Thul and LaVoi (2011) conducted a study in 2008, titled "Reducing Physical Inactivity and Promoting Active Living: From the Voices of East African Immigrant Adolescent Girls," to learn about barriers facing this underserved population. The purpose of the study was to explore East African (n= 12 Somali, and n= 7 Ethiopian) adolescent females' experiences with and beliefs about physical activity, and their suggestions for promoting active living. Based on the data, the girls faced barriers on multiple levels which impeded their physical activity participation. To overcome barriers the girls suggested a culturally relevant, female-only physical activity program be developed. Based on the girls' wishes, in 2008 the Girls Initiative in Recreation and Leisurely Sports (G.I.R.L.S.) program was created for primarily East African adolescent and young adult females, and implemented in a gym at the Brian Coyle Center in the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood of Minneapolis, Minnesota. Thul--a participant-volunteer-consultant to the program--noticed the gym and other physical activity spaces in the neighborhood appeared to be contested spaces wherein "real and symbolic boundaries have been drawn to limit access" (Cooky, 2009, p. 260) for the participants. Specifically, Thul observed several physical activity spaces and the female participants who used them were affected by the intersection of gender, race, ethnicity, class, religion, and cultural markers of identity. Thul, in conjunction with G.I.R.L.S. program leaders, decided conducting a spatial needs assessment and extending Thul and LaVoi's (2011) study by listening to girls' voices was imperative for understanding their experiences with, and perceptions of, the identity markers and physical activity space, as well as the impact such experiences have on future physical activity programming. Thus, the purpose of this dissertation study was two-fold: 1) to employ Henri Lefebvre's (1991) Conceptual Model of Social Space and aspects of a feminist participatory action research (FPAR) approach to explore Somali adolescent girls' experiences with, and perceptions of, the intersection of gender, race, ethnicity, class, religion, and culture in perceived, conceived, and lived physical activity spaces in the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood, and 2) to understand the implications of the Lefebvre's model for locating and implementing future physical activity programming. Data collection included mixed methods--a quantitative participatory mapping activity (n = 30) to assess perceived space, and focus groups (n= 27) to explore the intersection of the identity constructs within conceived and lived spaces. Numerical trending of the participatory maps, and deductive and inductive content analysis of the focus groups, revealed many complex findings. The overarching finding was that physical activity spaces for Somali females are contested terrain. Perceived space mapping trends indicated males had more access to physical activity spaces than females, indoor physical activity spaces were perceived as more relevant than outdoor ones, and females have low accessibility to physical spaces. Participants' perceived space definitions and behaviors of physical activity revealed a wide ranging definition and performances of physical activity. Conceived space themes suggested an intersection of identity markers influenced a variety of gender ideologies and expectations of females, social constructions of femininity, cultural and religious beliefs and tensions, and ethnic Somali cultural norms. Together the perceived space, conceived space, and identity markers impacted an array of lived space perceptions and experiences regarding a lack of freedom, gender spatial inequality, surveillance tensions, familiarity tensions, inclusivity tensions, accessibility, and strategies for change. These findings indicate future physical activity programming should maintain its inclusivity of all females regardless of race, ethnicity, religion, and culture, as well as take place in accessible, high-quality, private community locations. The findings also support the need to incorporate a wide variety of physical activities and occasionally new venues, ensure trusted, adult-female surveillance, and maintain accessibility. Above all, however, the findings suggest multi-systemic efforts must be undertaken to achieve spatial equality for physical activity among Somali adolescent girls.
University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. October 2012. Major: Kinesiology. Advisors: Dr. Nicole M. LaVoi, Dr. Diane M. Wiese-Bjornstal. 1 computer file (PDF); x, 305 pages, appendices A-Y.
Thul, Chelsey Marie.
Exploring intersectionality in physical activity spaces among Somali adolescent girls: implications for programming.
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