Op-ed: Thank you, Utah leaders, for standing up for refugee women

[et_pb_section fullwidth="on" specialty="off" admin_label="Section"][et_pb_fullwidth_image admin_label="Fullwidth Image" src="" alt="Thank you for supporting refugee women" title_text="Thank you for supporting refugee women" show_in_lightbox="off" url_new_window="off" use_overlay="off" animation="off" use_border_color="off" border_color="#ffffff" border_style="solid" /][/et_pb_section][et_pb_section admin_label="section"][et_pb_row admin_label="row" make_fullwidth="on" use_custom_width="off" width_unit="on" use_custom_gutter="off" padding_mobile="off" allow_player_pause="off" parallax="off" parallax_method="off" make_equal="off" column_padding_mobile="on"][et_pb_column type="4_4"][et_pb_text admin_label="Text" background_layout="light" text_orientation="left" use_border_color="off" border_color="#ffffff" border_style="solid"]On behalf of the hundreds of women refugees served by Women of the World and on behalf of the immigrants, like me, from the Middle East, thank you Governor Herbert, Salt Lake County Mayor McAdams, and Salt Lake City Mayor Biskupski for your courageous stance on behalf of our new neighbors.Our ladies have taken refuge in Salt Lake City. They have placed themselves and their families at your mercy. The path from war, through refugee camps, to unfamiliar lands has been fraught with unimaginable suffering. As they stumble onto our shores, their only hope is that the immorality and victimization ends.The Utah Compact, signed with bipartisan support in 2010, "supports families as the foundation of successful communities and opposes policies that unnecessarily separate families." The refugees and immigrants detained in airports around the country are separated from their families. Those that chose sides and supported American troops as translators overseas now face deportation into enemy hands.The Executive Action taken by the Federal Government is morally bankrupt. Refugees will continue to drown, starve, and be murdered at the newly locked gates. Furthermore, this Executive Action fails all logical arguments to combat the threats of radical Islamic terrorism, indeed, it weakens our soft-power in the battle for ideas.Yet as Utahns we stand united. Wallace Stegner, a graduate of the University of Utah and the foremost historian of The Mormon Trail in his book "The Gathering of Zion" once penned "The West is less a place than a process. The Westerner is less a person than a continuing adaptation." Nowhere is this more true than in the caring community that we have formed: where potlucks offer both funeral potatoes and tabouli; where the beauty of nature is appreciated by sportsmen, climbers, and hikers of all creeds; and where neighbors shovel snow from the walks of those working swing shifts.The values of our humanity are not defined by the pen or proclamations of our leaders but in our generosity and neighborliness. Utahns recognize wrong when they see it. We are not different, our experiences change us, and help us to understand others and ourselves. Love and compassion will always triumph over the darkness of hate.Thank you once again to our state, county, and city leadership for your moral authority and to you -- our neighbors -- for the drawing us together in a community of care. We encourage you to continue your collaboration with other state, county, and state executives to oppose the Federal Muslim Samira HarnishFounder and Executive Director of Women of the WorldOriginally published by The Salt Lake Tribune Opinion Page[/et_pb_text][/et_pb_column][/et_pb_row][/et_pb_section]

KBYU Community Connections Invites WoW Founder to Discuss Refugee Celebration

[et_pb_section admin_label="section"][et_pb_row admin_label="row"][et_pb_column type="4_4"][et_pb_text admin_label="Text"]In the coming weeks, Women of the World will be featured on KBYU's (Channel 11 locally) Community Connections program. Founder and Executive Director, Samira Harnish, speaks about the needs of the female refugee population, the programs and successes of Women of the World, and the upcoming event entitled the 6th Annual Celebration of Refugee Women's Success. Below is KBYU's YouTube Channel interview with Samira Harnish.Women of the World is proud of both our ladies and of our community. It is the mark of a strong community that can see the humanity in helping those that have struggled against violence, genocide, oppression, and poverty to achieve success and a voice in our society. Our ladies and our community leaders have been courageous, innovative, and mindful of one another's unique skills and opportunities... in our Annual Celebration we recognize this mutual loving-kindness.Our Annual Celebration of Refugee Success presents the refugee women that have had success in rearing their families, securing gainful employment, starting their education, or starting a business to their peers as a potentiality, as a light of hope. This celebration recognizes the significant efforts of our volunteers to befriend and better both themselves and our ladies, rising to the challenge of becoming the better angels of our nature, the change we want to see in the world.Please join us on 3 December at 2pm at the Salt Lake County South Building Atrium (2100 S. State St. in Salt Lake City). There will be ethnic music and food after Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski presents the awards to our ladies and our volunteers and addresses our friends gathered. [/et_pb_text][/et_pb_column][/et_pb_row][/et_pb_section]

Fifth Annual Holiday Celebration of Refugee Success

Women of the World is excited to announce our Fifth Annual Celebration of Refugee Success WHEN: 12 December from 2 - 5 p.m. WHERE: The Atrium of the Salt Lake County South Building (2100 South State Street in Salt Lake City).Free to the public.  For more information call (801) 953 - 0008 or email as Women of the World's Founder, Samira Harnish, discusses this event with Mary Dickson on KUED's Contact that highlights non-profits across the state of Utah.  The show airs on 19 November but you can watch it on Contact's website at the link below.


As Samira mentioned in the interview, we are excited to have Salt Lake County's First Lady, Julie McAdams,  present the awards to the women thriving in our community.

Each year Women of the World celebrates the holiday season with a celebration of our ladies’ successes throughout the year.  We know that the stories and the certificates encourage the entire community to move forward, to see themselves in the successes of the women accepting certificates, and to strive to do more than survive in their resettlement community, but to thrive.This is the first year that a woman representing the entire community will present the certificates.  Salt Lake County’s First Lady Julie McAdams is a fierce advocate for progressive policies and for those living in Utah.  We are excited to have a successful woman in the prime of her career giving the certificates of appreciation to those in the beginning of their successful ventures.

Women of the Mountains Speech

Women of the World Founder and Executive Director, Samira Harnish, gave a Women of the Mountains Speech on the exploitation of refugee women at each stage of their journey to Utah: escaping from war and violence, refugee camps, and resettlement.

In addition to the devastating physical and mental trauma that occurs as a result of war and time in refugee camps, refugee women in Utah continue to face exploitation in their new lives in Utah.

Refugees are exploited as their children learn English before their parents and they and their friends take advantage of this role reversal, often joining gangs, having unwanted pregnancies, or getting into legal trouble.  Another source of exploitation involves the bureaucracy they face in navigating immigration or the social safety net.  Finally, poverty and those that would prey on the less fortunate can be ruinous on refugee women who do not know their rights and are afraid of being sent back to camps.

In order to continue to overcome the exploitation of refugee women, we must work hard at all times to protecting our ladies’ human rights, help them heal, and enable their self-reliance.

Women of the World would like to thank the Women of the Mountains Conference for inviting us to speak and explain the causes of exploitation and how our programs: Customized Service, Practical English, and Economic Empowerment are helping to overcome it. 

Inside the Story KUTV news visits Women of the World

Founder and President of Women of the World was featured this evening on the KUTV program "Inside the Story" with Dan Rascon -- The Iraqi Samaritan.  The interview is an upbeat look at the sacrifices that Women of the World makes for refugees and the impact that WoW makes -- "one hug at a time."Samira and our new refugee neighbors' story is compellingly told in the TV story and in the article on the KUTV website.  While Women of the World has recently had some great press, Samira Harnish remains focused on the mission, "the important thing is that our Utah neighbors understand the struggles of refugee women and their families."   Women of the World is excited to get back to what we do best, the service of refugee women in the programs that help them achieve "their human rights, self-reliance, a voice in the community, and economic empowerment."  We are working with over three hundred refugee women and their families and are grateful for all of the support that is developed by the increasing interest in our mission and the wonderful, courageous women that we serve. The Trailer Video on Facebook by Dan Rascon is also a very exciting lead-in to what Women of the World is and the efforts that a day in the life require in order to succeed in service.  If you are compelled by this story, please consider contributing your time or other resources to Women of the World.

Follow Your Passion Media features Women of the World

The 2015 Momentum Continues

Women of the World's media momentum continues into 2015 with Nkoyo Iyamba's piece on KSL entitled "Follow Your Passion" in which she highlights Utah citizens that have left careers to pursue something they are passionate about.  Nkoyo led off this series with Women of the World's Founder and President Samira Harnish's story which involves the choice of following her passion to serve and enable women refugees to a level of success like she enjoyed but retired from in her engineering career.  Samira has been successful in academia, in the high-tech industry as a Research & Development engineer, and now as the focal point for the support of refugee women and their families in Utah.The story got picked up by both KSL's website under the title of "Woman helps refugees thrive in Utah" and by Deseret News under the title "Follow your passion: Utahns change careers in pursuit of happiness."  Indeed while it has been difficult to serve with few resources and in a learning as you go mode, Samira has "never been happier or more fulfilled in her life."  The new neighbors that Women of the World supports, according to Samira, "are the real heroes and I appreciate every opportunity to highlight their amazing stories of perseverance and courage."Follow Your PassionWomen of the World is thrilled by the ongoing reporting that Nkoyo Iyamba is focusing on refugee women in Utah and the service women and men that Women of the World is employing to help them achieve their self-reliance.  Nkoyo's commitment to the advancement of all of Utah's diverse community is a service to journalism and to the small nonprofits, like Women of the World, that count on the spotlight that she can shine on our heartfelt activities.

WoW Documentary Wins the Workman Film Festival Award

Women of the World fundraiserWomen of the World's introductory documentary film won the Short Documentary Film Category at the 17 January Workman Productions Online Award in the Documentary Category.  Ana Breton, Breton Films, deserves this award for her dedication to the project and how she helped the refugee struggles come to life in her documentary shot 'about town' with WoW President and Founder, Samira Harnish.  A special mention goes out to all of the refugee ladies and gentlemen and the staff that assisted them who opened their homes and their stories to this special project... as with everything Women of the World does, our success would not be possible without the courage and diligence of our new neighbors and the staff and volunteers that support them.Women of the World staff and many of 'our ladies' that were featured in the film came out to see the video and stay to see a few of the other films.   Many of the ladies that were featured in the video have moved on to the first steps that they detailed in the video so it was nice to get back together with everyone and discuss their progress and hear their stories of success.Below is further description of the event from the Online Awards site.

Festival DescriptionIMG_2519

The Online Awards is a film festival that takes place in Salt Lake City the weekend before the famous Sundance Film Festival. The festival is open and free to the public to attend. The festival will also be simultaneously be broadcast live at our Los Angels and New York City venues as well.The Online Awards Film Festival is at the Infinity Events Center 26 E 600 S, Salt Lake City, UT

IMG_2517Awards & Prizes

After each seasonal deadline, quality and creativity are celebrated in three levels of awards: Best of Show, Silver Award and Gold Award. Best of Show honors are granted only if worthy productions are discovered. Likewise, no more than 15% of entries are granted Gold Award. Notable artistic and technical productions are recognized at the Silver award level. Judging results letters will be sent by email about four to six weeks after the final deadline to all participants, i.e., to those who were granted awards and those who were not granted awards. Free digital downloads of Online Award laurels will be made available to all winners.IMG_2507

Fashion Show Salt Lake City Event

It is that time again... Women's Fashion Show Salt Lake City Event, celebrating International Women's Day and our new refugee neighbors and their cultural heritage.This fashion and cultural event is at once a heartfelt celebration of the various refugee cultures in our community (Sudanese, Burundi, Iraqi, Burmese, and many others) and a celebration of the beauty and fashion of women from around the world.  Our new neighbors have struggled against war, rape, genocide, oppression in their native homes and in refugee camps and are determined to make Salt Lake City home, a community where they contribute!  And contribute they are... our ladies are making some of the greatest strides in overcoming PTSD, illiteracy, and poverty and contributing in their children's schools, in the workplace, and in college and university.  More than this, they contribute to our understanding of the world and to our humanity in helping others new to where we grew up and live.The Women of the World Fashion Show Event is:

WHEN: Thursday, 5 March 2015 : 5:30 - 9:00WHERE: Pierpont Place, 163 Pierpont Ave, Salt Lake City, UT 84101TICKETS: ($35 includes food & Fashion Show ticket... a wonderful opportunity to meet some of these courageous ladies!)CONTACT: 801 - 648 - 9692 or samira 'at' womenofworld 'dot' org

We are actively searching for sponsors to join Ally Bank, Pierpont Place, and Soul Salt who are graciously donating resources to enable our 3rd Annual Fashion Show Event to be the best yet.  Please utilize these local businesses that support community development and our new refugee neighbors.allyimageslogoPlease join us for this wonderful event! 

WoW Video featured in pre Sundance Film Festival

Women of the World is thrilled to have its introductory documentary film nominated for a Workman Productions Online Award in the Documentary Category.  Ana Breton, Breton Films, deserves this award for her dedication to the project and how she helped the refugee struggles come to life in her documentary shot 'about town' with WoW President and Founder, Samira Harnish.Women of the World fundraiserThe event where the WoW Video featured in pre Sundance Film Festival is free to the public tickets can be purchased here. Below is further description of the event from the Online Awards site.

Festival Description

The Online Awards is a film festival that takes place in Salt Lake City the weekend before the famous Sundance Film Festival. The festival is open and free to the public to attend. The festival will also be simultaneously be broadcast live at our Los Angels and New York City venues as well.The Online Awards Film Festival is at the Infinity Events Center 26 E 600 S, Salt Lake City, UT

Awards & Prizes

After each seasonal deadline, quality and creativity are celebrated in three levels of awards: Best of Show, Silver Award and Gold Award. Best of Show honors are granted only if worthy productions are discovered. Likewise, no more than 15% of entries are granted Gold Award. Notable artistic and technical productions are recognized at the Silver award level. Judging results letters will be sent by email about four to six weeks after the final deadline to all participants, i.e., to those who were granted awards and those who were not granted awards. Free digital downloads of Online Award laurels will be made available to all winners.

WoW Holiday Celebration featured by local news

After the 4th annual celebration featuring the role models in the refugee community was complete, the WoW Holiday Celebration was featured by the local news.  This celebration highlights the successes and dreams of refugee women in Utah and while showing the organizational capacity of Women of the World for continually recruiting and resourcing the best volunteer talent and opportunities for Utah's refugee women.See these links for the newspaper coverage of the celebration: the celebration, Women of the World recognized:supporting refugee success at the holiday celebrationMs. Manal N. & Siham M. for gaining their citizenship:

America is one of the few countries started on an ideal, the ideal that everyone is created equal and through hard work and imagination you can succeed. Your citizenship is not the end of your path but a beginning, a ticket to opportunity. Naturalized citizens are more aggressive in achieving the American dream and today you join this class of success. However, America also needs you to blend your culture into the melting pot, retaining the best characteristics of both.

 Ms. Ghassak J. for achievement:

The children of our community will always remember their teachers for being confident in their success and giving them the tools to achieve their dreams. Your support of our children to transition into the lifestyle and language of America, along with your patience to their special needs and concerns is both strengthening our community and building a foundation for the future.

Ms. Alaa A. for achievement:

The continuation of your education upon resettlement is made more important in that it continues your expertise in improving enterprise and affairs amongst nations. The more we understand about our similarities and our shared needs, the greater our ability to avoid conflict over resources and settle disputes reasonably, breeding peace in the world.

supporting the success of refugee womenMs. Elisabeth N. for achievement:

Your continued struggles for your family’s well-being have paid off and now you have reached your goal – you have a safe new home and you are working in the service of your family and your community. We are thrilled that you are starting to volunteer alongside those in Women of the World that have helped you – paying forward the kindness you have received.

Ms. Sara A. for achievement:

When people are motivated and hard-working, it shows people around them what is possible and helps them become better. Mentoring others is difficult but fills you with grace and hope. Your commitment to your dreams through preparation at Banking for Women and starting a catering business will pay off for you and your family; your service in the community will help the community grown stronger.

Supporting refugee women holiday celebration volunteersFurthermore, community partners including Ikea and the Salt Lake County were recognized for their continued support of Women of the World and the Annual Holiday Celebration.  It is on the strong support of community organizations like Ikea and the Salt Lake County that Women of the World is able to serve refugee women and keep them on a path toward their self-sufficiency. 

Women Who Inspire Article

A great article and interview about women who inspire by 3Plus co-founder Dorothy Dalton featured Women of the World Founder Samira Harnish on their newsletter in September.  Samira gives us plenty of great wisdom in this Women Who Inspire article and still manages to have plenty of fun.

If you could give one piece of advice to any woman about their professional choices what would it be?

Follow your heart and your mind, step forward and don’t look back, get out from underneath the circle of doubt (why me, why me), and reach to your dreams even if you have to sacrifice your luxuries.

3Plus International is a career and leadership coaching company for women and the companies that need them.  Women of the World is happy to continue to support women developing leadership in their companies by offering volunteer and board positions that can help develop leadership beyond the boardroom and into the community. 

WoW Awarded Salt Lake City Human Rights Award

Tonight on the campus of the University of Utah, the Salt Lake City Mayor's Office of Diversity and Human Rights honored Women of the World with the Salt Lake City Human Rights Award for its work in advocating on behalf of women refugees in Salt Lake City.Today, 10 December 2013, is a special day for human rights, as it marks the 65th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  Mayor Ralph Becker dedicated Salt Lake City to continue to advocate for human rights by partnering with non-profits and individuals working to make a difference.A personal insight, each of the Board of Directors went to work today with a bit more of a spring in their step, proud of their accomplishments, giddy at the opportunity to share in the celebration of our little part of the struggle to everyday improve human rights.  We were further humbled in the presence of the individuals that dedicated the awards, gave the keynote address, or received the individual award for human rights.  Their struggles and personal triumphs complete with the support of family gives us pause to the improvements in humanity that this gathering represents.

Below is the speech that Samira gave upon acceptance of the award:

[su_dropcap style="light" size="4"]I[/su_dropcap] would like to thank the Mayor’s OFFICE of DIVERSITY & HUMAN RIGHTS for giving this important award to Women of the World. 

  • I am here on behalf of the Women of the World -- both the organization and the women it represents.
  • Women of the World is here thanks to the wonderful Board of Directors of WoW, who are as wise as they are witty, who are as creative as they are caring.
  • I am here thanks to my family, who have always supported WoW, because they know it brings out the best in me.

I am humbled to be asked to speak on International Human Rights day.On this day we recognize the leaders of our movements  --  Milk, Mandela, and Salbi and we recognize those that work against abuses day-to-day, fighting on the ground with little power or money – believing we can change the direction – that in the power of one, creates change for humanity.Human rights isn’t a statistic.  Even though it is bad for grant-making, I have stopped counting.  It’s meaningless.Women of the World offers neither quantity or quality, we offer caring.Women refugees do not have instructions.

  • Some have never written their own names, in any language, some have architecture degrees.
  • Some have spent decades in camps, others suffered through decades of war, translating for the soldiers.
  • Some have been raped or mutilated, others are beat up by their men here in Salt Lake City.
  • All land in America’s safety net, that is they are in poverty.

Let me tell you a story of one woman.  When you see her, raising her grandson, you fall in love.  She’s young, her daughter’s young, and she appreciates the opportunity of Utah.But she lost her wallet and her green card and without Women of the World, her entire family would be homeless.Sure there are a lot of agencies that offer to build her capacity.  They have put many like her to work, helpless to help other refugees in need.She speaks no English, the easiest advice comes from the agencies…

  • she has to pay,
  • she lost her opportunity at the Bailey community housing because she lost her green card
  • she has to find a new place to live

In her case, human rights is not taking NO for an answer.  In her case, it is going to the same immigration and housing agencies and talking to the same people over, and over, and over again.Until they get it right.That is what Women of the World does.  It is hearts and minds we aim to change, hugs and smiles that we count.We get there by climbing stairs in apartment complexes on Highland Drive, along 3300 South, and on Redwood Road.[su_pullquote]And slowly, surely, the power of one becomes ten, and then 100. Women refugees go from asking questions to having the answers, from mothering their children to nurturing the community.[/su_pullquote]Human rights is our greatest promise to one another.  It cannot be stopped.So rise, amplify the voices of those who have been silenced, befriend those that have been harmed,  and advocate for rights that cannot ever be taken!On behalf of Women of the World, thank you again for this honor…

Contact with Mary Dickson promotes Women Refugee Annual Celebration

This week the host of Contact, KUED 7's Mary Dickson promotes Women Refugee Annual Celebration held by Women of the World at the Salt Lake County Building (2001 S. State Street in Salt Lake City).  You can still get tickets to this event by going to Women of the World's Eventbrite page.Click the picture below to go to the KUED site to see the full video:

KUED Women of the World Promoting Salt Lake City Event

Please join us for a day of celebration for:

  • Women who received graduate degrees in 2013
  • Women who became American citizens
  • Women who are learning English
  • Many more exciting and successful stories


  • 2:15 Founder's Welcome
  • 2:30 Women Refugee Successful Stories & certification.  We will also present the WOMAN OF THE YEAR
  • 3:00 Dancing Group from Nepal
  • 3:15 Visit, eat, and have fun!

Cultural Connections on KSL Radio

This week Women of the World was the guest on Cultural Connections with Nkoyo Iyamba on KSL Radio.  Nkoyo is a great friend of Women of the World and continues to broadcast women refugee issues in Utah through her weekly radio program.  In this installation, parenting in the refugee community was reviewed with its unique struggles and important benefits.  Women of the World President, Samira Harnish, feels strongly about these issues, working to enable women refugees to not only improve their educational, language, and employment opportunities, but also their parental skills in this different culture.Refugee women have a stronger cultural connection to Utah thanks to Women of the World's efforts and the media attention that programs like KSL Radio's Cultural Connections.  Please listen to the podcast below and if you like what you here, "like" Nkoyo Iyamba at KSL Radio on Facebook.

Salt Lake City Tribune Article Women of the World

On 10 May, the mobile version of the Salt Lake City Tribune published a nice article about Women of the World's Mother's Day celebration.

"We have 25,000 refugees here in Utah and 98 percent of them live in Salt Lake," Harnish said. "It was my dream to help women in the Middle East, but I realized that there is just as great of a need to help women here, too."According to the Refugee Services office of the Utah Department of Workforce Services, women and girls represent 47 percent of refugee and asylum-seekers, while 44 percent are children under 18.Of those seeking asylum, four out of five chosen are women and children. Yet, though women and children represent the vast majority, most resources are used to help men, placing them in jobs and assisting with assimilation. For every dollar of development assistance, only 2 cents goes to women.Harnish describes the situation of new female refugees as disorienting and, often, demeaning."Women lose their power when they can't understand what is going on around them, either because of language barriers or culture," she said. 'They feel powerless and lack confidence."Through Women of the World, refugees are taught empowerment, through English lessons, weekly meetings and a support network. Along with the daily work, the organization tries to find time for celebration, holding an annual fashion show and, in the case of Mother's Day, having a potluck in the park. In past years, more than 150 women and children attended the event.

Interview on KTalk AM Radio with Founder of Women of the World

On 5 March 2013, Women of World Founder and President, Samira Harnish, interviewed on KTalk AM Radio program "Celebrating Women" with Cate Allen.  Women of the World programs that support refugee women and anecdotes about them in this heartfelt interview. What is the objective of the organization?

  • Women of the World strives to support women of all nations to achieve their dreams.
  • In order to do this, we must develop women’s skills
    • (in English,
    • employment,
    • and as the head of the household)
    • and give them a voice
      • (by advocating and serving them in their
        • housing,
        • immigration,
        • and legal needs).

 What motivated you to start the organization? 

  • As a young girl in Iraq, I dreamed of the day where I would be able to help women that had struggled against cultures that did not give them an equal chance or that had oppressed them.
  • I have always served women and girls, even before starting Women of the World,
  • but as I saw Iraqi women coming to Utah as refugees, I knew that I had to do more for them since
  • I knew the language (Arabic) and the culture they were coming from.

How long ago was it started, and how many people participate in the organization?

  • I started Women of the World almost 2 years ago and there are about 10 volunteers supporting over 150 refugees, mostly women and girls.

What kind of activities does your organization hold, and what is the purpose of those activities?

  • Women of the World holds numerous activities that educate and entertain, that support women’s issues and develop their skills.
  • Some of these include our English Language Learner classes and tutoring sessions, that each occur twice per week.
  • We also have a mother’s day event and an International Women’s Day Event that celebrate women’s roles.
  • Our Refugee Fashion Show celebrates the beauty of women and the diversity of refugee cultures.
  • We also have workshops on
    • employment skills,
    • parenting,
    • and have recently spoken out and educated on domestic violence with our 1 Billion Rising Events.

Tell me about some of the women you have helped through the organization.

  • Women of the World has helped some amazing women.  I want to stress that while we have certainly done some “big” things which I’ll talk about, we also assist with the much needed little things that add stress to our refugee ladies.
  • I get asked to
    • read and explain a lot of mail,
    • to call into the food stamps program,
    • or to attend parent-teacher conferences.
  • One of the ladies that I have done all of these “little” things for and some big things like
    • translating in her ongoing fight against cancer
    • and helping her to get her driver’s license
  • is now volunteering with Women of the World, using her driver’s license to transport refugees in need.
  • Her son, came to America as a teen and fell behind in school and in with a bad group,
    • but seeing his mom empowered led him to pursue a different path – he is now studying nursing
  • Another of the women I nurturingly call “my ladies” started in a room in her nieces house.
  • Afraid to disrupt the family balance, she never went out of her room or took meals with them.
  • She came to me, desiring a job, and quickly we got her one.
  • Through her hard work as a hospital janitor,
    • she was able to rent a small apartment
    • and we worked together with immigration to get her husband to America
    • and I’m glad to report that just this last Monday, he arrived from Ethopia where he was greeted by his independent, loving wife.
  • Because my path to success as a new immigrant was through education, I have a special place in my heart for those that succeed in school.
  • I have worked tirelessly with the financial aid programs at the universities and community colleges in Utah to get grants for women refugees.
  • I happily report that we are getting women into school for 100s of dollars per semester, 10X reductions in pricing.
  • These women are succeeding in their studies.

8.    What are WOW’s goals for the future?

  • We want women to be empowered to achieve their financial, family, and community goals.
  • We want women refugees to be equipped for the future,
    • to be able to use their skills and talents to improve their situation,
    • get a good job,
    • and contribute in the community.
  • We want them to be healthy in their minds, bodies, and spirits.
  • We want them to support one another against domestic violence and discrimination.
  • We want them to achieve their dreams.

9.    How can someone help WOW achieve those goals? 

  • slash donate or slash get involved are the best ways to find out what opportunities are available for monetary donations or volunteering.
  • As a nonprofit started from the heart and not the wallet, we are always trying new ways of fundraising as we have many needs and few resources.
  • Top on our list is to secure the lease on an office in Salt Lake City,
  • a safe place for our women to build community with one another and develop job skills and English.
  • Every donation helps to support a refugee woman torn from her home due to war or genocide that arrived in America with nothing except their hopes for a better life.

12. Why is it hard for a female refugee from abroad to transition into America?Imagine for a moment that in the middle of the night, your brother or husband came to you and said, “wake the kids, we have to leave now.”  What would you try and bring in your one bag?  That is the best case for our refugee ladies.  The constant violence in their homeland, often forced on them and their families, scars them for life with severe PTSD, sexually transmitted disease, and even physical war wounds.Then they stay in camps, filled again with dangers and disease.  Sometimes this lost time in the camps can last decades where they fall behind, don’t get a good education, and get very depressed and ill.Finally they come to America and don’t understand any of the languages or the customs.  They are quickly forced to work or lose their home, but don’t have the skills to support themselves or an understanding of the beuracracy of the welfare system that is trying to keep them afloat.13. How do you hope WOW will change the lives of women refugees?

  • By giving them a voice and being their friend.
    • In other words,
      • we educate them,
      • serve their social welfare needs,
      • and advocate on their behalf.
  • All of this in an attempt to empower them
  • to not balance two cultures but to blend them, the best of both
  • And anyone that can tutor English or be a friend can help.
  • Service is such an important part of our humanity.
  • The generosity and gift of friendship of our clients to our volunteers,
  • the sharing of experiences and sense of purpose
  • are great reasons to befriend one or more of our clients.

14. Why is helping female refugees important?

  • As I have said before, any service to others less fortunate then ourselves is the truest display of our humanity, the inherent goodness in us all.
  • But why female refugees?
  • No one is more oppressed by war at home and discrimmination abroad.
  • Women refugees are more likely to have had rape used as a tactic of war,
  • have faced a family honor killing,
  • and those from Africa are often genitally mutilated.
  • They are mothers in danger of losing their sons and daughters to gangs speaking English they can’t understand.
  • They are battered wives who often face their husband’s frustration in their new life.
  • They want to work and use their talents to help their families.
  • They want the best for their families and that is why they are here.
  • And since they want to succeed, they will, with just a little push in the right direction.  Just a little guidance and help.

15. Tell me anything else about WOW that you’d like to share. 

Salt Lake City 2013 Dedication to Human Rights

Women of the World President Samira Harnish meeting with Mayor Ralph BeckerWomen of the World's founder and president, Samira Harnish, spoke tonight at the new Leonardo Museum in downtown Salt Lake City, during the program for the rededication of Salt Lake City's commitment to human rights.  Aside from Samira's speech, the program contained the dedication of Salt Lake City's commitment to Human Rights by Mayor Ralph Becker, the granting of two awards for Human Rights commitment including a group award to Utah Health and Human Rights and an individual award given posthumously to Civil Rights Attorney Brian Barnard.Samira's comments stuck with the presenters after her.  She called for Utah to embrace the human rights of its refugee women neighbors by "giving them a voice and being their friend."  This sentiment was echoed throughout the speeches and the award ceremony as each new speaker turned to the examples in their own work to improving the lives of the disenfranchised.  You can see a brief video snippet of her speech on the Women of the World Youtube channel.Prior to the event, Samira was interviewed on the radio program "Cultural Connections" where she and the rest of the panelists gave their thoughts on how human rights could impact their communities and the struggles they still need to overcome.  You can here this program by going to the Cultural Connections podcast for December 16, 2012.