“We Are All in this Together” Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski’s key note speech to the Women of the World Sixth Annual Celebration of Women Refugee Success.
“Thank you for inviting me today to help celebrate so many powerful women and to honor your accomplishments. And thank you to Women of the World and to Samira Harnish, the founder of the organization.
Samira experienced the challenges of resettlement herself when coming to Salt Lake City. She was also an engineer—a very male-dominated profession in any culture. She had to navigate sexism and conquer other barriers on the path to her new life.
Eventually, Samira found a way to give back to her community and to support many other women who could benefit from her experiences. She started Women of the World in 2009, where she could advocate for women refugees who were learning a new language, enrolling their children in schools, trying to find work, and balancing it all with family obligations.
Everyone here today has benefitted from Samira’s mentorship and through this organization’s commitment to network and collaborate with leaders in government, non-profit organizations, and the private sector in job training, education, and business opportunities. As Mayor of Salt Lake City, and as an openly gay woman, wife, and mother of two young sons – both of them boys of color – I know nothing is more important than living in a safe and supportive community that upholds and protects our human rights.
I work every day to ensure this safety and to build a city for everyone. Salt Lake City’s history is all about inclusion and embracing people who came here for a better life—just as each one of you have. Our city is an example to others because we support the many diverse cultural traditions, languages, beliefs, and cuisines of our newest residents. We value this diversity. As your Mayor, I promise to continue this long-standing tradition. This is more important now than ever, as we prepare to inaugurate a new U.S. president who, unfortunately, built his campaign on highly charged and often hateful language –much of it targeting refugees, immigrants, and women.
Since the election, the disturbing language and behavior emblematic of the campaign has—not surprisingly—moved from our screens to our schools, streets, and neighborhoods. I have felt real anxiousness in the past few weeks from many people in our city. I have heard stories and seen the tears of people truly concerned that new leadership in our country will force them to leave their jobs, families, and the security they have built for themselves in our City. But I will emphasize today, as I always do, my commitment to stand against all forms of oppression, and support all who live, work, or visit our city. Through current and future policies and practices, Salt Lake City will remain committed to protecting the human rights of all who call this great city home.
Our city has welcomed more than 5,000 international refugees, as well as a thriving immigrant population. You pay taxes, our children attend school together, and each of you contribute to Salt Lake City’s cultural vibrancy. We know refugees and immigrants add strength to our community and it is our responsibility to carry on our proud tradition of being a welcoming city. I hope you will take this message home and share it with your families and friends, and with members of your communities.
Speaking of our greater community, Fatima Dirie is with us today. Many of you know Fatima, our Refugee Community Liaison and the point person in my administration to assist our refugee community with education, employment, and other needs of resettlement.Fatima speaks and works from great experience. She fled Somalia as a child with her family, and eventually came to Salt Lake City. She is a strong woman, with connections all over the community, and I made sure she was one of the first people appointed to the Mayor’s team.
As women, we are all in this together. Each one of you is here because someone—probably another woman—recognized your potential and gave time and energy to support you. Maybe another woman tutored you in English, or provided child care while you attended school. Perhaps you received a microloan for a small business, or benefitted from job training.
Whatever opportunities brought you here today, I challenge you to remember them, and to share your own knowledge and experience with other women. This is the way I’ve shared my passions for social justice and political engagement—by supporting and mentoring other women whenever possible.I ask you to share your light, to lift up other women as you go along. We need your voices. We need your presence not only at the table, but to lead important community conversations. Because we are all in this together – every one of us.
Together we can fight against fear and face challenges. We can build respect and prosperity for each other and create a stronger city and stronger lives in the process.Thank you again for this opportunity and best wishes to each of you.