By: Samhita Saquib
2018-19 Candidate for Fem Dems Membership Director
On Saturday, March 10th, Fem Dems volunteered with the International Rescue Committee (IRC) for a women’s empowerment workshop to help newly arrived refugee women learn how to use smartphones.
I've been volunteering for the IRC for over a year now. Though the refugee crisis has plagued me for years, the travel ban in early 2017 deeply triggered my need to involve more of my peers to make resettled populations feel welcomed into our country. The travel ban felt highly personal to me - I grew up in a Muslim family, and couldn't shake how it was a circumstance of luck that I happened to be born in California, with so many opportunities available to me, my citizenship by birth to protect me from the racial attempts by the current administration to block Muslim families from seeking safety in the United States.
The work that the IRC does to help resettle families, treat them with care and respect as they begin their new lives here, and to continue to provide aid upon resettlement really called to me, and I spent the last year getting my friends and family to participate in several volunteer events. As Fem Dems values promoting women's empowerment and social equality between the sexes, I saw the opportunity to get members involved in a workshop that focused on giving resettled women opportunities they may not have previously had.
On Saturday morning, the IRC provided brand new Android phones to the women participants and relied of Fem Dems volunteers to help them set up the phones in an effort to promote the women’s independence and agency in a new environment. In many refugee families, one phone is shared by all, or the second phone is a free phone that does not offer all of the valuable features of modern technology.
We spent the day pairing up with refugee women and teaching them how to use the phones to meet their personal needs. We taught them how to use navigation tools so they can become mobilized, how to download apps that let them contact family members overseas for free, how to access online educational tools, and how to use the phones for entertainment purposes, such as YouTube, Netflix, or games for their children.
We also spent time getting to know each other as a group and discussing the strength of a female support system in the community. We met refugees who wanted to become doctors, teachers, or translators, as well as mothers who wanted to provide as many opportunities for their kids as they could.
It was a lovely afternoon filled with inspiring stories, hugs of encouragement, and gratitude from both sides for the exposure to each other's lives.
The IRC has weekend workshops the 2nd and 4th Saturday of each month. If interested, please email VolunteerSacramento@rescue.org to be added to their distribution list.