Tuesday, December 23, 2008

May 2009 be full of peace and joy

2008 began with the first ever Georgia Refugee Public Policy Forum and ended with "In Our Hands: Building Solidarity and Community" RWN's Ninth Annual Refugee and Immigrant Women's Leadership Conference. In between, was another year of incredible accomplishments made by refugee and immigrant women, which has been documented on this blog.

Our gratitude and well wishes go out to:
8 Consulting, 9 to 5, A to Z Information Systems, American Civil Liberties Union, Bridging Refugee Youth and Children's Services, Catholic Social Services, Center for Pan Asian Community Services, Clarkston Community Center, Decatur First Bank, DeKalb County Board of Health, Deported Diaspora, Disability Resource Group, Emory University, Ethiopian Community Development Council, Feminist Women's Health Center, Ford Foundation, Freedom Inc., General Building Maintenance, Georgia Asylum and Immigration Network, Georgia Coalition for Refugee Mental Health, Georgia Perimeter College, Georgia Student Finance Commission, Habitat for Humanity, Hmong American Women's Association, Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, Institute for Social and Economic Development, International Community School, International Rescue Committee, International Womens' House, Jewish Family and Career Services, League of Women Voters, Lutheran Ministries of Georgia, Martial Eagle Enterprises, Spring Institute for Intercultural Learning, Office for Civil Rights, Office of Refugee Resettlement, Project SHINE, Raksha, Refugee Housing Council, Refugee and Immigrant Women's Association of Sioux Falls, Refugee Resettlement and Immigration Services of Atlanta, Safe Kids USA, Somali Family Care Network, Southeast Asia Resource Action Center, Sustainable Wellness, Tapestri, Tides Foundation, United Nations Development Fund for Women, United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees, World Relief, Women Watch Afrika, Women’s Initiative for Self-Empowerment, WRFG radio. All apologies to anyone we may have inadvertently overlooked.

Thanks also goes to all the board members, staff, volunteers, and constitituents of RWN.

And thanks and well wishes especially to all the refugee and immigrant women who draw upon their strength, skills, and courage to build a new life for themselves, their families, and their communities.

Thank you and may 2009 be full of peace and joy.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Human Rights Day

Today is Human Rights Day and Refugee Women's Network, Inc. is very proud to be a sponsor of tonight's event. Additionally, one of the speakers, Ms. Anne Olson, is an RWN board member.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Celebrating Diversity in 2008

180 refugee and immigrant women from 18 states and originally from 38 countries attended In Our Hands: Building Solidarity and Community, RWN's National Refugee and Immigrant Women's Leadership Conference. Truly, 8 is an auspicious number.

They were presenters and participants in workshops about leadership development, economic empowerment, health, fundraising, and more.

A report and picture slideshow will be coming soon.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Leadership Conference Registration Deadline Extended

The registration deadline has been extended to November 10, 2008 and one day rates are also available.

Refugee Women’s Network will be hosting In Our Hands: Building Solidarity and Community, our 9th Annual Refugee & Immigrant Women’s Leadership Conference in Atlanta, Georgia on November 14-16th 2008.

RWN welcomes you, your friends, staff, and the refugee and immigrant women you know to attend this gathering of diverse individuals with as diverse experiences and workshop on the topics of leadership, advocacy, microenterprise, and health. We expect 150 women from across the US who will come from 40 different countries to attend.

For more information visit http://www.riwn.org/rwn/rwn+conference.

There’s an airfare discount through AirTran, with the promo code of ATL 111508, which provides:
· A 10% discount on the lowest available AirTran Airways one way fare.
· Attendees may travel three days prior to the event start date and three days after the event close date if they wish to spend any additional time in Atlanta.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Airfare discount available for Conference participants

Refugee Women’s Network is also offering an airfare discount through AirTran Airlines for those attending In Our Hands: Building Solidarity and Community, our 9th Annual Refugee & Immigrant Women’s Leadership Conference in Atlanta, Georgia on November 14-16th 2008.

Also, we are extending the early registration fee to November 1, 2008.

Workshops will addressing the topics of leadership, advocacy, microenterprise, and health and the registration materials are available at http://www.riwn.org/rwn/rwn+conference

The promo code of ATL 111508 provides:
· A 10% discount on the lowest available AirTran Airways one way fare.
· Attendees may travel three days prior to the event start date and three days after the event close date if they wish to spend any additional time in Atlanta.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

One month away: National Refugee & Immigrant Women’s Leadership Conference

In Our Hands: Building Solidarity and Community
9th Annual Refugee & Immigrant Women’s Leadership Conference
November 14-16, 2008, Westin Peachtree Plaza Hotel, Atlanta, Georgia

The conference is an opportunity for women leaders from the refugee and immigrant community to share their experience, best practices, network and learn from one another. The Gallery of Change-Makers will highlight their achievements and workshops are organized into the following major thematic categories: Leadership Development, Organizational/Community Development, Personal Growth/Development, Health, Microenterprise Development, Youth and Advocacy.

Participants can register for the full conference or for one day only, and a promotional code from AirTran Airways provides a 10% discount on airfare.

For more information, contact info@riwn.org or 404-299-0180 x 226. Registration materials and the workshop schedule are available online at http://www.riwn.org/.

The conference is only a month away. Register today!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Save the Date: National Conference November 14 to 16, 2008

In Our Hands: Building Solidarity and Community
9th Annual Refugee & Immigrant Women’s Leadership Conference
November 14-16, 2008
Westin Peachtree Plaza Hotel, Atlanta, Georgia

Keynote speakers:
  • Kabzuag Vaj – Ms. Kabzuag Vaj is a community organizer with Freedom Inc. which organizes services and advocacy for low income communities of color in Dane County, Wisconsin.
  • Reaching Across Ethnic Divides to Build Solidarity & Community – A panel discussion of the genesis of three organizations: International Community School, International Women’s House and Tapestri, Inc.: Refugee and Immigrant Coalition Challenging Gender-Based Violence.
  • Looking to the Future -- Presentation by our board of directors about the future direction of RWN.

About the Conference: The 9th Annual Refugee & Immigrant Women’s Leadership Conference is an opportunity for women leaders from the refugee and immigrant community to share their experience, best practices, network and learn from one another.

Workshops: organized into the following major thematic categories: Leadership Development, Organizational/Community Development, Personal Growth/Development, Health, Microenterprise Development, Youth and Advocacy.

For more information, contact
info@riwn.org or 404-299-0180 x 226. Registration materials will soon be posted online at http://www.riwn.org/.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Grand Opening: Microenterprise Program Success Story

This weekend was the grand opening of the Family Choice Salon, run by one of our microenterprise program clients, Ms. Kumari Ghimery.

Ms. Ghimery came to the US 5 years ago as an asylee, fleeing persecution in Bhutan because she is a member of the Nepalese ethnic minority in Bhutan.

When she came, RWN gave her a job as receptionist, but her real dream was to open her own salon.

She attended the RWN Business Plan Training classes, went to cosmetology school and worked in other salons to gain experience and build a clientele. All along, took microloans for RWN to help her move to the next step.

In case that wasn't enough, she also got married, bought a house in the Atlanta, Georgia suburbs, and started a family.

Finally this summer, with the help of another RWN microloan, she was able to open her own salon:

Family Choice Salon
3153 Sugarloaf Parkway
Suite 107
Lawrenceville, GA 30045
Phone # 770.558.2134

It's open and airy with hair cutting stations in the main area and a room for facials and a room for waxing off the hall in the back. She has three employees to provide those services, while she concentrates of cutting hair and managing the salon.

The salon is located in suburban Gwinnett County, the fastest growing county in the US. It is a suburb of the Atlanta, Georgia area, with many highly rated schools and affordable housing. Therefore, many refugees and immigrants buy their first homes in Gwinnett.
This is a wonderful success story. Not only has she rebuilt her life, but she is contributing to the Atlanta economy and providing employment for others. What a bright spot in a discouraging economy.
Congratulations to Ms. Kumari Ghimery!

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

UNIFEM/USA 2008 Conference June 21 and 22 in Atlanta

RWN will be participating at the UNIFEM/USA 2008 Annual Meeting and Conference: Creating Change...Improving Lives, Saturday, June 21 and Sunday, June 22. It will be held at the SunTrust Conference Center, 303 Peachtree Street, NE, Atlanta, Georgia.

RWN's executive director will participate on the panel Microfinance: Empowering Women Worldwide. Additionally 6 of RWN's Microenterprise clients -- refugee and immigrant women entrepreneurs -- will have vendor booths at the marketplace.

UNIFEM is the women’s fund at the United Nations. It provides financial and technical assistance to innovative programs and strategies to foster women’s empowerment and gender equality. Placing the advancement of women’s human rights at the center of all of its efforts, UNIFEM focuses its activities on four strategic areas:

  • Reducing women’s poverty and exclusion;
  • Ending violence against women;
  • Halting the spread of HIV/AIDS among women and girls;
  • Supporting women’s leadership in governance and post-conflict reconstruction.

To learn more or register for the UNIFEM/USA conference, go to http://www.unifemusa.org/

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Board Member Anne Olson honored for lifetime of service

Board member Anne Olson was honored at the 5th Annual Georgia's Legacy: Older Women Active and Alive Past Sixty-Five Awards Luncheon. It was presented by the Georgia Commission on Women, the Georgia Women's Institute, and the Georgia Osteoporosis Initiative.

As described in the program, the luncheon honors
ten outstanding Georgia women who, though past the usual age of retirement, are
still significantly involved and productive

It was a great event and very inspiring for those of us under the age of sixty-five, to see vibrant and vital women into their 80's who are continuing a lifetime of achievement. It certainly gave me something to strive for.

Here is Ms. Olson's biographical statement from the program. At RWN we are extremely fortunate to have someone as talented, committed, and accomplished on our board of directors.

Anne Olson, a feminist/scholar/activist, focusing on gender economic and racial
human rights, retired in 1999 from Emory University School of Nursing, where she
taught nutritiion, after working twenty-five years as federal program
administration for Georgia Department of Education. A member of Atlanta Living Wage Steering Committee, she continues efforts to raise the minimum wage, especially for home healthcare workers, though the Georgia Legislature has yet to approve it! She serves as a planner, fundraiser and facilitator for the leadership team of Project South. She worked on logistics and outreach for last summer's event sponsored by the US Social Forum, attended by 15,000 grass roots organizers, coordinated Amnesty International's Stop Violence against Women campaign, serves on the boards of Women Watch Afrika and Refugee Women's Network. She has worked on Poor People's Day at the Capitol and the Up & Out of Poverty Coalition since 1999. She received the Gerry Conroy Human Rights Activist Award from the Georgia Coalition on Hunger "for her tireless work on human rights, gender equity, racial and economic justice." Anne lives in East Lake Commons, edits the communtiy newsletter, and participates in the Neighborhood Connections and Affordability Committees. She has two children and three grandchildren who live in Boston and West Palm Beach.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

RWN on WRFG 89.3 FM

On April 16, RWN was on the radio in Atlanta.

WRFG (W Radio Free Georgia) is the local community radio station where the DJs are all volunteers. A few of RWN's past and present board members and staff have been hosting radio shows on WRFG for many many years.

Yesterday I was the guest on Dr. Asha's show, Health Issues Today. I thought I would have only 10 minutes of her half hour show but we ended up talking the whole time. Time just flew by.

She asked me who were refugees, what issues do refugees face, what resources are available to refugees, etc.

These are issues we address at RWN so it was very easy to talk about.

This is the takeaway message I wanted the listeners to get:
Yes, refugees have endures incredible trauma and hardship -- war, violence, and women deal with sexual assault during the war and in the refugee camps -- and now they are in their new country and working hard to rebuild a life while dealing with culture shock, language barriers, as well as the past trauma. And this is a testimony of the strength of refugee women. And I want people to think positively about refugee women as they rebuild their lives, their families and their and our communities here and now.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

New Board Member: Sabrina Shams DeJoannis

RWN is very happy to introduce our newest board member, Ms. Sabrina Shams DeJoannis, engineering and financial analyst at the Georgia Power Company.

Ms. DeJoannis has been a trailblazer from a very early age. She is the first woman in her Bangladeshi family to leave home without being married. She immigrated to the US to pursue her education, and now she works as a woman in the male-dominated engineering field.

This drive to excel is evident during her tenure as president of the Atlanta section of the Society of Women Engineers from July 2005 to June 2007. In that time, she doubled the number of members and in 2006 alone, this newly energized chapter served 1000 middle and high school girls in Atlanta. She now serves as the Southeast Region Treasurer until June 2008. Clearly she is committed to increasing the number of women and girls studying, working, and succeeding in science and technology.

Georgia Power recognizes her leadership potential. She was selected as the first candidate to the first of its kind developmental rotational assignment in SCS Finance, working as a financial analyst to understand the business dimension of her company. Georgia Power is also funding her pursuit of a Master’s in Business Administration. After 2 years as a financial analyst, she will return to power delivery engineering to assume a leadership position.

Ms. Shams DeJoannis is also a graduate of the Destiny Fund, a program offered by the Atlanta Women's Foundation to develop women's philanthropy.

RWN is indeed fortunate to have such talent and dedication to community service on our board of directors.

We are fortunate indeed to

Friday, March 28, 2008

Congratulations to Ruth Lomo of Memphis, Tennessee

Ms. Ruth Lomo will be honored Sunday at the 24th Women of Achievement Awards Celebration in Memphis, Tennessee for her work with the the International Community of Refugee Women and Children.

RWN is quite proud of Ms. Lomo, a refugee from Sudan, and a graduate of our Leadership Training program and we extend our congratulations to her.

An article about Ms. Lomo and the award celebration can be seen at http://www.commercialappeal.com/news/2008/mar/27/outstanding/ and is copied below.

2008 awards celebrate inspirational and highly accomplished local women
By Fredric Koeppel
Thursday, March 27, 2008

When Ruth Lomo arrived in Memphis in 2001, she brought her five children, the six children of her dead sisters, another orphan not related to her family and the skills in carpentry she used in refugee camps after she fled in 1990 from Sudan, her native country.

Struggling with the language and to make a living, learning the ins-and-outs of life in an alien culture and the mysteries of navigating her children's schools -- and watching the families of other refugee single mothers confront the same problems -- inspired Lomo to create the International Community of Refugee Women and Children in 2003.

The organization has been centered since October 2007 at the Memphis Leadership Foundation, a nondenominational ministry aimed at improving the lives of urban children and their families. Lomo's program provides after-school tutoring to help refugee children with their homework, offers classes in English for adults and aid in coping with the procedures and traditions of a strange country.

For that effort, Lomo is one of seven women who will be honored Sunday at the 24th Women of Achievement Awards Celebration. The category of Lomo's award is Initiative, "for a woman who seized the opportunity to use her talents and created her own future."

Howard Eddings, president of the Memphis Leadership Foundation, where the Refugee Empowerment Program is an umbrella organization for several refugee programs, praised Lomo's dedication and selflessness.

"I think her passion for the work she's doing, and the compassion for the people she serves really speak volumes for what she has accomplished with few resources," said Eddings. "She really desires for each person she comes in contact with to take care of themselves and yet be able to take advantage of all the opportunities available here."

The Women of Achievement Awards 2008 will be held at the Holiday Inn-University of Memphis, 3700 Central, beginning with a buffet reception at 4 p.m. Tickets are $20; deadline for reservations is Friday. Call 458-6701 for more information or to purchase tickets.
This year's awards are dedicated to Wanda Martin, president of Women of Achievement Inc. from 1999 to 2001, who died Dec. 2, 2007.

The other categories and winners of the 2008 Women of Achievements Awards are:
Heritage, "for a woman of generations past whose achievements still enrich our lives" -- Florence McIntyre (1879-1963), first director of Brooks Memorial Art Gallery, head of the Free Art School and longtime local art teacher.

Steadfastness, "for a woman with a lifetime of achievement" -- Carolyn Gates, 17-year Shelby County commissioner, first woman to serve as chair of the County Commission, founding member of the Salvation Army Auxiliary and Dogwood Village (now Youth Villages).

Determination, "for a woman who solved a glaring problem despite widespread inertia, apathy or ignorance around her" -- Rebecca Jane Edwards, founder of the Cultural Development Foundation of Memphis, dedicated to expanding diversity in artistic performance and audience, particularly for low- and moderate-income communities.

Courage, "for a woman who, facing active opposition, backed an unpopular cause in which she deeply believed" -- Corinne Derenburger, founder of Ryan's Hope for Family and Friends, an organization that provides support for families with children who have severe physical and mental disabilities.

Heroism, "for a woman whose heroic spirit was tested and shown as a model to all in Shelby County and beyond" -- Ashley Sanders, who at the age of 18, in March 2007, saved the life of a woman who had been shot in the back during a carjacking.

Vision, "for a woman whose sensitivity to women's needs led her to tremendous achievements for women" -- Dr. Phyllis Betts, director of the Center for Community Building and Neighborhood Action and associate director of the Center for Research on Women at the University of Memphis and a founder of the Memphis Area Women's Council.

Lomo and her family lived in refugee camps in Zaire, Uganda and Kenya. Christians from the south of Sudan, they fled the war-torn country after Islamic rebels attacked their town.
"You're only supposed to stay in the refugee camps temporarily," Lomo, 38, said this week, sitting in the living room of her apartment on North Highland.

"If there is no peace, the U.N. screens cases to see why people cannot go back to their country. We came to Memphis through the Catholic Charities organization."

Lomo acquired leadership skills early in life. In Sudan, she worked for a women's self-help program. Trained as a carpenter, she ran a workshop teaching women carpentry skills so they could support themselves. In the refugee camp in Kenya, she was elected as the leader of her group.

In Memphis, she said, "I had to struggle helping my children with their homework. We, as refugee parents, cannot give our children the kind of support that American parents can give. I got tutors for my children through Second Presbyterian Church, and in my heart I thought, 'Why can't I share this with other refugee children?' " Lomo's children range from 8 to 19, with the oldest now at Christian Brothers University. The others attend Evangelical Christian School.
Thus, Lomo started the after-school program with 12 children at Leawood Baptist Church. Five years later, the program helps 160 to 170 refugee students, holding two sessions between 3 and 7 p.m., Monday through Thursday. There is now a full-time staff with a program director and an educational specialist. Memphis Leadership Foundation provides the space and fund-raising support.

Since its first celebration, Women of Achievement Awards have gone to nearly 150 recipients. For information, visit womenofachievement.org.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

March 28 Shero: Augusta Savage

(February 29, 1892 - March 26, 1962)

Augusta Savage was an African American sculptor, the first director of the Harlem Community Art enter (1937) and exhibitor in the 1939 World's Fair. Her sculpture "Lift Every Voice and Sing" was destroyed when the Fair closed because no money could be found to cast it in bronze.

One of the first women to study sculpture at Cooper Union, she opened the Savage School of Arts and Crafts in Harlem and in 1939, founded the Salon of Contemporary Negro Art. She was one of the first modern sculptors to depice sympathetic and realistic portrayals of African features in her work.

March 27 Shero: Anna Mae Pictou Aquash

(March 27, 1945 -- her murdered body was discovered on February 24, 1976)

Anna Mae Pictou Aquash was an American Indian Movement activist murdered by the US Government. Her hands were cut off and sent to Washington for "identification."

March 26 Shero: Kate Richards O'Hare

(March 26, 1877 - Januarty 10, 1948)
Kate Richards O'Hare was an European American birth control advocate, prison reformer, leading socialtih in Debs' era of the Socialist Party.

Born in Kansas, she became active in the temperance movement and assisted unwed mothers and prostitutes. She became a socialist in her disillusionment with church and from the fiery oratory and leadershiop of Mother Jones. She herself became a powerful speaker rallying Kansas poor farmers and migrant workers. In April 1919, she and other comrades were arrested, convicted and imprisoned under the Espionage Act for criticism of the US role in WWI. She served 14 months and was released to a decimated white Left movement.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

March 25 Shero: Ida Barnett Wells

(July 16, 1862 - March 25, 1931)

Ms. Wells was an African-American anti-lynching crusader, social activist, journalist, and race woman, and founding member of the NAACP. She published A Red Record, the first book to document lynchings of African Americans.

March 24 Shero: Olive Schreiner

(March 24, 1855 - December 11, 1920)

Ms. Schreiner was a white South African opponent of apartheid and European colonialism ism Africa. She was also an anti-capitalist Victorian Age feminist. Her book Woman and Labor became a central text in the early 20th century feminist movement.

March 23 Shero: Eva Lowe

(August 1909 to ?)

"I always believed in fighting for the underdog"
Eva Lowe was a Chinese-American anti-imperialist, "soap box" street agitator, organizer of unemployed Chinese American workers, and the only woman member of the Huaren Shinyi Hui (Chinese Unemployment Alliance).
On March 23, 1931, she gave a speech presenting the demands of the Chinese unemployed: food and shelter, free hospital services, free education for unemployed women, and an office for the Alliance.

March 22 Shero: Lilian Masediba Ngoyi

(1911 - March 12, 1980)

"Ma Ngoyi" was a South African pass-law resistor, leaders of the famous August 9 anti-apartheid march. An activist in the Garment Workers Union, and organizer for the African National Congress' Women's League, she was subjected to imprisonment, solitary confinement and torture. Thousands attended her funeral.

Friday, March 21, 2008

March 21 Shero: Lear Green

(19th century) Ms. Green was an enslaved African escapee who shipped herself as freight in a sailor's chest from Baltimore to Philadelphia to free herself while her fiance's mother traveled north on the same steamer. She is an example of the many creative ways in which enslaved Africans got free.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Happy Persian New Year!

Today is New Year's Day in Iran and Afghanistan and other cultures and places influenced by the Persian culture.

Nowrūz is the traditional Iranian new year holiday celebrated in Iran, Turkey, Azerbaijan, Afghanistan, Albania, Bahrain, Armenia, Georgia, the countries of Central Asia such as Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Kazakhstan, as well as among various other Iranian and Turkic peoples in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Pakistan, India, Northwestern China, the Caucasus, the Crimea, and the Balkans.

It's timed to the Spring Equinox, when the sun crossed the equator and the day and night are of equal lengths.

March 20 Shero: Lozen

(1840? - 1890) Lozen was a reconnaissance expert, skilled markswoman, strategist, healer, messenger, shaman, emissary for Geronimo, a respected and honored Chiricahua Apache warrior who never married, and a breaker of gender rules.

As a girl she outran all the boys in foot races. At her puberty ceremony, she was given extrasensory power to find the enemy. She died as a captured prisoner of war in US military prison barracks.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

March 19 Shero: Nina Teitelboim

(1918 - July 1943, executed)

Nina Teitelboim was known as "Little Wanda with the Braids" when she was a Polish underground courier and anti-Nazi fighter. She was deputy commander of a special task force of the People's Guard that blew up railway and communication lines.

On October 16, 1942, she and her comrades blew up the exclusive Cafe-Club, a gathering place for the Wehrmacht and Gestapo elite. On November 30, she participated in a spectacular raid in broad daylight that retrieved the million zloty that the Nazis had confiscated from the people of Warsal. She eventually was captured, tortured (she revealed nothing) and executed.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

March 18 Shero: Agnes Smedley

(1892 - May 8, 1950)

Agnes Smedley was an European-American feminist, radical writer dedicated to the oppressed, novelist, foreign correspondent, supporter of the Indian and Chinese independence movements, and constantly targeted and smeared by the US and British governments and media as a communist spy.

Born into a poor Missouri tenant farmer family, Agnes grew up in a series of Colorado mining camps near the site of the Ludlow massacre. Agnes first became active in Margaret Sanger's birth control movement and withthe Indian nationalist movement in the US. She devoted her life to reporting and supporting the struggles of the poor and the Asian peoples.

On March 18, 1918, she ws arrested for violating the Federal Espionage Act for her international solidarity work on behalf of the Indian Nationalist Party. Imprisoned for her activities, she moved to Germany in 1920.

Her traumatic experiences in the male-dominated Indian nationalist movement resulted in a nervous breakdown. She recovered by writing her autobiographical novel Daughter of the Earth, which has become a feminist classic. Denouncing any emotional dependency on a man, Agnes went to China in 1929 and wrote extensiveley about the oppressed peasantry with special sympathy for the women.

Monday, March 17, 2008

March 17 Shero: Saiza Nabarawi

(1897 - 1985)

"A double standard! This will always exist as long as men rule!"

Saiza Nabarawi was an Egyptian feminist and national liberation leader, journalist, and editor of L'Egyptienne, Egypt's first explicitly feminist journal. Post-independence, she continued to challenge the hypocrisy she saw among her male colleagues with regard to women.

Macrh 16 Shero: Huda Sha'rawi

(1879 - 1947)

Huda Sha'rawi was a pioneering Egyptian feminist and independence leader. Born into an upperclass background, she pioneered modern Egyptian feminism. She was part of the last generation of Egyptian women to reach maturity under the harem system. A leader in the independence movement from British colonial rule, at age 44 she founded the Egyptian Feminist Union on March 16, 1923.

March 15 Shero: Abigail Mejia

(April 15, 1895 - March 15, 1941)

Abigail Mejia was an Dominican suffrage activist, author, and scholor who organized onver 96,000 women for a symbolic vote in the Dominican Republic in 1934. She was also the founder of Accion Feminista Dominicana.

Friday, March 14, 2008

March 14 Shero: Tituba

(late 17th century)

Tituba was an African American - Native American healer from Barbados, persecuted as a "witch." The slave of a Salem, Massachusetts minister who brought her from Barbados to the US, Tituba shunned the Puritan lifestyle and religion. She was feared for openly practicing her cultural rituals and sought after as a healer.

Ignorance and hysteria fueled the 1692 witchhunts and she was among the accused. Her trial began in march of 1692 and her petition for release was granted on February 21, 1693.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

March 13 Shero: Josephine St. Pierre Ruffin

(1842 - March 13, 1924)

Josephine St. Pierre Ruffin was a champion of poor African American children in the US South. A descendent of African, European, and Native American heritage, she ws a charter member of the National Federation of Afro-American Women, the National Association of Colored Women, and the Northeast Federation of Women's Clubs.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

March 12 Shero: Minerva Mirabel

(March 12, 1927 - November 25, 1960, executed)
Minerval Mirabel was the oldest of the 3 Mirabel sisters -- Dominican women who defied the Trujillo dictatorship and the US invasion/occupation of their country. All 3 sisters were executed on November 25, 1960.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

March 11 Shero: Machig Lapdron

(15th day of the 5th month of the Year of the Horse, 1055 C.E. - 1143 C.E.)

Tibetan mystic, the incarnation of Yeshe Tsogyel (the 8th century consort of Guru Padma Sambhara who brought Tantric Buddhism to Tibet). Born in Labchi Eli Gangwar of her mother Bum Cham ("Great Noblewoman") and father Chokyi Dawa ("Moon of Dharma"). She bassed on her unique Chod teachings to her 16 main disciples, 1,263 other followers and 433 whom she cured.

Monday, March 10, 2008

March 10 Shero: Hazel Wolf

Hazel Wolf (March 10, 1898 - January 19, 2000)
"We can't win the revolution with half the proletariat in the the kitchen."

Hazel Wolf was a Canadian-born environmentalist, advocate for women's suffrage and human rights. Briefly a member of the US Communist party after she had moved to Washington State, she worked as a union organizer during the Depression. Called by some the "Red Grandma" the US government charged her with conspiracy and arrested her in 1958, attempting to deport her; however she finally attained US citizenship.

She was the winner of the National Audubon Society's Medal of Excellence in 1997, having organized 21 chapters of the Society in Washington, and also leading the way for an Audubon chapter in Leningrad. She helped to organize the Indian Conservationist Conference in 1979, forging an alliance between Indigenous peoples and environmentalists. Wolf was an official observer in the Nicaraguan elections of 1990.

March 10 is Hazel Wolf Day in Washington State.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

March 9 Shero: Aleksandra Kollantai

In honor of Women's History Month, we will bring profiles of courageous and skilled women from around the world and present their herstories, so that they may not be forgotten.These women are taken from the 2008 Sheroes Womyn Warriors Wall Calendar.


March 9 Shero: Aleksandra Kollantai (March 9, 1872 - March 9, 1952)

"Sex should be as easy and as uncomplicated as drinking a glass of water."

Bolshevik feminist, writer, the only woman on Lenin's Central Committee, who later fell into disfavor and was "exiled" as a diplomat. She shaped the first socialist republic's policies such as paid maternal care, day care, communal living arrangements, easy divorce, and recruitment of women into the labor force. She boldly and creatively applied Marxism to concepts of love, sexuality, women's liberation and revolutionary struggle and commitment. By 1922 she had become one of the first Bolshevik leaders to criticize the growing bureaucracy and authoritarianism in the new socialist state; Lenin had her assigned abroad as a diplomat.

March 8: International Women's Day

"Don't be so 3/8! Behave!"

When I first heard this in Taiwan, I didn't know what 3/8 meant. I was an ordinary girl being scolded by an ordinary adult trying to mold me into what a culturally acceptable woman should be.

Then I realized that 3 referred to March, the third month of the year, and 8 to the eighth day of the month.

So 3/8 referred to March 8th, International Women's Day, the day to commemorate the political, economic and social rights and advances of women. And yet in Taiwan, it was used as a term to refer to girls who were silly, outspoken, assertive, and otherwise "misbehaving."

Rather reinforces the need for an International Women's Day, don't you think?

There are many events happening around the world and in our hometowns to mark International Women's Day. There will be marches and speeches, poems and songs about how far women have come, what rights we have now, and how far we have yet to go, what barriers we still face because of our gender.

There will also be everyday women, going about their everyday lives, living their lives as if their lives and aspirations were as important as everyone else's. Because they are.

And ultimately that's what all our women's rights struggles are about. Equal access to jobs, schools, health care, and lives free from sexual harassment and violence should be the norm, not the exception.

Equality will be achieved not only by mass protests, lawsuits to fight discrimination, and community organizing. Equality will also achieved by the everyday actions of women asserting their rights in everyday situations.

And that's a great way to commemorate International Women's Day too.

March 8 Shero: Laura Kofey

In honor of Women's History Month, we will bring profiles of courageous and skilled women from around the world and present their herstories, so that they may not be forgotten.These women are taken from the 2008 Sheroes Womyn Warriors Wall Calendar.


March 8 Shero: Laura Kofey (1893? - March 8, 1928)

The most successful Universal Negro Improvement Association organizer, next to its founder-leader Marcus Garvey. Her origins are steeped in mystery. She claimed to be an African princess who migrated to the US in 1926 to support UNIA programs. Her success and popularity earned her Garvey's ire. Denounced by Garvey, her supporters expelled from the UNIA, she left to set up her own African Universal Church in Miami. Her sermons were so well-attended, drawing away from the local churches, that the local black clergy oppsed her. She was assassinated on March 8, 1928, her murder never solved, but it was widely suspected that UNIA supporters were involved.

March 7 Shero: Susan McKinney Steward

In honor of Women's History Month, we will bring profiles of courageous and skilled women from around the world and present their herstories, so that they may not be forgotten.These women are taken from the 2008 Sheroes Womyn Warriors Wall Calendar.
March 7 Shero: Susan McKinney Steward (1847 - March 7, 1918)

Brooklyn, NY African American physician, hospital founder, women's rights activist. She served patients of any race or economic background, often not charging those who could not pay her fee.

March 6 Shero: Pearl Sydenstricker Buck

In honor of Women's History Month, we will bring profiles of courageous and skilled women from around the world and present their herstories, so that they may not be forgotten.These women are taken from the 2008 Sheroes Womyn Warriors Wall Calendar.

March 6 Shero: Pearl Sydenstricker Buck
(June 26, 1892 - March 6, 1973)

"I feel no need for any other faith than my faith in human beings."

Nobel and Pulitzer-prize winning European-American writer, the daughter of Presbyterian missionaries, she weas raised in China. Her writings introduced millions of Americans to China and Asia. Her 100+ books and many essays addressed racism, sexism, imperialism, life in Kansas, and her own life. She organized two foundations to benefit Asian and Amerasian children -- one in the US and one in Asia. Her book The Good Earth was on the bestseller list for months, sold 2 million copies, was translated in 30 languages, adapted for stage and film, and won her the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1932.

March 5 Shero: Josephine Herbst

In honor of Women's History Month, we will bring profiles of courageous and skilled women from around the world and present their herstories, so that they may not be forgotten.These women are taken from the 2008 Sheroes Womyn Warriors Wall Calendar, published by the Gustavus Myers Center for the Study of Bigotry and Human Rights and Big Red Media, Inc.
March 5 Shero: Josephine Herbst
(March 5, 1892 - January 28, 1969) European American leftist journalist, "proletarian novelist," one of the most important American writers of the 1930s. Born in poverty, she was forced out of her government job in 1942 and endured government persecution until 1954 for her politics. Her epic Civil War trilogy -- Pity is Not Enough, The Executioner Awaits and Rope of Gold -- published in the 1930s, remains one of the great literary works in the proletarian style of literature.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

March 4 Shero: Mabel Hampton

In honor of Women's History Month, we will bring profiles of courageous and skilled women from around the world and present their herstories, so that they may not be forgotten.These women are taken from the 2008 Sheroes Womyn Warriors Wall Calendar, published by the Gustavus Myers Center for the Study of Bigotry and Human Rights and Big Red Media, Inc.
Mabel Hampton (1902 -1989)
"I, Mabel Hampton, have been a lesbian all my life, for 82 years, and I am proud of myself and my people. I would like all my people to be free in this country and all over the world, my gay people and my Black people." African American lesbian activist, co-founded the Lesbian Herstory Archives (Brooklyn, New York).

Monday, March 3, 2008

Women's History Month begins

In honor of Women's History Month, we will bring profiles of courageous and skilled women from around the world and present their herstories, so that they may not be forgotten.

These women are taken from the 2008 Sheroes Womyn Warriors Wall Calendar, published by the Gustavus Myers Center for the Study of Bigotry and Human Rights and Big Red Media, Inc.

Many if not most of the women on the calendar are not well-known, because most women's individual or collective stories are lost to history. Perhaps because they were, as described in the calendar,
women who have been rebels and fighters against patriarchy, who opposed and fought invaders and aggressors to their homelands, and who represent radicals and revolutionaries of their times and societies, who if they were alive today could continue to serve as sheroes, spurring us on to work for an equitable and pluralist society and world.
They sound much like the women we work with at Refugee Women's Network.
March 3: Petrona Chacon
African female slave who in 1840 was elected "queen" by the African conspirators in the Conspiracy of the Ladder in Cuba. The Conspiracy was a Cuban slave rebellion, scheduled to start in March of 1844, with the goal of immediate seizure of power. Well organized, it spread throughout towns and plantations all over the island and involved thousands of slaves. When it was brutally repressed, of the 4,000 Africans and mulattos tried by military courts, 98 were executed, 600 imprisoned, and over 400 deported.

Monday, February 25, 2008

This morning I was very happy to see that a past RWN board member's achievements are continued to be recognized in the Sioux Falls Argus Leader newspaper:
YWCA seeks nominations for the 35th annual Leader Luncheon event, Tribute to Women awards March 25. The deadline is 6 p.m. Monday.

Nominations are being accepted for executive leadership, administrative professional, banking and finance, education, government and law, health care and human services, nonprofit, sales and marketing, science and technology, refugee and immigrant women and Sylvia Henkin Mentoring Award.

Last year's winners were Judy Blauwet, Kristin Breitaf, Teri Ellis-Schmidt, Deb Fischer-Clemens, Clara Hart, Sylvia Henkin, Kristina Schaap, Harriet Scott and Sarah Swenson.

Nomination forms are available at YWCA or online at www.ywca-sf.org.
Clara Hart is a refugee from Mozambique now living in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. She is active in the Sioux Falls school system and in the League of Women Voters. Ms. Hart is also a founding member of the Refugee and Immigrant Women's Association of Sioux Falls, and a past board member of Refugee Women's Network.

Congratulations to Clara!

Friday, February 1, 2008

Georgia Refugee Public Policy Forum 2008

On January 30, 2008, Refugee Women's Network was one of many sponsors of the forum titled

It was held at the Maloof Auditorium in Decatur, Georgia in DeKalb County. As you can see from this graph below, DeKalb is the county where most refugees are resettled. DeKalb County is one of the 5 counties containing or adjacent to the City of Atlanta.

About 45,000 refugees have started new lives in the Atlanta metropolitan area in the past 25 years.

Today, metro Atlanta resettles the 4th largest refugee population of all metropolitan areas in the US.

For more information, see From 'There' to 'Here': Refugee Resettlement in Metropolitan America a report by Audrey Singer at the Brookings Institution. In brief, it finds that refugees are resettling increasingly in non-traditional gateway cities like Seattle, Detroit, and Atlanta as well as the traditional gateway cities of New York, Chicago, and Miami.

The purpose of the forum was to discuss policy issues that impact refugee and immigrant integration, defined as
Issues include availability of English language classes, driver's license tests in languages other than English, education for children, physical and mental health, and economic self-sufficiency.

I'd like to emphasize the phrase "two-way process" in that definition of integration. Refugees and immigrants want to become integrated and want to learn English. It's also a process that takes time. It certainly is achieved by the second generation.

One of the main speakers was Lisa Thakkar of the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights. The State of Illinois has been quite proactive in developing a state-wide public-private partnership to address immigrant (and refugee) integration. Ms. Thakkar's presentation was quite informative and gave us in Georgia a model to aspire to.

She also mentioned that Santa Clara County in California created a county-wide plan. That may be a more reasonable place for us to start.

While the focus of the day-long forum was policy issues, we were also reminded of the impact on the lives of real people. The speakers included a young woman who talked about the difficulties she faced as a child refugee from Bosnia.

Another woman spoke about the importance of being able to take the driver's test in her own language, even though she did have conversational English. But for something as important as an official test, her English ability was not quite sufficient. And without a driver's license, she would not be able to get to her job. Georgia has precious little public transportation and without the driver's license and the ability to get to her job, she and her family would then be on welfare.

This opinion piece speaks to that issue and was published in today's Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

This policy forum is the first of what we hope will be the beginning of a coordinated effort by refugee serving agencies and the refugee community to increase integration and self-sufficiency.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008


Being headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia, we are extremely fortunate to be able to participate in the Martin Luther King Jr. Day march in downtown Atlanta.

We had our choice of issue groups to march with. Personally, I told the right to healthcare access group, the peace and justice group, and the stop family violence group that I would march with them.

In the end we marched with the stop family violence group down Peachtree Street and Auburn Avenue to the MLK Center.

It was cold, close to freezing, but we all stood in the cold, waiting for the march to pass by, and then joining in. The street was lined with people and it was an incredible feeling to be part of something huge and global. This was a national day dedicated to social justice, where groups of activists in nearly every city marched, raising signs, voices, and issues that need to be addressed. And doing so peacefully, with no danger of retaliation.

Working with refugees and asylees, we know that such public demonstrations are not possible or safe in many other countries and often end in officially sanctioned violence.

Here in the US, we do have the opportunity, and the right, to raise our voices and cast our ballots and yesterday's march was a wonderful reminder and reinvigorated us for our work.

As they say, MLK Day is not a day off, it's a day on.

Partnership with Local Bank Brings Economic Opportunities for Refugee & Immigrant Women

Refugee Women’s Network has developed a financial partnership with Decatur First Bank, tripling loan availability for its participants. Refugee Women’s Network (RWN) is a national non-profit organization, based in Decatur, GA that enhances refugee and immigrant women's strength and skills by providing trainings in microenterprise development. In this partnership, RWN is the point of contact for refugee and immigrant women seeking business loans. Eligible borrowers will be selected by RWN and referred to Decatur First Bank for loans. Since 2005, RWN has been providing microloans to refugee and immigrant women in amounts ranging from $250 to $15,000. With partnership with Decatur First Bank, RWN will be able to provide up to $30,000 in individual loans.

Decatur First Bank is a full service community bank locally owned and managed, dedicated to the needs of area residents and businesses. All Bank decisions are made locally and funds reinvested in the community.

Refugee Women’s Network, through its Microenterprise Program, has been providing refugee and immigrant women with business plan training, marketing and other services to entrepreneurs who are starting, strengthening or expanding their businesses. Typically, the first time borrowers of RWN loans are refugee and immigrant women who have been in the country for a few years, do not have a credit history in this country and thus are not able to receive loans from traditional sources. RWN makes loans based on character of the person and to date has a zero percent loan default rate. Many refugees and immigrants reside in DeKalb County and as a result have opened up businesses in the Decatur-DeKalb area. Some of the businesses that have sprung up include restaurants and catering services, retails shops, event halls, child care, beauty salon and more. Partnerships like RWN and Decatur First Bank are not only important for helping newcomers to Georgia find firm footing, but also to boost the local economy.

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About RWN
Refugee Women’s Network is a national non-profit organization created by women, for women, that focus on enhancing refugee and immigrant women's strength, skills, and courage, through leadership training, education and advocacy to promote independence, self-sufficiency, and networking among its participants since 1995. Its programs include leadership development, microenterprise, health promoters and advocacy. Refugee Women's Network is governed and staffed by refugee and immigrant women from Africa, Asia, Europe, the Middle East, and the Americas. For more information on RWN, log onto http://www.riwn.org/

Monday, January 7, 2008

Good news for the beginning of the new year

Here’s some good news to start 2008 with.

RWN has finalized a partnership with a local bank that will double the amount of loan funds available for our microenterprise program participants.

A more formal announcement will be forthcoming, but it's such good news I did want to post about it sooner rather than later.

Essentially, RWN will make the first loan to the entrepreneurial client. Upon successful repayment of that first loan, we will refer that client to the bank for subsequent loans of up to $30,000.

We are very excited about this, because this moves clients into a relationship with a mainstream bank, it builds the clients’ credit histories (RWN does not make the minimum of 500 loans a year to be able to report to the credit bureaus), and it enables us to use our loan funds to serve new clients.

Most of all, it is a business partnership with a mainstream financial institution. This bank entered this agreement because it makes good business sense to them. They also know that we will do the initial vetting and since RWN's microloan program has a zero default rate, they feel comfortable working with our clients.

It is also reinforces what we've know all along -- refugee and immigrant women are rebuilding their lives, supporting their families, and growing the US economy. Refugee and immigrant women entrepreneurs are part of the economic engine of the US!

What a great way to start the new year!

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Happy New Year!

It's 2008 and we have big plans for this year. These are the big events we will be having this year:

  • Strengthening Georgia: Policies that Support Refugees’ Path to Becoming New Americans -- January 30, 2008, Decatur, Georgia. The forum will include a survey of refugees in Georgia; government & business leaders’ perspectives on integrating refugee newcomers to Georgia; ground breaking policy efforts in other states to ensure the successful integration of newcomers; and refugee, policy maker and academic perspectives on emerging issues such as public education for Limited English Proficient students and the potential impact of an English Only rule for Georgia. Contact Satyam Barakoti at info@riwn.org for more information.

  • National Conference for Refugee and Immigrant Women -- to be held in Fall 2008. It's our biggest event of the year and we're aiming for an attendence of 350 women from across the US. We're working on the date and place, and will post about it as soon as those are secured.

  • National Health Promoter Leadership Training of Trainers -- again, dates yet to be determined, but in all likelihood in the first half of the year. Click here to go to our website and read about the National Health Promoter Leadership Training of Trainers we conducted in 2007.
In the Atlanta area, we will be training a new cohort of local health promoters to educate new refugees about healthy living in their new community, and continue working with our microenterprise clients to start, expand, or strengthen their own businesses.

We strive to keep RWN relevent to the lives of refugee and immigrant women as they are lived now in the US. If you have any suggestions or comments, please do contact us at http://www.riwn.org/contact_rwn or leave comment on the blog.

Happy New Year!