also revealed that after resettlements, Somali families are faced with the difficulties of culturally adapting to their new home country. Somali culture is very different from the Norwegian and this caused a great deal of acculturation problems. In addition to this, they have to learn a new language and adapt to a climatic condition that many are very unfamiliar with. The combination of pre-migration problems and post migration living difficulties makes their adaptation in Norway difficult.
The increasing abuse of khat by Somali men was also another finding of the study, that can be understand as the consequence for the growing social-psychological stress on the family. Many of the female respondents and some of the male respondents were worried about the impact of chewing khat for the family. Khat has negative socio-economic and health consequences for Somali families in the Diaspora. Many felt that khat is a major cause of
domestic conflict, because of its effect on the family economy and the time wasted that was meant for doing other family business.
The outbreak of the civil war in Somalia caused a large exodus of refugees to flee to different parts of the world. Families try to stay in touch and help each other with the little they can spare. Many families in the Diaspora send some of their income to family members in need in Somalia or in refugee camps in Africa. This research finds that despite the importance of remittances on the livelihood of many Somalis, it has caused some tension among family members because of the limited resources of the Somalis in the Diaspora in Norway.
Somali families have lived most of their lives in the context of gender segregated families where men and women were allocated different roles. This study finds that coming to exile has challenged the conventional ways of family relations. The growing economic independence of Somali women and the loss of the network of relations the family had, exacerbated a gender role reversal where Somali men suddenly had to assume roles that were traditionally assigned to women. These roles reversals have caused conflicts between spouses because Somali men feel that their authority is been challenged.
One other finding of the study is the challenge associated with new parenting styles the family had to adapt to. Somali children through the school and through contact with their peers from the larger society have challenged the Somali way of parenting. Somali parents feel that their children are losing their cultural values and traditions. They also felt that their authority as parents is diminishing and that they are losing control over their children.