This year the 4th Annual Fashion Show was themed around the popular meme “Stepping Up.” Women of the World is constantly looking for ways to highlight the progress that our ladies are making in overcoming the odds and integrating into their communities in Salt Lake City.
The life of a newly resettled refugee is an active engagement. It starts trying to make a small apartment into a home. There are many large and small details that go into just this simple task: from ensuring you get heat assistance to keep the cold out in the winter months to finding reasonably priced spices and standards used in the cooking you and your family are accustomed to.
Once a home is made, our ladies begin to support their husbands and children in venturing into the real world. Mothers need to know their kids will receive a great education and wives need to balance the incomes and expenses to keep the family fed and clothed.
After sacrificing for everyone else in their families, our ladies step up for themselves. Most will start learning English first, trying to stay in touch with their children who are learning a secret language shared with only their friends at school.
In parallel with learning English, parenting, and trying to keep a safe and happy home for a family beset by nightmares of war and loss, most of our ladies need to get employment. Two incomes are needed for those living at the poverty line, which is where most refugees start. The majority of our ladies have few skills that transfer to employment in Utah and have to learn on-the-job. Hard work is the only way to climb this learning curve.
Our new neighbors continue to find ways to step up and gain advantage from the opportunities they work hard to make. Many move from employee to employer, starting businesses in housekeeping, hair care or cosmetics, food service, or retail crafts to name a few. Others give back to their community and volunteer with organizations that helped them either in Utah or in the country of their birth.
Our women step up and expect the same of us. They are not asking for handouts but a fair opportunity, someone to mentor them, and an infrastructure that processes their hard work into a safe life that propels them forward.
There were over 100 guests from the community that stepped up to their neighborly duty and graciously welcomed our ladies and their cultures into our community. Thanks to our sponsor Ally Bank and the in-kind donation of the Blended Table Catering, Liberty Heights Fresh Market, and Tiffany Bloomquist Designs, WoW was able to use all ticket sales to fund our programs. Furthermore, thanks to the generous matching gift of the Semnani Family Foundation, Women of the World was able to double the contributions of all our generous supports and raise more money for our brand of stepping up for refugee women.
The Fashion Show started off with remarks from women that are pillars of our community and know how to make a neighborhood feel warm and welcoming. Kimberli Haywood, a Community Reinvestment banker for Ally Bank and the Chairwoman of the Board of Directors for Women of the World introduced the Fashion Show and the meaning she and her family got from their interactions with our new neighbors. She introduced Nubia Pena, the keynote speaker and a Women’s Rights Advocate, who brought the crowd into the discussion, making them present in the broader moment where women are beset by dangers from domestic violence to the school-to-prision pipeline. Samira Harnish, the Founder and Executive Director of WoW followed Nubia and talked about Women of the World’s customized approach to service and the challenges and successes of this approach over the last six years of service.
It was then time for the Fashion Show, with emcees representing Miss Asia Utah (Miss Palestine Utah), Nora Abu-Dan, and Satin Tashnizi, First Runner Up to Miss Asia Utah (Miss Iran Utah). The emcees introduced Fashions first from Asia including cultures like Iranian, Iraqi, Kareni, Chin, Rohingyi, Nepalese, Afghan, Turkish, and Kurdish and then took an intermission where we were entertained by Ms. Asia Utah, Anju Thapaliya Sharma, with a traditional Nepalese dance. To close out the Fashion Show, the emcees took to the stage again and announced African fashions from cultures such as Somali, Burkana Faso, Sudanese, Congolese, Zambia, and Tanzania. The models all stood in solidarity together with the staff of Women of the World, displaying women’s power.
The Fashion Show was a tremendous success and as Board Member Beverley Cooper stated, "I wish we could count all the goodwill and new friends we made last night because that is huge.” Indeed that is what the Fashion Show is for, as a low-barrier for the community-at-large to act on Women of the World’s tagline, to give our ladies a voice and to befriend them. A big thanks to all of those volunteers, staff members, board members, and members of the community that made it all possible.