Economically Empowering Refugee and Immigrant Women

Guest contributor Marjan Nadir, Women’s Economic Empowerment Manager at Refugee Women’s Network (RWN), shares the story of Sahar, an Egyptian asylee who came to RWN at the beginning of the pandemic for assistance and how RWN’s program helped her to become a flourishing business owner. RWN is part of AWF’s Women’s Pathway to Success grantee cohort. Funding from AWF supports RWN’s Women’s Economic Empowerment Program, which offers employment assistance and supports women’s entrepreneurship.

Refugee Women’s Network (RWN) is a 501c3 organization serving refugees and immigrants resettled in the state of Georgia. RWN inspires and equips refugee and immigrant women to become leaders in their homes, businesses, and communities. For more than 20 years, we’ve continued to be the only organization in Georgia that specifically serves refugee women.

Our programs are designed to holistically address the needs of our community members. Meet Sahar, originally from Egypt, who arrived as an asylee to Georgia in late 2019 and contacted Refugee Women’s Network in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. She felt stranded without access to resources and the challenges of a language barrier and lack of transportation. Her household was reliant on the single income source of her eldest son. Sahar was assisted through our Social Adjustment Program services designed to help refugees assimilate in their new homeland, encouraging self-reliance and community cohesion so that individuals and families can successfully navigate their new lives.

A few months later, Sahar wanted to start her own catering business! She was recruited to our Chefs Club, an entrepreneurship development program for female home cooks from diverse cultures aspiring to become food entrepreneurs in their new-found homeland. Through the program she was able to attain her ServSafe Certification, teach her Egyptian cuisine through RWN’s Chef’s Club’s cooking class, receive guidance on marketing, business registration, development and financials. With a better understanding of her finances and the importance of credit and asset building, Sahar was excited to join RWN’s Lending Circles Program.

An older woman in a headscarf standing next to her tall, adult son in a home kitchen.
Sahar with her son during her cooking class for RWN’s Chefs Club.

Lending Circles transforms a time-honored tradition of social lending into an innovative credit-building activity. Lending Circles bring together community members to form zero-interest, rotating small-dollar social loans. This program allows us to offer credit and asset-building opportunities for a wide array of financial goals in partnership with the Mission Asset Fund. In the process of helping Sahar in her journey to becoming a food entrepreneur, RWN helped her apply for Start ME – Clarkston, a program of Emory University, which helps small businesses to accelerate by providing business knowledge, mentorship, network and capital. Sahar got in the program and graduated this past April. In March, Sahar participated and catered for the launch of the RWN’s Women’s Hiking Group at Sweetwater Creek. 

Middle aged woman in glasses, headscarf, and mask with young adult man preparing food outdoors.
Sahar catering for RWN’s Hiking Group at Sweetwater Creek.

A year later, from when Sahar first reached out to RWN, she now has access to healthcare, two of her sons are employed and she’s building her business with dreams to scale for employment opportunities for other refugee and immigrant women in Clarkston. We’re honored to support the incredible resiliency of our community as we’ve witnessed COVID-19 heighten the large and small inequalities women face daily both at home and in the formal economy.  Refugee Women’s Network continues to innovate and scale our programming with a holistic approach to be responsive to the needs of refugee and immigrant women.