University of Minnesota

East-African Girls + Physical Activity Research

A fashion show featuring culturally appropriate active wear designed in collaboration with the College of Design and the girls in the Girl's Initiative in Recreation and Leisurely Sports (G.I.R.L.S.) took place on June 10. Read event press here with more images here ...


About the work

This line of research began shortly after the release of the 2007 Tucker Center Research Report, Developing Physically Active Girls. The report indicated that diverse populations of girls were the least active of all youth, and little was known about the physical activity behaviors of racial-ethnic sub-populations of girls, such as East African girls. The report also called for more research from girls’ own perspectives to reverse the trend of physical inactivity disparity. The Twin Cities Metro Area (Minneapolis and St. Paul) is home to the largest Somali diaspora in the United States--one subgroup of East Africans living in the area—and little information was available regarding East African adolescent girls’ perspectives and experiences of physical activity. Using a Community Based Participatory Research (CBPR) approach, Dr. Chelsey Thul worked alongside the girls and community members to evaluate their needs and to create strategies for increasing physical activity participation. Based on the girls’ desire to be physically active, in 2008 Fatimah Hussein, a Somali-American Muslim woman, along with Thul’s involvement as a volunteer research consultant, established the Girls’ Initiative in Recreation and Leisurely Sports (G.I.R.L.S.) Program, a female-only culturally relevant physical activity program. The research has continued to develop and evolve over the years but the focus on listening to and working with the girls and their community has remained consistent.