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Our Staff

Women of the World provides hope, support, supplies, education, and positivity to hundreds of women refugees and their families. We are proud of our team and their tireless efforts to continue to empower the forcibly displaced women of Utah: 

ADMINISTRATIVE

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SAMIRA HARNISH

Founder & Executive Director

 

Samira came from her native Iraq to America to study engineering. After getting her degree from Utah State, she worked for 17 years as an R&D engineer at the largest domestic manufacturer of semiconductor memory.

 

Samira founded Women of the World to fulfill a lifelong dream of helping women achieve self-sufficiency and her leadership has enabled WoW to become the preeminent women’s refugee service organization in Utah. Her leadership in the community resulted in being tapped by the SLC Mayor for planning committee leadership in preparation for the 2019 United Nations Civil Society Conference, where she also spoke on making peaceful societies.

 

Samira has received local, national, and international recognition for her service and non-profit leadership including: The Enlightened 50 Award from the Utah Community Foundation, the 2014 Salt Lake City Human Rights Award, the 2016 Ruby Award from the Soroptomists of Utah, the 2017 Emerald Award for Excellence in Civic Engagement, the 2019 American Red Cross Global Citizenship Hero Award, and the 2021 Utah Business Magazine’s Business Woman of the Year. In 2018, she was awarded the America’s Region Nansen Award from the United Nations High Commission on Refugees in Geneva, Switzerland, she was chosen from over 450 international nominees. Samira serves as an Advisory Director for the Tanner Center for Human Rights.

SAMIRA HARNISH
Founder & Executive Director

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Ryan Cook 
Operations Manager

 

Ryan is originally from San Diego California and got her Bachelors degree at Brigham Young University and her Masters at the London School of Economics studying Anthropology and Development. She found anthropology combined her passions for history, languages, and the arts into one subject that focused on human complexities. In her experience, she has learned that sustainable change best comes from learning about the beautiful cultural differences that exist around the world. She has worked and done research with Amazonian Indigenous groups in Ecuador and with various NGOs throughout the United States, United Kingdom, the Philippines, and Uganda. The majority of Ryan's past experiences revolved around empowering women in their surroundings and she is excited to bring what she has learned to the growth and support of Women of the World. 

 

She believes every encounter with someone new is an opportunity to learn and when not working is outside far more than inside.

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KATIE FILIPESCU-SANCHEZ

Office Administrator

 

Katie has always been passionate about helping her community and helping others find their voice. While getting her Bachelor's in Music from Weber State University, she studied social power structures and how individuals express themselves within these structures through music, dance, and art. She has studied and performed around the world including places such as Spain, Hawaii, Italy, Pennsylvania, and New Zealand.

 

Katie has worked locally as a campaign manager to help build a more equitable community and to make Utah's election process more fair. Most recently she worked for the City of Salt Lake where she aided inspectors in keeping secure communities. She is excited to be here at Women of the World and to continue building a stronger community for everyone!

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GHINWA HNEIDE
Case Manager / Workshop Manager

 

Ever since she was a child, Ghinwa felt an urge to extend help to anyone in need. After graduating with a degree in English Literature from University of Damascus, she turned that urge into a career when she joined the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in her home country of Syria. In that capacity, Ghinwa helped refugees leave their shattered lives behind and head towards a brighter future in the United States through resettlement.

When the Syrian Civil War began, Ghinwa moved to the United States where she obtained a Master's degree in Coexistence and Conflict Resolution at one of the top ten social policy and management schools in the country, Brandeis University. Now, as part of WoW team, Ghinwa is doing what she has always been passionate about, helping others!

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ROXIE HARSHBARGER

Case Manager/Employer Partnership

 

Roxie is originally from Indianapolis, IN but has lived across the country and the world in Dakar, Senegal; Hamburg, Germany; Alaska, Wyoming and now in Utah. In addition to English, she speaks German, French and is working on learning Spanish! Roxie received a Bachelor's Degree in International Studies with a concentration in Human Rights and International Law from Indiana University and is passionate about immigration policy and community development. Her experience includes interning at La Revue Diplomatique magazine in Dakar and the ACLU of Utah, and she has worked with folks who are unhoused and at the Utah Refugee Services Office.

 

When she is not at work, she loves to be outside in the mountains or the desert, volunteering in the community, traveling, or spending time with friends. She is looking forward to meeting you!

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RUBY WAHINEHOOKAE

Case Manager

 

Ruby graduated from Utah State University with her Bachelor’s in Global Communication, minoring in French. She grew up in Spanish Fork, UT in a big, loud, loving family and loves to spend time with them as often as possible.

 

Growing up in a multi-cultural family herself, Hawaiian and American, she has always been drawn to learning about other cultures and peoples. She has visited and lived in several places including, Alaska, Canada, Puerto Rico, and Benin. She found her passion in working with vulnerable populations and expanding her outlook on the world. 

 

She is excited to meet and work with the amazing and gifted people associated with Women of the World.

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KATE LUNNEN

Justice Advocacy Intern

 

​Kate Lunnen is a third year student at the University of Utah majoring in English and Gender Studies. Kate is a member of the Tanner Center for Human Rights Justice Advocacy Program and has a particular focus in immigration and trans advocacy. In her time at the University of Utah, Kate has led fundraising initiatives for the LGBT Resource Center, Student Emergency Scholarships, the Feed U Pantry, and Career Counseling Center. She has also been recognized as a student leader and been selected to join the Senate Executive Committee of the Associated Students of the University of Utah.  

Kate grew up in Pennsylvania and loves exploring new places. After graduating college Kate hopes to attend law school and work in the public sector to help support her communities. She is excited to begin working and connecting with all of the incredible people who make WoW possible!

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LONDON KELLEY

Social Media Intern

 

​London Kelley is a sophomore at the University of Utah, studying Political Science and International Studies, with an emphasis in international law and human rights. Previously she was the social media intern for a grassroots organization. In her spare time she loves reading, snowboarding, and rock climbing. She is curious about how social media influences and connects people from around the globe, and is super excited to be joining the WoW team for the fall semester!