In collaboration with Augsburg College, International Leadership Institute, Minnesota Human Rights Advocacy and many other non-profits in the Twin Cities, Somali-born Nadhifa Osman is determined to get solutions for problems faced by women and youth of immigrant populations from the Horn of Africa.
Towards that end, she has established a non-profit organization named: Women of Africa Resource and Development Association (WARDA) to assist women from war regions of Africa fight war trauma, gender discrimination and achieve economic empowerment.
WARDA, in the words of Ms Osman is “committed to building solidarity with other like-minded individuals and communities to assist poor and marginalized women and girls fight poverty and other vices for their accelerated social, economic and cultural development.”
Equipped with four languages – Italian, English, Arabic and Somali, Nadhifa is a highly educated woman with a Bachelors degree in Electrical Engineering and a Masters Degree in Telecommunications and in Energy Management Policy acquired from Somalia and US Universities. Her good communication skills have made it easy for her to open doors and break barriers that have impinged on immigrant women who have been struggling to be part of the mainstream in the US.
She confides: “I have interviewed over 300 immigrant women from Africa while I worked as a Research Assistant at the University of Minnesota (UoM) and have heard gruesome stories of torture, war trauma, family crisis and challenges facing widowed and single-mothers in settling in America and raising children against all odds.”
She says she tries her best to be innovative to help women overcome such obstacles as cultural shock, language barriers and help them to prepare their teen girls to push forward for college education. She has helped mothers appreciate the challenges of their daughters growing up in new set of circumstances, made regular tuition available to them, worked with YWCA to establish regular exercises that are compatible with cultures of immigrant populations; and assigned mentors to growing up girls.
WARDA has succeeded to find space where immigrant women from Africa can find support to share their pain and suffering, help them blend into the mainstream by bridging cultural barriers, parenting and monitoring the progress of their girls to ensure high pass marks to qualify them for college education.
Ms Osman: “Whenever I walk through campuses of higher education, I find girls now in College whom I helped in their tuition and I get lots of hugs from them. For me, I get a feeling of achievement greater than making a million dollars when I meet these bright girls with a promising future chasing the American dream!”
She sums up the immediate needs of immigrant women populations as falling into three major categories: war trauma recovery, how to get readjustment support and how quickly they can master language skills so that they can stand on their own feet.
“My advice to such women especially from war-torn countries is to stop living in the past, put the past human tragedy behind them locked in a closet, and take advantage of opportunities that America offers to assist refugees who wish to live their lives to the full.” Ms Osman is confident that with guided support, those traumatized women can turn around their lives and raise successful kids who will end up building careers by going to College.
WARDA’s vision for the future is to continue being a voice of the voiceless and spread its tentacles beyond the Twin Cities and someday go nationwide. She believes that the immigrant women have to adapt to a new mindset of struggling to be masters of their own destiny, away from the traditional communal support they enjoyed back home as the culture is different here.
In recognition of her great achievements as a community organizer in the Twin Cities over the past ten years, Ms Osman has received numerous community service awards such as Volunteer Award from the Minnesota Advocates for Human Rights, Leadership Award (Re-kindling the flame), Elliot Neighborhood Championship Award for outstanding community service – to name but a few.
WARDA’s mission statement aspires to “empower African women and their children by bridging the cultural gap and assist them navigate the educational system and training to become active participants of socio-economic development of their new homes.”
Educational skills ranging from language to tuition assistance, advanced skills development, legal rights issues, business and financial literacy; and parenting – these are solid pillars that have been instrumental in stabilizing the immigrant populations, but a lot remains to be done for this is an on-going process.
“When I think of the plight of my fellow struggling women from Africa facing so many challenges here,” confides Nadhifa, “I hardly sleep at night. I have great passion to see these women settling down with confidence and radiating smiles of hope for a brighter future for their children. This is what WARDA is all about.”