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The City Journals

Refugee women gain access to service and support through local organization

Jan 13, 2022 12:26PM ● By Lindsey Baxter

Women of the World Annual Celebration of Success recognized women for their achievements. (Photo courtesy Heidi Baxter)

By Lindsey Baxter | [email protected]

Can you imagine what life would be like if you were forcibly displaced from your home and country? Where would you get support? Who would you turn to? 

For many refugee women here in Utah, that answer is with WoW, or Women of the World. Their mission is to empower forcibly displaced women from all nations to achieve independence, economic success, and a voice in the community. WoW has been in Utah since 2010 and is currently located at 415 E. 3900 South in Millcreek. According to Samira Harnish, founder and executive director, WoW’s activities are broken down into three programs:

  • Customized Service and Advocacy. “Displacement from home and community is hard, most of our ladies do not even know who to turn to. Women of the World’s customized approach assures that our new neighbors have a fighting chance. We try to ensure that our ladies understand that insurance or other services are available to offset expense and the outcome of this program is to reduce our clients’ out-of-pocket expense,” Harnish said. 
  • Community Building. “Women of the World strives to be the ‘third place’ (after home and work) for our women. Beyond being a safe space, we provide an environment in which women can learn English—the most essential skill in their integration into American society—by making mistakes and developing their English in those domains most important to their skills,” Harnish said.  
  • Economic Empowerment. “Finally, displaced women have unique skills and value propositions to share within American society. WoW works closely with our women to ensure they are progressing in the workplace, getting promoted into careers, and educating themselves and their children,” Harnish said. 

On the afternoon of Dec. 4, over 150 people attended “The Annual Celebration of Women’s Success” held by WoW. “With the exception of 2020 for the pandemic, we have handed our certificates of appreciation each of our 12 years,” Harnish said. “This event recognizes the milestones of self-reliance achieved by our clients through intelligence, hard work, and perseverance. Everything meaningful to our women’s custom view of self-reliance, from learning to drive to getting a Ph.D. is recognized.”

Pictures of the event were taken and shared by Heidi Baxter and can be viewed at photos.app.goo.gl/PF4y5XuVGgTrJnSQ8.

“Attending the ceremony for Women of the World at the county building has been exhilarating,” said participant Dauphanie Daniels. “Seeing women from so many corners of the world celebrate, honor and respect each other's successes and share their love made me realize having a world that works for everyone is within reach if we all just do the same. My favorite aspect of the ceremony was watching women perform dances to music from their part of the world. Some participants wore gorgeous clothing native to their countries which added to the specialness of the event. A deep felt thank you to all in the community that helped to make this happen."

The impact that WoW has made on the community and for the women it helps is noteworthy. According to Harnish, in 2021, WoW has:

  • Helped in 700 different service and advocacy cases, resulting in $159,000 of expense savings (like healthcare and housing).
  • Secured new employment for 30 women, resulting in $853,000 in annual earnings growth available to their family’s budgets.
  •  Even with the ongoing efforts to reduce the spread of the pandemic and maintain social distance, WoW conducted over 150 hours of training both virtually and in-person, mostly English Language Learning courses for all levels of language learners.
  • For every $1 invested in WoW, they produce a $2.81 return through job assistance and expense reduction in women’s lives.

The next event hosted by WoW is their Annual Fashion Show and Cultural Gala on March 9. Harnish said it is their largest fundraiser. “Our event is designed to help connect our cultures and provide you with an excellent opportunity to meet many of your amazing neighbors,” she said.  “The fashion show gives women that are connected to Women of the World a chance to show off the parts of their homeland they love and teach you about their beautiful cultures. You will also be able to meet and interact with these women, hear their stories firsthand, and share yours with them. These personal exchanges increase understanding and will empower you to help others overcome their misplaced fear of our amazing neighbors.”

Tickets are available at: www.womenofworld.org/events-1/2022FashionShowTickets. If you want to get involved, support, or donate to WoW, visit www.womenofworld.org

What help can the community provide?

There are a few events coming up within the community for you to put on your calendars:

  • Pay-what-you-can Summer Zoom classes in piano, ukulele, voice, and classical guitar start June 14th–July 22nd: https://www.mundiproject.org/learn/zoom-classes/
  • June 11th @ 6:30pm on the plaza at the Gateway: Concert from the Couch feat Jazzy Olivo, Latin Jazz Fusion singer/songwriter. Tickets are $5/person or $20/family up to 8 members from the same household. Tickets: www.discoverygateway.org

The Mundi Project has a beautiful mission and vision to help bring music into the homes and out into the community. The website is filled with so much information about events coming up, classes you can take, how you can donate, and ways to volunteer. If you would like to join in on the 15th-year celebration, make sure to check out the website, Facebook or Instagram. All donations go directly to student tuition, instruments, performing artists and teaching artists. For more information about anything related to this musical organization, please check out mundiproject.org.