“If you cannot translate what you have learned from whatever access you’ve had back to wherever you came from, then you have not gained anything—you have changed. Assimilation is a choice. Seek to be a translator. Seek to share your access to those who you may have left behind. Seek to disrupt the structures that taught those of us who gained more access that we are worth more than where we left, and less than what we found ourselves among.” -Mensen
I came across this quote many years ago, and it is one that struck me so strongly that it has become a guiding principle in my own life, both personally and professionally. It is a daily reminder that I have chosen to use my talents and abilities to support underserved and disadvantaged youth and to do work that helps improve their lives and livelihoods. So, when I was approached by Muslim Women’s Alliance (MWA) a few years back to participate in their mentorship program for high school girls, the thought to turn them down didn’t even cross my mind.
I was initially drawn to the mentorship program because I know from experience how challenging it is to grow up in the Arab and Muslim community. Without many strong, fierce, independent women to look up to and receive support from, it can be difficult to pursue certain goals and dreams that are outside the scope of possibility for those who still have an outdated mentality. This program aims to provide voices of support that young Muslim girls need as well as the living examples of what can be accomplished by any of them from the women who have done so and who also happen to be from their own communities.
I have been a volunteer with MWA ever since. Over the years, I’ve participated in a variety of community events they have held because of the strength of goodwill behind their mission, vision, and philosophy. Most recently, MWA was invited to develop a full day of programming at the distinguished MAS-ICNA Conference last December. Led by speakers from the local community as well as those who are more nationally and internationally known for their activism within and beyond the Muslim community. Sessions were held on topics such as making Masjid spaces more inclusive, mentorship for the next generation of leaders, amplifying the Muslim women narrative, and a sisters self-defense workshop.
This program aims to provide voices of support that young Muslim girls need as well as the living examples of what can be accomplished by any of them from the women who have done so…
On Sunday, March 19, 2017, Muslim Women’s Alliance will be hosting their tenth annual gala luncheon in Chicago: Celebrating Muslim Women Expo where they will honor and celebrate Muslim women from all sectors. Three inspiring Muslim women leaders will be honored with achievement awards as well as the presentation to two deserving students with the Aisha Scholarship. Distinguished speakers at the event include:
Ustadha Yasmin Mogahed: Renowned author, instructor at AlMaghrib Insititute, and an international speaker focusing on spiritual and personal development.
Asha Noor: Racial justice and human rights activist, peace-building and conflict resolution specialist, educator and writer.
Kameelah Rashad: President of the Mental Wellness Foundation working to reduce stigma associated with mental illness, addiction & trauma in the community.
For those who are not familiar with the work of Muslim Women’s Alliance, read on to learn more about the organization and some of their upcoming events. Not only do they empower women, but the entire Muslim community because, as we all know, when women are uplifted, they elevate entire communities alongside them.
Mission: Muslim Women’s Alliance is a non-profit 501(c)3 organization focused on the Islamic values of fairness, service to others, and community building. MWA’s core focus areas are development of women leaders, fostering community service, mentoring women to build confidence, and empowering the community through awareness and action on social issues.
Vision: The role of a Muslim woman has always been held high in our Islamic history where there are many examples of strong women that were scholars, activists, and career driven. It is incumbent on every Muslim to take a more active role not just as individuals, but in our contribution to humanity. MWA’s vision is to empower Muslim women by helping them become leaders, make positive impacts in their communities, and enhance their own lives using MWA’s three cornerstones. Our core values of integrity, generosity, compassion and leadership are defined by our Islamic ideals, and our future will be guided by the support of our members and dedicated volunteers. As individuals, we have our own strengths, but as a united sister’s alliance, we are even stronger and more capable together. Our goal is to strengthen our bonds locally and then design a replicable model to implement MWA chapters nationally and internationally.
Philanthropy: The mission of MWA’s philanthropy cornerstone is to help our membership identify projects for which financial resources can enable us to be powerful agents of kindness and generosity. MWA will serve as a platform for those organizations to promote collaboration between Muslims and those involved in community building.
Community Service: MWA fosters the development of civic-minded Muslims by providing substantive community service opportunities FOR PEOPLE OF ALL FAITHS through partnerships based on mutual trust and respect. Many of the service programs are also selected with children in mind so that entire families have the opportunity to serve together. Our goal is to promote the roots of caring that run deep within our Islamic tradition.
Personal Development: Personal development encourages women to understand where they are now, know where they want to be, and give them the opportunities to get to where they want, to go through support networks, success stories, and lessons learned. Our basic mission is twofold: to assist Muslim women in enhancing their potential both individually and collectively, and to identify role models who exemplify this calling.
For more information on Muslim Women’s Alliance, how to get involved, or to purchase tickets to their Celebrate Muslim Women Expo, visit mwachicago.org.