Clelie Choute: Founder of Raw Uncut Woman fights systemic barriers impacting women

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By Clelie Choute:

Describe your organization and your role.

I am the founder of Raw Uncut Woman. Our organization is based in Detroit, MI in the heart of the city. My role is to facilitate focus groups and collaborate with other local non-profits to provide resources for women, such as peer support from women with similar backgrounds and lived experience.

With my first child, I experienced postpartum depression. I was aware of the risks but unaware how important treatment was at that time. In 2017, life took an unexpected turn as I was battling cancer, going through a divorce, and pregnant with my second child. Becoming a single mother hit me hard and the inevitable returned.  After nearly experiencing postpartum psychosis, my life changed with job loss, incarceration, and health problems.

I was able to take back control of my life because of the support I received and sought out. These experiences are what led me to create Raw Uncut Woman and make it my mission to bring awareness that perinatal and postnatal depression should not define who you are but instead help to shape a woman’s experience so you can and will be stronger.

Describe the most pressing challenge in your community that your organization is addressing, particularly for the Black community.

One of the biggest challenges my community in Detroit faces right now is addressing mental health and recognizing when treatment is needed. Our first responders such as police officers and fire fighters are not equipped with the correct training on how to handle a crisis related to mental health. As a result, there is an increase in incarcerations and the number of families being torn apart. Our organization assisted a young woman who was a single mother of three children facing the permanent removal of her children because of living conditions out of her control.

With our referrals, we were able to get this young woman the proper (legal) representation in family court. Ranging from negotiating terms related to employment requirements to adequate self-sufficiency, she successfully completed what was required of her, and her children were reunited with her. Instances like this case are what inspires us to advocate for the women in our community.

Describe three of your proudest achievements for your organization and for you?

Three of my proudest achievements for Raw Uncut Woman are first, being featured in an article about postpartum depression in Women’s Health magazine. The story highlighted my experience and the triumphs. It was a great opportunity for me to share my journey with other women and highlight my passion to help those women who’ve had the same difficult experience.  

Another accomplishment was achieving my goal of curating and hosting 10 successful focus groups for young women on what we call “common grounds.”  And last, but certainly not least, is having an opportunity to be a part of the CLASP Mental Health Advisory Board as a member providing lived experience and subject matter expertise. Collaborating with locally and nationally renowned individuals has helped me to apply the extensive insights of the board toward improving my organization’s practices and helping me to recognize how influential women’s voices can and WILL be.

Why is this work so important in your community?

The work we are doing is significant because our city is thriving daily with young successful women who still face childhood or relationship trauma. In our community, it’s rare to find families who will speak openly about mental health. Trauma that goes untreated or unrecognized has a trickle-down effect on the next generation and starts a vicious cycle that sets our community back in all aspects.  It creates more prisons, less reunifications with families and, most of all, generational trauma.

What is your vision for your community and your work?

My aspirations for my community are to gain a higher level of awareness about the lack of access to resources in our city. I envision using my own lived experience, along with others’ experiences to highlight the triumphs we were all able to achieve and the obstacles we were able to overcome. Not only will our success stories serve as motivation, our hope and desire is that our journey of triumph will also inspire those who have lost their way or do not have adequate support from their local government.