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Meet Zainab Jah of SisterLove in West End

Today we’d like to introduce you to Zainab Jah.

Zainab, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
I have always dreamed about helping others, specifically focusing on health. I had this fixed vision that I wanted to be a medical doctor for a long time. After focusing on psychology in undergrad and pursuing my Masters in Public Health, I realized that my true passion was rooted in mental health, specifically mental health in African American communities. After a long discussion with an adviser where I expressed my frustration in not understanding where my place in the public health field was, considering that I am not a social worker or a therapist, she provided advice that led me directly to the work I am doing today.

She stated that there is not a lot of resources for community mental health, and I needed to bring my knowledge in spaces where mental health was evident but not the primary focus. It was around this time that I was brought on to the SisterLove team. I am now the Research Project Director, where I manage projects around reproductive justice. I am fortunate enough that in my position I am able to bring in my passion of mental health and work on creating resources for our communities. Especially because there is so much emphasis on treatment for people living with HIV, however, it is crucial to recognize that their mental health matters too.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
There have been some obstacles getting to where I am today. Prior to entering my position now, I did not understand how my passion fit into the current roles and jobs in the mental health field. There were a lot of jobs that were centered around direct services and intervention, whereas my interest was in prevention on the community level. Navigating through a field where I did not feel like I could mold my own position was challenging.

We’d love to hear more about your organization.
I am the Research Project Director at SisterLove, where I manage the day to day operations of our current research project. SisterLove is a unique organization in that it works at the intersection of HIV and Reproductive Justice. It is also an organization run by Black women for Black Women. We have different programs such as our Health Education and Prevention Program which offers a number of services such as free HIV, STI, and pregnancy testing, along with support groups and educational workshops.

Our Policy and Advocacy Program seeks to engage youth along with creating campaigns to fight for our sexual and reproductive rights. I work in the Community Based Research Program, where I am the Research Project Director. I manage the day to day operations of our current project: Georgia Access to Medication Abortion. I feel so fortunate to work for an organization that is aiming to assist and uplift our communities. We strive to allow those folks to have a voice and to empower them to make a difference and impact on their own lives.

Is there a characteristic or quality that you feel is essential to success?
I believe my persistence in finding a place where I can make the most impact has definitely helped me to achieve some of my goals. Rather than settling or compromising my goals, I became creative and had to start thinking non-conventionally.

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