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="https://womenofworld.org/wp-content/uploads/Marchers-2.png" 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 ban.by 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]

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."


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

Founder Samira Harnish Awarded Ruby Award for Excellence in Women's Advocacy

The customized solutions and the impact they are having on empowering refugee women were awarded today with a Ruby Award, by the Soroptimist Club of Salt Lake City.  The Ruby Award is given each year to a woman of distinction who has been helping women in our community. This year Samira Harnish received the award at the Soroptimist’s Annual Ruby Award Gala on the 24th of March.
The Soroptimist Club is a worldwide organization with clubs in over 132 countries and 80,000 members (see also www.soroptimistinternational.org and www.soroptimist.org).  The local club supports our international activities plus activities in our local community specifically for women and girls.
Samira is honored to be awarded by such an amazing service and philanthropy group as the Soroptimist Club. In her address she explained,
The struggles of refugee women are different from their men.  They face the traditional requirements of women -- homemaking, childcare, and emotionally enabling their men -- but soon realize their families need them to work, to gain skills, and to “get over” their sadness of what they lost, what suffering was forced on them, and help get out of poverty.Getting out of poverty and having a voice means not taking NO for an answer.  Women of the World’s customized service is about going to:… the same immigration and housing agencies,… the same benefits office,… into the schools or business… and talking to the same people over,…and over,…and over again.Until they get it right.
The community of Salt Lake City is extremely giving and always offers its new neighbors a helping hand. It is amazing being a small nonprofit organization in Salt Lake City as our big-hearted neighbors always want to offer a helping hand.
2016-03-23 18.38.13

Is it reasonable to resettle refugees in America?

The Syrian refugee crisis coinciding with America’s Presidential Campaigns has brought the emotional debate over refugees into the political arenas of nearly every state and over the internet. Candidates and conservative journalists have placed fear of terrorism and radicalization in front of voters while liberals in this country and abroad use compassion and sympathy in an attempt to play the heartstrings of ordinarily big-hearted Americans. While Women of the World obviously believes in our capacity to serve refugees and ensure their benefit to society and has few barriers to the amazing stories of survival of our new refugee neighbors, we want to win both hearts and minds, to show that it is reasonable to resettle refugees in America.One of the first forays into understanding if it is reasonable to resettle refugees in America was Intelligence Squared’s debate on the subject of Should the US let in 100,000 Syrian Refugees? Intelligence Squared Debates are Oxford-style debates where two debaters argue for the motion and two debaters argue against the motion. In this case, Robert Ford (Sr. Fellow, Middle East Inst. & Fmr. U.S. Ambassador to Syria) and David Miliband (President & CEO, International Rescue Committee & Fmr. U.K. Foreign Secretary) argued for the motion while David Frum (Senior Editor, The Atlantic) and Jessica Vaughan (Dir. of Policy Studies, Center for Immigration Studies) argued against.While there were still a great number of appeals to emotion in this debate, the team for the motion, especially David Miliband took on the difficult side of his argument, that it was reasonable to resettle refugees in America. He argued that "it’s right thing to do, that it's a practical thing to do, and that it's a smart thing to do."

The Economic Benefits of Refugee Resettlement

It is the right thing to do, not only morally, but because of the benefit that refugees have brought to our country. Rationally it is unfair to cherry pick the few violent or the entrepreneurial geniuses in either the first or second generation but instead understand the trends of refugee resettlement in the bulk of the distribution. That analysis in a 2012 Cleveland, Ohio study of resettled refugees showed a 10-fold economic benefit above the cost of refugee services and a similar study in 2014 in Denmark also yielded positive economic benefit. Only Jordan netted an economic detriment from the local refugee camp structure where instead of putting individuals to work in local communities (by the numbers an impossible task), infrastructure like water was overwhelmed by large numerical increases. Women of the World is working on an innovative way to track these hard numbers for resettled refugees in Utah, a state where low unemployment makes job advancement even more difficult for workers with fewer native skills.

Efficient and Effective Refugee Service

Women of the World and other service providers are accountable to the second part of Mr. Miliband’s argument, that it is practical to take in refugees. Communities across America have organizations across the public, private, non-profit, and religious spectrum that give refuge to the disenfranchised and poor. If there is a homelessness issue or high unemployment, a community will not be burdened beyond its means. In Utah, organizations like Mr. Miliband’s IRC and the Catholic Community Service resettle refugees, organizations like Women of the World and numerous LDS institutions help to take care of basic needs, employment, and service in transition from resettlement to active citizenship. Organizations like the Utah Health and Human Rights further serve needs like PTSD therapy and the Maliheh Clinic serves basic physiological health issues.Like all activities in the for-profit and non-profit sectors, refugee service must perform its business processes both efficiently and effectively, that is it must meet budgets and schedules (efficient) and achieve outcomes (effective). Successful non-profits produce results with the lowest possible overhead and have diverse funding sources to ensure continued success in challenging political or economic times. As the below quoted stat from Mr. Miliband shows, refugee service is certainly efficient...

The direct federal cost of services and benefits associated with resettling 100,000 refugees in this country — let me tell you what it is. It's 1.4 cents per American per day. That's the direct federal cost of services and benefits. It's true that that doesn't include health care costs or school costs. But nor does it include the taxes that Syrians pay when they work.

Hearts and Minds

Finally, Mr. Miliband argues that it is reasonable to resettle refugees in America because it the smart thing to do, a strategic globalization ploy to eliminate ISIS marketing that theirs is a campaign for Muslims against the anti-Muslim west. Accepting refugees begins to win the hearts and minds counterinsurgency campaign. This is a long-term play that, like building schools for girls in the Muslim world, will not make large gains in the near term, but is likely the only way to secure the peace.While I feel this was a well-argued and ultimately successful debate on the side of both reason and emotion for the pro refugee resettlement team, it was not the best performance by the against side. The appeal to fear was far too great and their strongest argument, that refugee assistance is hyper-local and what works for Salt Lake City or Cleveland may not work for Atlanta or Phoenix was debated but the figures that were given, Foodstamp assistance, was well-parried in the rebuttal round that showed that self-reliance was improving through time, a similar result to what Women of the World has seen.reasonable to resettle refugees in AmericaArguing both the hearts and minds of this argument does not yield a clear victory. As the online poll and comments show a decided objection to resettling refugees in America. The opponents largely will forego the economic and counterinsurgency positive outcome effectiveness delivered efficiently in time and cost for a greater sense of security.The world is being terrorized and fear and a desire for security are legitimate emotions or reactions. Our allies and the United States are taking military and diplomatic actions to address threats. The conversation that America needs to be having is where do we legitimately draw the line where our collective fear is going to cause us to act or not act, across all of the military, diplomatic, and humanitarian issues. Are the potential benefits and ethical upsides of humanitarian action reasonable to expect and worth it against the threat of the potential security losses? I am interested in having this conversation and believe that Americans are good neighbors, courageous, and in possession of the greatest ideal a country has ever been built upon. This is our American exceptionalism and the wellspring that will make America continue to be great.

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

Giving Tuesday in support of refugee self-reliance

Women of the World has been spreading the word about how amazing Utah has been in support of refugee women's self-reliance -- see the below spot on Comcast Newsmakers that went international on CNN Headline News.More support is always needed.  Women of the World knows that your holiday dollars are stretched thin, but for just $20 you can ensure that a refugee family can celebrate in the holiday season along with its community.  For just the price of a night at the movies, you can help a refugee mother give the warmth of the season to her family.  Just by knowing that her community is there for her -- her self-reliance is bolstered.Consider using Giving Tuesday in support of refugee self-reliance.Giving Tuesday in support of refugee self-relianceBelow is a more detailed account of what is possible when Women of the World is utilized to support women refugees no longer supported by intake agencies and who want to excel.

It was 11pm when I received a call from one of the ladies from the Congo.  She was crying but conveyed with her broken English mixed with French that she had lost her wallet on the bus.  She was so frustrated because her green card and her ID was in it. I had to calm her down, told her that tomorrow morning I would go and apply for new green card and ID.This woman is a survivor of war, oppression, poverty and rape, she is a single mother of three and a grandmother, all of whom depend on her for support. Her mother is paralyzed and she also needs a lot of help.The government supports her with food stamps but she only receives cash assistance if she works for 8 hours a day. She leaves her house from 7am-7pm to babysit for another family from Africa.  Of course no one takes care of her mother when she is gone to work.  As a result of losing her green card, she lost her opportunity to get a handicap accessible apartment (she was living in a basement with many stairs and she has to carry her mother upstairs to take her to doctor appointments).I got her a green card without her paying $460 fine, and I looked for legal places that can pay her to take care of her mother until I found one in an unknown program at Salt Lake County.Now she and her family are very happy and self-reliant because she is taking care of her mother, moved to accessible apartment, got her drivers license, and is learning English.  She is graduating WoW this December!


Leadership Institute Graduation

WLI GraduatesTonight two of the women from the Women of the World Board of Directors graduated from the Westside Leadership Institute's Leadership Development Program for Non-profit community members.  Graduation was an excited culmination of the skills that they learned and their application in serving the community of women refugees.  President and Founder Samira Harnish's team delivered a well-attended workshop on "Navigating the Public Transportation System" where refugee women were trained on how to use the UTA train and bus system.  For some of our members, this is there only system of transportation.  Director Alaa Ameen's team donated time at a soap factory and donated the product of their efforts to people in need.Samira also gave a terrific speech on the passion of the Women of the World non-profit organization to empower women to heights they would have difficulty reaching themselves.  She also spoke to the struggles of leadership in a small start-up non-profit and being able to gather the necessary commitment from volunteers to achieve the mission of the Women of the World.Overall, the night was one of celebration for the terrific accomplishments of the class and one of hope for their potential to improve our community.