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Women of World

Church learns how to best help Utah's women refugees

By Nkoyo Iyamba | Posted - Oct 7th, 2013 @ 10:20am

SANDY — Every year, Utah receives roughly 1,200 refugees. Many of them are women.

Some have experienced violence and trauma. Now they are navigating a new world of survival after being forced to flee their homeland because of war, persecution, or political unrest.

Samira Harnish is the founder of Women of the World, a nonprofit organization with the sole aim to help refugee women in Utah achieve their dreams. Harnish said she has seen the daily struggle of these women.

"They're so close to my heart. I call them my ladies," said Harnish. "When they get here, we advocate for their human rights."

When Harnish started helping women refugees through her nonprofit three years ago, she realized one common factor -- abuse and trauma. She said cultural norms allow many of these women to be abused by their husbands.

"I spend almost every day sending these women to therapy," said Harnish.

She also said Utah's refugee women are anxious to integrate into the community but just need help "with their immigration, their housing, and jobs. And we teach them practical English," said Harnish.

She said the women, forced to leave their countries, are well-educated and talented and "like to return the favor to Americans who opened their doors to them."

Harnish is teaming up with Community of Grace Presbyterian Church of Sandy and Presbyterian Women, a Christian women's organization. The group provides opportunity for fellowship and spiritual growth, with a special focus on social justice and peace issues, particularly as they affect women and children.

Past fundraising efforts inspired Karen Keene of Presbyterian Women to contact "Women of the World" to see how her congregation could help.

"We helped fund some schools in India, Africa and Pakistan," said Keene. "But there's also need right here. We have women refugees who have come from all over the world and have settled here."

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