Women Diversity

Black and Brown Womyn Power Coalition fights against sexual assault and gender-based violence

Stephanie Janssen, video by Joel Pearish |

Pa Thao
Pa Thao

The Black and Brown Womyn Power Coalition was co-founded by community organizer and previous director of the Hmong Mutual Assistance Association, Pa Thao, who saw that the training the advocates she worked with were being sent to was not as relevant or culturally specific as it needed to be. Culturally specific and bilingual advocates needed a training institute for them that used the advocates already on the ground as experts. 

The mission of the organization, according to its website, is to “build the capacities of Black and Brown advocates and their communities to end violence against womyn, queer and trans folx, and young people.”

“We dreamed of having some sort of training institute to really use the folks that already do the work on the ground to come back and train our new advocates so they know how to do the work using best practices,” Thao said. “It’s also why we turned into a coalition, is to allow us to be able to support our advocates who are working in our communities and against gender-based violence.” 

The coalition recognizes many struggles Hmong women face in the area. Language barriers make it difficult for Hmong women to access mainstream services. There are also various cultural barriers such as the context behind why a woman is leaving her husband or abuser. 

“Culture can be a barrier too, because things like domestic violence and sexual assault, are not talked about in Hmong communities and are often shoved under the rug,” Thao said. “Many Hmong women are told to have a patient heart or be patient. Hmong women who try to seek legal help through the courts or through the police as a last resort. We always go through the Hmong clan system before we seek outside help.”

One service that the Black and Brown Womyn Power Coalition provides is the Wisconsin Family Strengthening Helpline, which provides support to victims and survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault. This helpline operates 24/7 in Hmong and English so that anyone can call to get access to local services or over-the-phone peer counseling. The Helpline can connect the caller to local agencies in their area. Operators always try to make a warm connection with each call they refer out knowing that language can be a barrier.  

The Coalition also manages the Wisconsin Womyn’s Training Institute. This program provides culturally specific and relevant training – sensitive to LGBTQ and Hmong realities, for example – for new advocates to build their capacities to help others. This institute also greatly supports advocates in the sexual assault field who are often shamed for the work they do. 

“Through the Helpline, we technical assistance on whatever issues advocates having problems with,” Thao said. “Some advocates who come on board might not have the necessary skills to navigate through the different systems that they need to with their client.” 

Pa Thao recognizes that there are a lot more young folks who are getting involved in activism work and are more aware of social injustice than when she was young. 

“ Our young people nowadays are really active, they are really socially aware, they’re woke,” Thao said. “When I was in college, and when I was in high school, I didn’t even know what social activism was. I will always have an appreciation for young people in intentionally making spaces for them. With our training we specify with young advocates to respect those came before you and to make space for those who come after you. In this way we are honoring advocates who paved the way and welcoming and building new advocates ” 

The Black and Brown Womyn Power Coalition plans to provide some community awareness on the 2020 Census as well as working to get out the vote in the Asian American community for the upcoming elections in the Eau Claire area.

For more information on the BBWP Coalition visit bbwpcoalition.org