Tonight on the campus of the University of Utah, the Salt Lake City Mayor’s Office of Diversity and Human Rights honored Women of the World with the Salt Lake City Human Rights Award for its work in advocating on behalf of women refugees in Salt Lake City.

Today, 10 December 2013, is a special day for human rights, as it marks the 65th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  Mayor Ralph Becker dedicated Salt Lake City to continue to advocate for human rights by partnering with non-profits and individuals working to make a difference.

A personal insight, each of the Board of Directors went to work today with a bit more of a spring in their step, proud of their accomplishments, giddy at the opportunity to share in the celebration of our little part of the struggle to everyday improve human rights.  We were further humbled in the presence of the individuals that dedicated the awards, gave the keynote address, or received the individual award for human rights.  Their struggles and personal triumphs complete with the support of family gives us pause to the improvements in humanity that this gathering represents.

Below is the speech that Samira gave upon acceptance of the award:

[su_dropcap style=”light” size=”4″]I[/su_dropcap] would like to thank the Mayor’s OFFICE of DIVERSITY & HUMAN RIGHTS for giving this important award to Women of the World.

 

  • I am here on behalf of the Women of the World — both the organization and the women it represents.
  • Women of the World is here thanks to the wonderful Board of Directors of WoW, who are as wise as they are witty, who are as creative as they are caring.
  • I am here thanks to my family, who have always supported WoW, because they know it brings out the best in me.

I am humbled to be asked to speak on International Human Rights day.

On this day we recognize the leaders of our movements  —  Milk, Mandela, and Salbi and we recognize those that work against abuses day-to-day, fighting on the ground with little power or money – believing we can change the direction – that in the power of one, creates change for humanity.

Human rights isn’t a statistic.  Even though it is bad for grant-making, I have stopped counting.  It’s meaningless.

Women of the World offers neither quantity or quality, we offer caring.

Women refugees do not have instructions.

  • Some have never written their own names, in any language, some have architecture degrees.
  • Some have spent decades in camps, others suffered through decades of war, translating for the soldiers.
  • Some have been raped or mutilated, others are beat up by their men here in Salt Lake City.
  • All land in America’s safety net, that is they are in poverty.

Let me tell you a story of one woman.  When you see her, raising her grandson, you fall in love.  She’s young, her daughter’s young, and she appreciates the opportunity of Utah.

But she lost her wallet and her green card and without Women of the World, her entire family would be homeless.

Sure there are a lot of agencies that offer to build her capacity.  They have put many like her to work, helpless to help other refugees in need.

She speaks no English, the easiest advice comes from the agencies…

  • she has to pay,
  • she lost her opportunity at the Bailey community housing because she lost her green card
  • she has to find a new place to live

In her case, human rights is not taking NO for an answer.  In her case, it is going to the same immigration and housing agencies and talking to the same people over, and over, and over again.

Until they get it right.

That is what Women of the World does.  It is hearts and minds we aim to change, hugs and smiles that we count.

We get there by climbing stairs in apartment complexes on Highland Drive, along 3300 South, and on Redwood Road.[su_pullquote]And slowly, surely, the power of one becomes ten, and then 100. Women refugees go from asking questions to having the answers, from mothering their children to nurturing the community.[/su_pullquote]

Human rights is our greatest promise to one another.  It cannot be stopped.

So rise, amplify the voices of those who have been silenced, befriend those that have been harmed,  and advocate for rights that cannot ever be taken!

On behalf of Women of the World, thank you again for this honor…