Announcing the Women of the World 9th Annual Fashion Show Gala on 6 March starting at 5:30pm at The Falls Event Venue in Trolley Square in downtown Salt Lake City. Every year, the Fashion show is an opportunity to highlight something displaced women can teach us. Last year we highlighted the harms of barriers and the benefits of community, this year we move with momentum forward to restore hope. A hope--we are reminded--that is also the object of a journey we take together. The hope we are restoring is at once audacious and an incentive to act.
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…
It's impossible to try and talk for Iraqi and women refugees, even though I am proud to be an Iraqi woman -- but what I do know is that people with similar backgrounds need to gather. Women need to gather to get a break from their husbands and children, to have an adult conversation about their needs and hopes, to take an English class, to take a breath and enjoy their safety and find some support. Iraqis are much different from when I last lived there, before wars broke the country financially and hatred and distrust broke the people's emotions and will to live, they need a place to sit and rebuild this once proud preeminent civilization.For all refugee communities, women must be the primary concern. Under appreciated in many of their home countries, their role as a second wage earner builds a financially successful family, the respect they get as a mother ensures they raise well-educated, well-adjusted children. Women must have their own community center in order to gather separate from men, with their children safe in a daycare, they must be given a chance to talk together and share their stories, to socialize in English about their new lives and their dreams for the future. Furthermore, the Women Refugee Center would help women with computers to get education, FAFSA, or connect back to their families back home; it would help them develop their skills and even a business in sewing with available sewing machines, and of course it will have private rooms to help serve the private needs of women in a safe environment.[gn_pullquote align="right"]Women need to gather to get a break from their husbands and children, to have an adult conversation about their needs and hopes, to take an English class, to take a breath and enjoy their safety and find some support.[/gn_pullquote]If the Refugee Community Center only offered a place to talk, to take their case for support in an environment that respected their differences, amongst people from their situations, trained in caring and collaboration, it would be a success. But the Refugee Community Center means so much more. At the first refugee conference that I attended in January 2011, the keynote speaker and University of Utah economist Pamela Perlich developed the data for the idea that I have always felt -- diversity and immigration are more important to our economic future on the wealth end of the spectrum than on the poor end. What I mean by this, and what is backed up by Professor Perlich's data, is that the minority-majority culture is more likely to join the creative class, those imaginative enough to develop their own economies beyond the information economy. The next creative class, the first with the minority-majority demographic, can be found by looking into an elementary classroom in Salt Lake City right now. The Refugee Community Center will guide these students through adolescence, giving them a place to belong; and more importantly, will teach their parents the English they will need to not be language outcasts from their own children.[gn_box title="A Mother's Dream" color="#333333"]Every mother dreams that her son or daughter will grow to be happy, successful, and healthy. For our refugee mothers settling in Utah, this is a very tangible dream. Their children work twice as hard early on to succeed, taking nothing for granted.[/gn_box]As every mother of a teen knows, distance and silence are the weapons their child uses to begin to separate from their family and set out (even before their time) on their own. This silence is lessened when there is a place to learn English alongside your child, showing them that you care, that in this one location the seeds of fun and the seeds of learning can both be sewn. That lesson, the lesson that creativity, commitment, play, and work can come together and make an American dream, is the what the Refugee Community Center offers to mothers, daughters, Iraqis, Congolese, and Burmese refugees alike.I am committed to working hard AND smart to making something greater than ourselves. Developing a center for community that leads a child or a woman, an innocent ravaged by war, brutality, and poverty back to the path of hope and ultimately happiness is the highest ideal of service and humanity. And that is why I support the Salt Lake City Refugee Community Center on behalf of the Women of the World Non-Profit Organization and the Iraqi Community in Utah.Samira HarnishFounder and Executive Director of Women of the World
Women of the World (WoW) President Samira Harnish spoke to the University of Utah class entitled Service Learning today bringing her message of hope and service to the refugee community in Utah. The class is designed to teach students about the benefits of service and the best methods for developing communities self-sufficiency. This seminar introduced the approximately fifty students to different non-profit organizationsOur president spoke about her experiences in leading a refugee service organization and the unique challenges of women refugees in America. She spoke to why WoW was developed and how it uses the values best exemplified in refugee women heroes to do what it does in service of refugee women. Samira also spoke about her experiences as an Iraqi-American and the delicate blend that immigrants must develop between the positive role that both cultures play on enhancing the opportunities and unique outlook women offer to employers, society, and their families.Two of the students and both of the teacher's assistants were inspired to assist, but a relationship was developed between all the youth desiring service and the women of the world in need of a helping hand that will light the path for years to come. Thank you for your desire to serve and your show of support!