Utah Refugee Conference

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 

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.

2011 Utah Refugee Conference - Panel on Refugee Community Successes and Challenges

On Friday morning, in front of 500 refugees, refugee community stakeholders, benefactors, and members of the press, Women of the World President Samira Harnish spoke on the successes and challenges of the Iraqi community in Utah and her vision for a future in which all refugee women are propelling their communities forward through improvements to women's health, socio-economical standing, and self-confidence.Samira's positive message for the refugee communities comes from her Utah-based work on behalf of the refugees from her native Iraq whom she's worked tirelessly for over the past three years.  She has seen them pick themselves up from the horrors of war to get educated, get employed, and use their off-time to serve the incoming Middle-Eastern refugees.  Iraqi refugees desire a quick integration into American society because of their high level of education and degree status coming from the Middle East and Samira has worked to ensure that the are quickly brought into contact with academic and business networks to enable their  success.Samira also addressed some of the challenges facing the Iraqi refugees and their social organizations.  Of primary concern is the unequal treatment tharefugee women are subjected to in startup service organizations.  The biases of the homeland are often shifted to the new country and for Iraqi's, strong female voices are pushed aside for the more comfortable, even if inadequate, leadership of men.  Women must rise to be more than secretaries, and service organizations must rise above being social clubs where only one gender feels a sense of unity if success is to be long-lasting and economically significant.

All refugees must learn that, for better or for worse, America is only the land of opportunity for those who are willing to help themselves. Samira recounted a story passed to her from her mother about the yogurt maids that, through humility and focus, carried 5 to 10 trays of yogurt on their heads. Women refugees are now equally burdened by the need to balance culture and progress, family and future on their heads and strive while remaining grounded in their heritage.

Samira Harnish would like to thank Joe Nahas for his invitation to speak on behalf of Iraqis in America and women refugees.  As his "Iron Lady," Samira promises to continue her steelyresolve in the face oppression of women everywhere.  Samira would also like to thank Gerald Brown and the rest of the Department of Workforce Services Refugee Service Organization.  Finally, a special thank you to all of the panelists and refugees in attendance and in service of one another.The full text of Samira's speeches are available at 2011 Utah Refugee Conference Panel Women Refugee Unique Needs  

Demographics Matter

University of Utah Economist Pamela Perlich was the keynote speaker at the Refugee Conference of Utah and she pointed out that the data shows that the nation and Utah are once again developing a minority demographic profile.  This represents a return to historical trends of the large inflow of people from foreign countries that impacted Utah and the nation at the turn of the 20th century.  As she said, the only time when the nation was "freakishly homogenous" and growing was during the post-war baby boom.  This change corresponds well to the increasing globalization of the state's economy.
Demographics matter!  Our current refugees and certainly our children will be a part of a multiethnic culture and they will compete in a technological and global economy.  Diversity in UtahOur immigration patterns are thankfully matching to the increasing demands for a workforce that is multicultural.  Now is the time for creative solutions on how to apply the special skills of our global community to the service and technology economy so prevalent in Utah.  We must connect our birthplace markets with our Utah markets.
This connection to birthplace markets is harder for our refugees.  Many of the ties are permanently severed for refugees.  Developing these markets, importing-and-exporting from the often poverty or war-stricken communities of the refugee's birthplace is difficult or impossible.  Developing the strengths and differentiated skills of refugees such as language skills, ethnic clothing or food, or specialized cultural services can be the initial bridge of the chasm between employment and entrepreneurship.
Opportunities exist for our women refugees to both ensure their children are part of this global community as well as themselves.  Women have the greatest ability, with help from technologically savvy mentors to develop advertising on the web, to develop markets for cultural clothing, cultural parenting and daycare services like the have been popularized in the Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, or catering or supplies of desserts and food.
Women of the World would like to thank Dr. Perlich for her insightful speech on how the changing demographics of the nation and the state of Utah are making women refugees a more in-demand segment of the population.  It is now up to us to take the message from the latest census and develop each individual to be a part of the new global community.  We need your fresh ideas and assistance in setting up programs that use our differentiated skills as foreign-born women to generate value in the new global-technological economy.  Please contact us to brainstorm these ideas.