~This web series takes a deep dive into the Tahirih Justice Center’s challenging yet rewarding work, and the champions who show up day after day to get it done.~
Over the years, Tahirih’s bridge-building public policy advocacy has made incredible strides. From helping lead the charge to defend and expand special protections for immigrant survivors in successive re-authorizations of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), to testifying before the House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security, to supporting the achievement of historic laws that end or limit child marriage in 14 states including Virginia and Texas, the public policy team works day and night to raise awareness and cultivate policy changes that affect courageous survivors of gender-based violence. This team includes the work of Public Policy Bahá’í Service Fellow, Pegah Nabili.
As the child of immigrant parents, Pegah’s interest in refugee and immigrant populations stemmed from her attentiveness to the unique hurdles faced by these communities in the United States. Then in college, she spent a semester abroad in Berlin, Germany, where she was directly exposed to the refugee crisis, seeing firsthand the challenges and conditions that refugees encountered in Germany.
While in Berlin, Pegah worked with children and residents living in refugee hostels. These hostels serve as a transitional space while refugees and families are kept in limbo awaiting their asylum decisions. Pegah supported a group of friends in organizing art projects, service projects, and even facilitating discussions about their role as young people in society and how each individual can be an agent of change. She also helped her friends teaching refugee youth private language lessons with translation.
“It was so inspiring to gain friendships with people who had sacrificed so much to get to safety, and I gained an even deeper admiration for our human capacity for resilience.”
Pegah has known about Tahirih and the work of the organization for as long as she can remember. At the start of 2017, specifically during the travel ban, she saw the visibility of Tahirih in the media and became interested in the level of involvement Tahirih had with immigration policy, which drew her to learn more about the public policy fellowship she now holds.
At Tahirih, Pegah’s day-to-day is never the same. Sitting on the policy team, work is dictated by the policies and legal decisions made by the administration. It can, and does, change every day.
“When the administration releases rules, regulations, or policies that affect our clients, my role is to help communicate to our supporters, the public, and the media the ways in which we are responding to such policy changes. This requires that I am constantly up to date with what the government is doing in regards to immigration and asylum, so that I can quickly jump into action.”
Pegah works closely with our Tahirih experts to give background to media, provide comments on policies from the government, and elevate the effect of those policies on survivors of gender-based violence. She helps to coordinate campaigns to raise awareness about various legislative issues, like VAWA or campaigns addressing justice for specific clients.
“Due to the nature of my role, I have the pleasure of working with so many different people in different roles at Tahirih, and I find my colleagues’ compassion, thoughtfulness, and commitment to our clients incredibly inspiring. Our success, not only as an organization, but as a field, is dependent on collaboration, consultation, and unity of thought. When we have a victory, it truly feels like an effort supported by so many different individuals in diverse capacities.”
For Pegah, it is most challenging to see the historical practices of the U.S. that valued providing safety and opportunity for those seeking refuge chipped away and even ignored, and the uphill battle to offer protection and safety to those who need it getting even steeper. But Pegah believes Tahirih is making a difference in this fight, specifically from the thoughtful approach Tahirih offers for how survivors and advocates can work together to create a system where survivors of violence have fair access to justice and safety in the U.S.
“I believe Tahirih recognizes the importance of the role of survivors both in the policy realm and in direct services, and this is a crucial part of the fight towards ending violence against women.”