By SIDA LY-Xiong
MINNEAPOLIS (March 4, 2010) – The Refugee and Immigrant Women for Change Coalition hosted an International Women’s Day luncheon at Plaza Verde in Minneapolis earlier this month, to kick-off a new initiative to promote gender equity in Minnesota.
Over 130 people were estimated in attendance and nearly $800 was raised to support the cause, according to the Center for Asian Pacific Islanders.
The luncheon “Cultural Dynamics: Women’s Voices” featured international peace activist, Leymah Roberta Gbowee, a founding member of the Women in Peacebuilding Program/West African Network, and executive director of Women Peace and Security Network Africa, based in Accra, Ghana.
Ms. Gbowee asked for all men and women to “speak truth to power” by recognizing and addressing the issues in our own communities.
“You don’t need a program proposal or grant, you just need to look around you and you will see how people can be helped simply by opening your time and parlor,” said Gbowee. “If you can’t do that, you aren’t angry enough – you don’t see the problems in your own neighborhood.”
The Women’s Leadership Board at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government honored Gbowee with its Blue Ribbon Peace Award. Ms. Gbowee and the women of Liberia were awarded the Profiles in Courage Award by the Kennedy Library Foundation. Her work was recently featured in a documentary “Pray the devil to hell” which won international acclaim in 2008.
Other speakers included Doris Parker of the Liberian Women’s Initiative, Gloria Contreras Edin and Lynn Moline of the Board of Directors at CAPI, and Bryan Thao Worra of the Lao Assistance Center.
Recently formed, the Refugee and Immigration Women for Change Coalition partner agencies are building stronger families and communities! Current members include: African Health Action, CAPI, Centro, Lao Assistance Center, Liberian Women’s Initiative, Sewa – AIFW and WISE.
“Now, more than ever, our community needs all of women and men engaged equally in developing our community,” said RIWC partner and Lao Assistance Center executive director Sunny Sinh Chanthanouvong. “Communities aren’t built in isolation but collaboration.”
RIWC coordinator, Sida Ly-Xiong of lead-agency CAPI commented, “Immigrant and refugee women share so many experiences – the energy this young coalition has already generated is evidence of just how eager our communities are for women and girls to emerge as leaders.”
The lunch was free for those who gave an RSVP. Future events are planned for the community to provide leadership training, networking opportunities and access to key resources to help refugee and immigrant communities tap into their full potential.
Sida Ly-Xiong is the manager of Impact and Innovation for the Center for Asian Pacific Islanders. She can be reached at RIWC@capiusa.org.