Silence breaker. Change maker. Champion of women’s rights and equality in the workplace. And a woman who personifies courage whom we greatly admire.
On the evening of March 8, 2018, she addressed the audience at Tahirih’s Inaugural Gala in the San Francisco Bay Area with words that were both audacious and bold, calling everyone to join the ranks of liberating women and in particular, the most marginalized women, from oppression in all its forms.
“We are having complex conversations about ensuring that victims of sexual violence, discrimination, and abuse are believed while also dealing with questions of how we, a nation of immigrants, treat the immigrants among us. It’s important to stand with victims of sexual abuse and support the #MeToo movement, but it’s also critical to ensure that immigrant women and girls who have endured the same treatment are not silenced and marginalized because of poverty, immigration status or language barriers. And at the highest level, we must recognize that the battle is one and the same. The fight to protect marginalized humans, to protect women, is the fight to protect all women, all children, under all circumstances. No matter her status, size, language, ethnicity, age or education, all women are worthy of protections. All women are worthy of being treated as fully human.”
Iwu’s We Said Enough Foundation was born out of the storm circling around the pervasive culture of sexual harassment and assault in the United States which reached a climax six months ago beginning with the #MeToo movement. Within weeks, it wasn’t just women in Hollywood coming forward with their stories, but women from every sector and demographic across the country, and all of them were calling for an end to their victimization based solely on gender, and that those guilty of harassment and assault be held accountable.
The power of one truth, when told by one voice is palpable, but the power of thousands of truths being shared by thousands of voices, is unstoppable.
“As part of this movement for change, it is incumbent on us, who have the opportunity and the means, to protect those who don’t. We also need to continue to put pressure on Congress to make sure that there is protection in place for immigrant women and girls in this country. America should never turn its back on a vulnerable mother, regardless of her immigration status. And as Americans, it’s up to us to fight for this. We must reevaluate, together, what it means to be patriotic.”
Iwu spoke passionately about her personal experience as a victim of sexual harassment, and that of many of her colleagues. Her reminder that silence is no longer an option was heard loud and clear. She spoke to the inspiring work of Tahirih, and the tireless efforts of those who are in the trenches day in and day out serving clients who need help giving volume to their voices because they are the most marginalized and thus the most easy to victimize and prey upon.
“Helping an immigrant woman or girl has a particularly transformative effect. When we help a mother end multigenerational cycles of female genital mutilation, child marriage, or domestic violence, we are changing the trajectory of history, of culture, and of communities. Every case that Tahirih litigates changes a life and the system.”
Iwu’s truth, which she so unabashedly shared with the packed house, is a truth shared by all of Tahirih’s clients, and with the support of champions like Adama, their truth is being heard and recognized at this very moment.