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October 20th marked Tahirih Houston’s 7th Annual Gala, where attendees reflected on nine years of service to women and girls in the Houston area and celebrated the heroic work of change makers and culture shifters across the nation.

Anne Chandler, Executive Director of Tahirih’s Houston Office, shared the extraordinary accomplishments in just the past year and commended the audience for refusing the status quo and reshaping cultural norms.

“In the last year, Tahirih Houston has served more than 1,000 individuals who were fleeing violence and persecution, educated more than 5,000 frontline professionals and community leaders through 100 training and outreach events, and worked closely with Tahirih’s policy team to enhance our nation’s systems of protections and implement systemic change. Year after year, I witness the progress that can and will prevail when we come together to effect change. And yet, as we witnessed this summer, sometimes there are unexpected challenges that cause us to pause and re-focus our energy.”

Chandler was, of course, referring to Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ legal decision that seeks to deny asylum to women seeking protection from severe domestic violence and the heart-wrenching family separation policy that had been quietly underway for months and finally exploded into the public eye.

“Our staff battled this new normal by working around the clock to support, reassure, and advise clients who rely on us for answers. We created a series of new trainings, draft legal arguments, and practice advisories to support pro bono attorneys in their critical work of representing survivors. We hosted discussions and provided commentary through a range of in-person, online, and televised opportunities with lawyers, faith leaders, policy makers, and the public. We lead strategic conversations among our allies, preparing for impact litigation and working to prevent further backsliding. Attorneys from Tahirih offices across the nation made their way to the border to sit in tiny visitation rooms listening to individuals dressed in prison jumpsuits describe disappearing relatives, unlawful detentions, mass trials with no due process.”

In addition, Chandler celebrated the non-Tahirih staff, women and men of all backgrounds and all ages and all capacities, who are fighting back. She acknowledged the following 2018 award winners:

  • Change Maker Award: The Frees Foundation
  • Culture Shifter Award: Moly
  • Firm of the Year Award: Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP
  • Distinguished Advocacy Award: Corina Azpurua-Strauss, Diane Granger Bowman, and Teirdre Roberson

Chandler left the audience with this: as staff, donors, volunteers, advocates, clients, and believers, we can create a safer, more equal society.