Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs Celebrates the Graduation of its First-Ever – Immigrant Women Leaders Fellowship

MOIA Fellow Renee Mehrra, a broadcast journalist and community activist.
MOIA Fellow Renee Mehrra, a broadcast journalist and community activist. "The fellowship gave me rare insights and strategic tools to overcome barriers to progress and advancement, including internalized oppression, discrimination and racism, so we can become catalysts for change and heal, transform and empower ourselves and our communities." Consul General of India Ambassador Dnyaneshwar Mulay honoring Renee Mehrra on behalf of The Indian Panorama (File photo)

NEW YORK (TIP): The Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs (MOIA), de Blasio Administration officials, community leaders, and invited guests celebrated the accomplishments of the first cohort of MOIA’s Fellowship for Immigrant Women Leaders in a ceremony at the New York City Surrogate’s Court. The Fellowship was established by MOIA as part of the Administration’s “One New York Rising Together” platform to build closer relationships between immigrant women and the City and enhance the capacity of emerging and established leaders to promote positive social change in their communities.

At the conclusion of the Fellowship, Commissioner Nisha Agarwal of the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs invited the 13 participants from this year’s inaugural Fellowship to serve on MOIA’s Women’s Advisory Cabinet starting in November. The program was supported by Unbound Philanthropy, a private foundation focused on supporting immigrant communities, and the Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City.

“Mayor de Blasio’s commitment to progressive leadership is nowhere more evident than in his record of diversifying the senior ranks of the City Administration, as he has done to an extent far beyond any of his predecessors,” said Commissioner Agarwal. “And our vision extends beyond City Government to supporting leaders from underrepresented communities across the City through efforts like MOIA’s Fellowship for Immigrant Women Leaders. This first class is made up of dedicated social change agents from non-profit, grassroots, academic, and faith-based organizations representing the best of New York. I look forward to hearing their perspective and guidance on a range of policy issues in the year to come.”

“Ensuring that our City’s immigrant communities have access to opportunities to succeed is one of our priorities at the Mayor’s Fund,” said Darren Bloch, Executive Director of the Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City. “?We’re proud to partner with the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs and Unbound Philanthropy to support the Immigrant Women Leaders Fellowship. We will continue to advocate for similar programs that not only empower individual immigrant New Yorkers, but also allow them to strengthen their respective communities.”

“It was inspiring to speak with this dynamic, diverse group of Immigrant Women Leaders Fellows, each of whom is working to eliminate the effects of systemic oppressions,” said Commissioner Penny Abeywardena of the Mayor’s Office for International Affairs. “It is vital that, 20 years after the Beijing Declaration, these community leaders are implementing the objectives of the Platform throughout all five boroughs. I look forward to the myriad ways these leaders will improve our international city and our world.”

“It has been an uplifting and insightful journey with kindred spirits that deepened my emotional intelligence and leadership skills,” commented MOIA Fellow Renee Mehrra, a broadcast journalist and community activist. “The fellowship gave me rare insights and strategic tools to overcome barriers to progress and advancement, including internalized oppression, discrimination and racism, so we can become catalysts for change and heal, transform and empower ourselves and our communities.”

“For the past few months, we have had the pleasure of…collaborating with each other…a dynamic group of women leaders, representing various immigrant communities in New York City,” added MOIA Fellow Ninaj Raoul, co-founder and community organizer at Haitian Women for Haitian Refugees (HWHR). “Together we explored real-time leadership challenges that we all experience.”

“I graduate today a more informed and more empowered leader,” shared MOIA Fellow Naheed Samadi Bahram, New York Program Director for Women for Afghan Women. “Through this program, I am now a better listener and I am taking back a wealth of knowledge and experience to share with my community and colleagues. I am grateful to everyone I was able to meet and learn from, from my fellow graduates to the city’s top female leaders.”

“This fellowship has had a great impact personally and professionally,” said MOIA Fellow Karina Aybar-Jacobs. “I’ve learned that an effective leader is one that listens more than she speaks, and takes the time to emotionally connect & validate the feedback of others, one that isn’t afraid to admit her mistakes, while remaining authentic, true to her passion and identity.”

MOIA’s Fellowship for Immigrant Women Leaders is a thirteen-week leadership development program that was established in June 2015.  The purpose of the Fellowship is to:

  1. Form a network of immigrant women leaders who, through engagement together, are better networked with one another and with city leadership;
  2. Identify the barriers or challenges to women’s leadership within the immigrant community and solutions available to remove these barriers; and
  3. Develop an agenda for advancing women’s leadership within New York City immigrant communities.

A Nominating Committee of non-profit and government leaders identified a pool of 45 promising women leaders serving immigrant populations, from which 13 were selected to participate in the Fellowship. The inaugural Fellows cohort features:

Rita Abadi, Clinician and Operation Manager, Mt. Sinai Sexual Assault and Violence

Hajia Ramatu Ahmed, Executive Director/Founder, African Life Center

Afreen Alam, Executive Director, Chhaya CDC

Naheed Samadi Bahram, Program Director, Women for Afghan Women

Kajori Chaudhuri, Director of Programs and Operations, Sapna NYC

Dayanne Danier, Founder, Fleur de Vie

Karina Aybar-Jacobs, Program Director, Dominican Women’s Development Center

Renee Mehrra, TV Personality, Providing Our Women Equal Rights

Kali Ndoye, President, Concerned Cultural Women’s Collective

Aliza Nisenbaum, Artist, Immigrant Women and the Arts

Ninaj Raoul, Co-Founder and Executive Director, Haitian Women for Haitian Refugees

Susan Shah, Chief of Staff, Vera Institute of Justice

Haydee Zambrana, Executive Director, Latin Women in Action, Inc.

More information on the Fellowship and biographies of this year’s cohort can be found at: http://www.nyc.gov/html/imm/ht ml/initiatives/immigrant_womens _fellowship.shtml.

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