A new commission on women and girls has passed in the city of Dearborn Heights – the first of its kind in the state of Michigan— and it’s largely due to the work of 23-year-old pre-law student, Dana Mohammad. The young activist’s eight months of research and advocacy were met with overwhelming support from the community and have paved a way for tackling women’s issues in the diverse city of Detroit. The groundbreaking commission will work to provide health seminars, support groups, and educate the wider community on a host of controversial issues that affect women. Hour Detroit spoke with Mohammad about the goals of the commission and struggles faced by women in Dearborn Heights. The below conversation has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Hour Detroit: How did you come up with the idea to create this commission?
Dana Mohammad: My work in the sexual assault task force unit with the county was coming to an end and I realized that I didn’t want to stop doing things for women and other marginalized communities. As I was scrolling through the Dearborn Heights city website, I was looking for ways to get involved, I found that though there were different commissions, there wasn’t one for women and girls — Dearborn Heights is really lacking in activism surrounding women’s rights and equity. I figured I need to start where I live. I need to make a difference to my neighbors, my family, myself, and the kids that go to the school across my street. With the help of Councilwoman Lisa Hicks-Clayton, we reached out to commissions in other states, came up with the commission’s purpose, met with the city attorney and the mayor, and drafted the final version of the ordinance, which was just passed. This is my passion.
What are some of the goals and initiatives of this commission?
The projects will range from business, health, education, and sexual awareness. We plan to have pregnancy support groups and have doctors give seminars on healthy eating habits, provide free pamphlets, information on where to get tested for STDs, and where insurance is accepted. Another initiative we’re working on is having workshops and fairs for female business owners and female entrepreneurs so they can build connections, learn new skills, and open small businesses to contribute to the economy. We also had an information session earlier in the year to gauge community interests. And I’m not exaggerating when I say that I have a box full of sticky notes from that first meeting of ideas from community members for events, workshops, campaigns, and things that they’d love to see. We also arranged for young adults to talk about bullying from fellow girls and suggested ways to combat that, including creating a sisterhood mentorship program so that the girls can find ways to succeed together.
What are some struggles faced by Dearborn Heights women?
There are so many issues women here, and women everywhere face. But we have a large population of working class, low-income families, and households that are headed by single women. And there’s definitely an intersection between gender and poverty. I want to do the best that I can do to make these women’s lives a little bit easier by providing whatever services they need. So, we’re going to be doing assessments throughout the month to make sure what we’re doing is actually helping people.
Do you think topics like sexual assault, rape, and women’s health are taboo in the community?
Oh, 100 percent. I have yet to learn that schools in Dearborn Heights are doing anything specifically tailored towards preventing assault or having proper sex education. However, a lot of the preventative work and education on consent and safe sex needs to start in the schools. Having the city commission, working with local school boards, and other local officials, can spearhead an initiative like that. Since a majority of our constituents here in Dearborn Heights are older, when younger people start taking leadership roles and start getting more involved in their community, the culture of our city will become more amenable to these controversial issues. Statistics show that one of four women will be sexually assaulted in their lives so it’s an issue in every single community, whether it’s in the spotlight or not.