Voices

The Many Meanings of Hijab

[et_pb_section admin_label="section"][et_pb_row admin_label="row"][et_pb_column type="4_4"][et_pb_text admin_label="Text"]When asked why she wears hijab, Baidaa is quick to answer."I wear it because I like to.”The twenty-something woman smiles as she demonstrates how to wrap her hijab. She first puts her hair up into a bun, pulls what looks like a tube hat over her hair, then drapes her scarf around her head and pins it so it flows gracefully around her face and neck. She exudes beauty and confidence as she turns her head from side to side, the scarf falling lightly on her shoulders.Baidaa, her mother Iman, and her aunt Wafaa — Iraqi refugees living in Salt Lake — wear hijab, but for different reasons.Iman began wearing hijab when her family fled to Jordan. “I didn’t wear it before (we left Iraq),” explains Iman. “But we lived outside the city when we came to Jordan. Many of the women were farmers, and they wore hijab for (mostly) cultural reasons. Since it was part of my religion, I decided I would wear it, too.”Young Salt Lake City refugees in their colorful hijabsHijab is the Arabic word for “cover. It’s often used generically to describe a range of headscarves or cloaks worn by Muslim women to show their devotion to God or support their cultural identity. While the Quran instructs both men and women to dress modestly, women are specifically encouraged to cover their bodies in a manner that protects their modesty and prevents harassment. Muslims in different countries interpret these instructions differently, which is why you may see Muslim women wearing everything from hijabs that only cover the head and neck to burquas that cover all but a fine mesh across the eyes.Most girls begin to wear hijab when they reach puberty, but Baidaa waited until she was 22.“At my school in Jordan, many of the girls wore hijab and asked me why I didn’t,” Baidaa says. “These same girls would take off their hijabs and go to the mall in dresses that showed their bodies. I didn’t want to be associated with girls like that.  They would shame me for not wearing hijab, then behave like that.”When Baidaa chose — and she is very clear that it was a choice — to wear hijab, it was to show her respect for God and her religion.  She and her aunts agreed that women shouldn’t be forced to wear hijab, that they should choose to wear it.“The Quran doesn’t specifically say that women have to wear hijab,” explains Samira Harnish, executive director of Women of the World.  “I am a good Muslim woman, and I chose to not wear hijab. Of course, all women, Muslim or not, must cover their heads when they are in shrines out of respect. But I believe I can be a good Muslim whether or not I wear hijab.”Hijabs can be black, but they also come in bright colors or adorned with jewels.While some countries such as Saudi Arabia or Afghanistan require Muslim women to wear black chadors or burquas that cover most, if not all, of their bodies, other countries offer Muslim women more choices. One look at the hijabs available in online stores makes it clear that they don’t have to be plain OR boring.  All three women laughed as they described “Dubai style” hijabs, covered in glittering beads and oversized jewels on turban-like headwraps.But the talk turned serious when the women began discussing the harassment that can happen to women who choose to wear hijab in the U.S. After enduring unspeakable hardships to escape the war and destruction in their native land, some female refugees find unexpected comfort in veiling. Beyond the religious significance, hijab can offer a feeling of privacy and a sense of identity. Unfortunately, in these charged times, it can also draw unwanted attention or even hostility.“The people I work with will come up to me and tell me how beautiful I look in my hijab,” says Baidaa. “But I have a friend who works as a cashier who had a customer say, “I don’t want to go to you because you wear hijab, I will wait for another cashier.”There are other stories: a Somali woman who was spat on for wearing hijab, two Syrian children whose elementary-school teacher yanked off their headscarves and told them not to return until they could come without their veils.Are Baidaa, Iman, and Wafaa afraid to wear hijab, knowing this?“We don’t go out much,” says Iman. But Wafaa adds, “I am not worried because God will save me. I won’t stop wearing hijab.”Fear can blind people into thinking that a simple headscarf symbolizes violence. Iman hopes that people will move past that fear and understand that refugees aren’t here to cause trouble, they are simply trying to live their lives the best they can. “I wish everything is going to be peace and happiness and for people to love people. Bad things happened in our country.  We started from zero here, and we have come here to build our future.”IMG_4587“We wish the country, like the day we enter America, will be peaceful and secure.”[/et_pb_text][/et_pb_column][/et_pb_row][/et_pb_section]

We are all in this together by Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski

In her speech entitled, “We are all in this together” which Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski’s gave as the key note speech to the Women of the World 6th Annual Celebration of Women Refugee Success, she discusses the importance of standing together in community, of her conviction to work against the rhetoric that represented the campaign, and to help Women of the World in their efforts."Nothing is more important than living in a safe and supportive community that upholds and protects our human rights."

Layla

Beautiful inside & out.Originally from Morocco, Layla has now made Salt Lake City her home. What I admire most about Layla is she is always willing to lend a helping hand. She is so generous, always willing to share her culture through food and thought. Although a bit shy and soft-spoken at first, she is very determined to create an even better life for herself here in Utah.She is just a graduate of dental assisting studies. I have no doubt that Layla will get a great job working with patients to make their smiles that much brighter.refugee women stories

Stepping Back From the Ledge As Sisters

“I want to kill myself. I don’t want to live anymore."

What horrors did this young mother from Congo experience for her to utter these words in front of her young children?

Mami is a late afternoon walk-in to Women of the World. She has cried through the day, her dark complexion stained with sadness. She is thin, her past sickens her. She is striking. Her kids are adorable, quiet, and well-behaved. They place their heads gently on the new blanket I give them from our donation closet.

If you cannot be compassionate with Mami, you aren’t capable of compassion.

Mami's friend, Pam, brought her to Women of the World. Pam has donated all of her time today. At dawn, Pam happened past the office. It is fortunate she did... more than fortunate, Women of the World is on an industrial street, we don’t get foot traffic. It was grace.

“Mami, I know you have suffered…"

Mami cut off Samira, the WoW Director. “You don’t know my story, no one knows."

“Mami, it is true. I don’t know. And you don’t know mine. Everyone has pain and feels their own hurt is more than what anyone has."

supporting the success of refugee women IMG_7616

Mami is not her name. It is a term of endearment that WoW service staff have picked up to call central-African women. Iraqis use momma. It’s like a Southerner woman's “hun” to another woman. The respect and love of cooing “Mami” began to settle her down.

“I want to get you some help. Give you the opportunity to see a counselor."

Mami was violently raped in Congo. The beautiful kids with her are not her husband’s, they are the children of soldiers sent to rape and pillage. Refugees did not come to Utah for the American dream, they are fleeing a nightmare. Modern war is hell on earth, the most psychologically damaging sequence of events you can imagine, times thousands. You can’t imagine it, it is more horrific than your psyche will allow you to conjure.

"I don't want to go back to my resettlement agency. Not them. They don't help."

Refugees did not come to Utah for the American dream, they are fleeing a nightmare.

We get this from time to time. The resettlement agencies serve a lot more people, but they can't always spend the time needed to listen, empathize, and rebuild trust. Women of the World is different. We offer custom solutions, a boutique for cases more dynamic and difficult than the majority of refugee cases.

Women of the World offers a sisterhood.

Stepping Back From the Ledge As Sisters

"No I will get you someone to talk to at UHHR. They can help you. They will listen and give you advice to find a way to not be sad all the time."

The Utah Health and Human Rights organization is trained in Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) treatment and only serve refugees. Women of the World partners with them often.

"Can you trust me to help you?"

"Yes, I can. You are my sister."

"Yes. You can always find your sisters here.  Abby, Maya, and I and any of our volunteers we have help you are your sisters."

"I never have had family here..."

"Now you do, Mami. Now you do."

Mother's Day With The Leonardo’s Community Connections

Mothers share a bond, whether they are mothers from Utah or from a war-torn country seeking refugee status.Women of the World and The Leonardo Museum are excited to announce that together we will be celebrating “Mothers of the World” by unveiling an art installation of the same name. All of this will happen as part of The Leonardo’s Community Connections program and Women of the World’s Annual Celebration of Mother’s Day on Sunday, 8 May 2016.

  • When: Sunday, 8 May 2016. Doors open at 2 p.m., Program to begin at 2:30 p.m.
  • Where: The Leonardo Museum. 209 East 500 South, Salt Lake City.
  • What: Celebration of mothers from all over the world.
  • Cost: Free.

The Leonardo is commissioning a collaborative art piece with guest artists adding their unique celebration of Mothers Day. Geared towards refugee mothers, the installation hopes to create awareness about the trials and triumphs of refugee women and girls that settle in Utah. After the unveiling, the Leonardo will donate this art piece to Women of the World.The way Women of the World achieves its mission of “supporting refugee women to achieve self-reliance, a voice in the community, and empowering economic success” by:

  • Training them in conversational English using the ‘classroom of the community’
  • Ensure their physical and mental health is treated before requiring further achievement in academia or industry.
  • Developing differentiated job skills in language, service, or creative industries that move their earnings up the value chain quickly.
  • Giving everyone the opportunity of further education.
  • Advocacy when unfortunate events occur in any stage of resettlement.

As a member of the Salt Lake community, we love making a difference The Leo way. Every Sunday we’ll partner with different organizations and members of the community—YOU—to­ take initiative. Come prepared to do fun, hands-on projects with your own art, science and tech twist. Your projects will be spread out to services and non-profits around Salt Lake and beyond!For more information about Women of the World visit https://womenofworld.org/. For more information about The Leonardo Museum visit http://theleonardo.org/ .

She is No Longer Desperate -- She is Thriving

By Rebecca Brown Wright “I need someone to adopt my daughter so I can kill myself.”Samira Harnish, founder of Women of the World, was shocked as she listened to this woman’s desperation.“Why are you talking like this?” she asked the woman.The woman told of how she had watched her husband and son die right in front of her in a terrorist car explosion in her former country. She was forced to go on the run with her daughter to save their lives, eventually ending up in a refugee camp, where she and her daughter remained for five years.“I didn’t even want to come to America,” she confessed to Samira.“Well, why did you come then?” Samira asked.“I want my daughter to have a better life,” the woman responded.“Then do that,” Samira told her. “Give her a better life. If you die, you’ll destroy her. You’ll be breaking her future if you kill yourself.”Samira broke down in tears as she recounted this exchange to me, still deeply moved years later by the desperate situation that would lead a woman to feel her only option is death.Thankfully, the woman chose not to end her life. With Samira’s encouragement, she jumped into American life, learning to support herself and her daughter. Today, she smiles freely and enjoys life. She contributes to American society, and her daughter is gaining many valuable experiences.While the memories and horror of her experiences will never leave her, she is no longer desperate.In fact, she is thriving.Thriving in AmericaThere was the young girl from West Africa who suffered and survived genital mutilation, who suffered and survived multiple rapes, who tried to commit suicide. Coming to America was hopeful for her – a fresh start.But when she found work in a restaurant here in Utah, she began to be abused by a co-worker who would throw things at her and tell her to clean them – in addition to her already-heavy workload.She loved where she worked, but didn’t know how to get out from under this treatment. Would speaking up get her in trouble? Would she lose the chance to stay in America? Should she just stay quiet?She came to Samira in tears, and Samira helped her understand her rights and how to approach her boss with the information about what was happening.“When these women come to America, they have one thing in common,” Samira said. “They want someone to hear them. Advocate for them. Educate them and show them the way. Ease their way into American society.”samira-harnishAnd Samira does just that. She’s developed a safe community within Women of the World, where women can be heard and helped; where woman can learn to advocate for themselves; where they can gain empowering education and can contribute to Utah’s rich culture.“I want people to see these ladies,” Samira said. “I don’t want us to look at them and say they’re coming here to take our money. I just want fresh thinking. They are here. How do we make them good citizens if we’re not paying attention to them and not being a friend to them?”Samira doesn’t just talk the talk. She also walks the walk, and to date has helped 400 women become empowered right here in Utah. These women are not only helping to support their families, but they are giving back to the community at large – as well as the Women of the World community, with many of them choosing to volunteer their time once they find their footing.12402049_1086169761423899_991451615808452249_oA donation to Women of the World helps women, which helps families, which helps the community. We all win when someone heals from past horrors, when someone learns English and finds a job, when someone learns how to speak up for herself and be treated with dignity.Women of the World heals and empowers.Please donate to help a woman gain her footing here in America. Simply choose an amount below.

Remarks at Women of the World Awards Ceremony Julie McAdams

I’m so pleased to join you today and to share in celebrating what Women of the World have accomplished. I was looking on Samira’s website and I learned some amazing things. Utah is home to over 20-thousand refugees and most are women and children. The fact that you are all here, together today, is such an incredible story of what the human spirit can endure and overcome.

  • Some of you have survived unimaginable violence, in your homes and in war zones around the world.
  • Some of you have seen family members hurt and killed.
  • You have been torn from your homes.
  • You’ve been forced to flee your country. You have lived in refugee camps, sometimes for years.
  • Once you do find refuge in a new country, and are safe, there are other challenges, such as learning a new language, finding a way to earn a living and gain access to basic needs such as housing and health care.
  • And you learn to integrate into a new culture and a new community.

I’ve never had to overcome anything as difficult as you. But because I’m also a woman, and a mother, I feel a bond with you. We may not come from the same culture, but we share the same experience of having children, wanting protecting them and make a good life for them. We worry about their happiness and we try to calm their fears. We feel pride in their accomplishments.When we feel tired, or discouraged, or threatened, what keeps us going is the responsibility and the joy we feel as women and as mothers to our families. We know how difficult, or even impossible, it would be to replace the love and understanding that mothers give. So, we keep going, against all odds. We try even when we’re exhausted. We don’t give up, even when we’re discouraged. We keep being brave, even when we are frightened.FH000089And as you have proven, not only do you survive, you triumph and succeed in creating a new home and a new life.I would never wish for anyone to have the hardships you have had, but there may be a rainbow at the end of the storms you have weathered. Your experiences have made you resilient and strong. Along your journey, you have triumphed over fear, hunger, exhaustion and trauma. The qualities that brought you to this point in your lives will be a valuable example to your children and other family members. They will see what it means to overcome terrible trouble. They will have learned from you how to keep going, even when it seems impossible to take even one more step. That example will help them as they make their own lives in this new home. They won’t be afraid to take a risk, start a business, enroll in school or join in with a new community.Last month, you may have celebrated an American holiday known as Thanksgiving. You may know the history behind this. About 400 years ago, a small boat called the Mayflower left England, carrying 102 passengers. They were seeking a new home where they could freely practice their religion. After 66 days at sea, they landed at a place called Massachusetts. Through the first brutally cold winter, they suffered from disease and hunger. Only half the people survived until spring. Then they received a visit from a Native American Indian, who spoke English. He came back with another Indian who had been held as a slave in England, but eventually escaped and returned to North American. These Native Americans taught the newcomers how to grow corn, get sap from maple trees, catch fish in the rivers and avoid poisonous plants. The next year, to celebrate their first successful corn harvest, the Pilgrims and the Native Americans held a three-day festival – the First Thanksgiving.You now are part of America’s story – where many different people who sought freedom and safety made the necessary sacrifices to come and start a new life.Utah is very fortunate to have you as part of our community. We have a lot to learn from each other. Be yourself. Put your head up. Teach us about you and where you came from and how you got here. We welcome you and we are so happy for you to be part of the fabric of our community.Thank you for inviting me to be here today and to celebrate with you. It is my wish and my prayer that the future is bright and that you receive all the support you need to rebuild your lives.FH000104

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. http://www.deseretnews.com/article/865638548/Conference-allows-Utah-to-connect-globally-with-those-in-mountain-regions.html?pg=all#eDkIRJ0TZVkLWql0.01 

Heart of the Community Acceptance of a WoW Story

The blog Heart of the Community accepted on of Women of the World's client's stories.Utah Bankers Association launched a new social media initiative entitled “The Heart of Our Community!”

We want to give credit where credit is due– the wonderful people and the non-profit organizations they support that work hard to fill the gaps that exist in the fabric of our communities

"Prathi" (not her real name) is a wonderful mother and hardworking woman who has been helping to make her own solutions since Women of the World stepped in and began helping her in mid-2015.  Read her story at heartofourcommunity.com

Even after fifteen years of living in Utah Prathi was trapped. As a refugee from Pakistan her hopes of freedom had not been realized. Although she lived in a nice home with her son and could be seen most days at the nearby ethnic food store she was a prisoner. Her home belonged to her husband who no longer shared their marriage bed. She was forced to be a maidservant for her mother-in-law as her husband sought another wife. She couldn’t complain — not because she did not want to — but because even after 15 years of living in Utah, she still spoke no English.

http://heartofourcommunity.com/2015/10/07/prathi/

Public Radio Return on Refugee Service Investment

This morning, the Salt Lake City Public radio station KRCL aired a brief interview with Women of the World Founder and Executive Director, Samira Harnish, on the "Return on Investment" that support for the refugee women population can have on the community.The women refugees that make up part of our new neighbor populations here in America have overcome great adversity to start at the bottom in our system, but Women of the World believes that like many immigrants before them, these refugee women will integrate and become self-reliant.As you know from reading this newsletter, Women of the World differentiates itself in the landscape of refugee service by focusing on women still facing issues after their resettlement benefits have expired.  Women of the World builds self-reliance by customizing service to the specific need, working alongside "our ladies" to solve the issue together, and building capacity in English, employment skills, and education.Samira Harnish says, "It can be hard, challenging to overcome a past of violence and oppression, a struggle against poverty in a new home where the rules and language are unfamiliar, but our ladies love it here because they have a chance to keep their kids safe and through hard work, succeed."That is the Return on Investment that Women of the World guarantees the communities it works in.http://www.krcl.org/the-roi-women-of-the-world/

Celebrating Mother's Day with Our New Neighbors

The celebration of those that brought us into the world and that nurture and care for us throughout our lives is a key rite preserved in most cultures.  In America, this rite is celebrated on the most important holiday of all – Mother’s Day.  Many of our new neighbors taking refuge in Utah have a streak of celebrating mothers and grandmothers, even promoting them to the head of the household, but these celebrations do not fall on a specific day.  As WoW has constantly said, we do not ask our ladies to balance two cultures, but to blend them, the best of both… in light of this, we celebrated our 6th Annual Mother’s Day Celebration at the Bud Bailey Housing Complex on Saturday.IMG_8977The event was well-attended even though rain washed out the initial outdoor venue.  Our friends at the Bud Bailey Housing Complex stepped up and opened a space for our use – a real treat for our ladies from all over Salt Lake City to come in from the rain and celebrate together with food and friends.The Mother’s Day event is an opportunity for supporters, volunteers, and other community members to share a meal with our new neighbors and talk about the delicious ethnic potluck food and share in the common loving role they all share as mothers.  Kids and mothers mix between the different ethnicities to share in overcoming their common struggles.IMG_8943This year, Women of the World recognized its first Mother of the Year.  Known simply as Bebe, which is Congolese for grandmother, Bebe was nominated both by the granddaughter she serves as the caregiver for and by WoW staff for her kindness and her calm in the face of the struggles she continues to overcome.  Later that same night, at the Mama Africa Kitoko Fashion Show, Women of the World Founder and Executive Director, Samira Harnish, presented Bebe with an award from the Mama Africa Kontago non-profit as well.  Samira also recognized two other women for their contributions in the service of refugees and for their entrepreneurial vision.Women of the World is continuing to survey the mothers for the classes they want to help themselves and their kids achieve their next step in the community and if you are interested in supporting a legal/human rights or economic empowerment class ranking for these women, pleasesend us an email.IMG_9085Women of the World loves to celebrate with its members and there is no greater focus on the courage and care, the kindness and resolve of our ladies than the celebration around their sacrifice for their children.  Thank you to all of the refugee mothers that make our lives so much more complete.

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.

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:  http://wowfashionshow.brownpapertickets.com ($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.

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. 

Supporting Iraqi Women caught in the recent violence

Last night was a great night to meet at the park and hold a candle & stand in solidarity with the women in Iraq that have been raped, that have lost loved ones & continue to weep for an end to war in the Fertile Crescent. WoW held a candlelight vigil supporting Iraqi women caught in the recent violence between ISIS and Iraqi government. These women have suffered horrible atrocities and have been the most affected by the recent violence that Iraq has seen in the incursions from the north.Iraqi women and men, supported by local Utahans and by one another, stood together in the hope that a peaceful end would come to end the violence in Iraq and allow the country to reach a unified government that represents the people's desires. supporting Iraqi womenWe raised a candle of hope & unity, of support & solidarity, of peace & sisterhood for Iraq and all nations at war.   

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…

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? 

  • Womenofworld.org 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. 

BYU Hunger Banquet Keynote Speaker

Samira-during-refugee-conference-speech-1024x768Women of the World's Founder and President, Samira Harnish, is excited to deliver her message of hope detailing the successes of our refugee neighbors and the programs of Women of the World that support them at the BYU Student for International Development Hunger Banquet on 16 March 2013 at 7 p.m.  In her speech, "Voices of Hope: Women Refugees in Utah" Samira details how Women of the World came into being, her own struggles as an immigrant in America, and the problems modern day refugees in Utah face and programs that help to solve them.According to the event's webpage on the Brigham Young University site:

For twenty-three years, Students for International Development has worked with the David M. Kennedy Center for International Studies, the International Development Minor, the Ballard Center for Economic Self-Reliance, and BYU Dining Services to host an annual Hunger Banquet to raise awareness within the BYU community about global poverty and wealth inequality.This year’s Hunger Banquet will take place Saturday, 16 March 2013 in the ballroom of the Wilkinson Student Center. We are excited to welcome Samira Harnish, founder of Women of the World, as our keynote speaker.   For inspiration, check out their Facebook page. Tickets are $8 in advance, available at the WSC Information Desk, or $10 at the door.

For more information on the event, go to the David M. Kennedy Center for International Students at BYU's website.  For more information on Women of the World's programs, events, or speeches, visit us at womenofworld.org.[heading size="24" margin="40"]See the BYU Hunger Banquet Official Video[/heading]Hunger Banquet 2013 from Scott Raia on Vimeo.

Press for One Billion Rising

We made a lot of wonderful waves in the community and showed our support for battered women, by participating in the One Billion Rising Campaign.1 in 3 women in the world (1 Billion women) will be physically or sexually assaulted... in the 21st century this is a travesty, we'll never progress as a society if we don't speak up and empower victims to feel like survivors, like they can speak out.Below is some of the links to the press that attended that day showing the flash mobs and interviews with the terrific volunteers that poured their hearts and souls into these events.http://fox13now.com/2013/02/14/utahns-among-one-billion-rising-against-violence-toward-women/http://www.deseretnews.com/article/865573238/Hundreds-of-women-gather-to-protest-domestic-violence.htmlhttp://www.sltrib.com/sltrib/mobile/55831760-68/utah-violence-dancers-brooke.html.csphttp://www.abc4.com/s/dKqptmqank2LpYmWn5nb6Q.cspx#.UR2vVdhqR0Q.facebook