WoW Executive Director Samira Harnish speaks with podcast producer Emily Means about Harnish's recent recognition by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. Harnish was honored as a 2018 Nansen Refugee Award finalist, representing the Americas region.
Refugee Support is a non-profit that offers humanitarian aid with dignity to refugees, while also supporting the local economy. Their response is tailored to local needs and conditions, and designed to bring a sense of normality to what are often very challenging situations.
Samira Harnish took part in the UNHCR Nansen Awards Ceremony in Geneva Switzerland. She was recognized for work resettling refugee women in the Americas.
Celebrating the success of our refugee ladies feels great and motivates the rest of the refugee community. For our 6th Annual "Awards Ceremony," the community filled every seat and stood in every nook to welcome their new neighbors home.
[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]
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.And 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.
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.The 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.This 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.Women 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.
Women of the World's 3rd Annual Refugee Fashion show was a resounding success!!!Women from all over the world modeled in this celebration of the beauty and courage of our new neighbors. Burundi, Congolese, Burmese, Iranian, Iraqi, Nepalese, Ethiopian, Rwandan, Sudanese, and Afghani women graced the stage at Pierpont Place on Thursday evening in to show their native country's fashions. A sample of the photos that were taken are on Women of the World's Flickr page on the album 3rd Annual Refugee Fashion ShowA sampling of some of the fashions on display include:
Burundi beautiful, smart, kind Sandrine wearing Burundi traditional dress “Imvutano.” She would typically dress up in Imvutano for weddings and church. This type of clothes basically symbolize the respect and dignity of a Burundian lady.The top of this ensemble is sari-like, with the fabric draping over one shoulder, across the bodice and leaving the other shoulder bare.
Another example, from Burma:
Smart, vibrant Mary Nei Mawi and Dawt Dawt, are from Chin State in Burma. They are wearing beautiful Chin Traditional clothing. They mainly wear this type of dress on special occasions such as Chin National Day, Christmas, New Year’s, and wedding ceremonies.
All of the photos of this event on Flickr represent an important milestone in the journey of our refugee women neighbors and friends. As Founder and President Samira Harnish states to introduce our models...
As you applaud each of them as they walk the catwalk, think about the steps they took before the ones you are seeing – running away from violence and oppression, scared and hoping only for a safe night’s sleep. Think about what they left behind -- a comfortable job, house, and their families – sometimes even their own sons and daughters.Their beauty comes not only from their features or clothing; but from their strength and amazing courage to find a better life here in Utah.
Women of the World is indebted to all of the volunteers, supporters, directors (and directors' spouses) that helped to make the 3rd Annual Refugee Fashion Show such a tremendous success. Women of the World would especially like to thank the primary sponsors for the Fashion Show.
Thank you to the 2015 Fashion Show Sponsors
Please consider keeping the momentum of the 3rd Annual Fashion Show alive by giving a generous gift via our secured donation site.
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.The 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.
Awards & Prizes
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…