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Founder’s speech at 18th Annual Gala focuses on unsung heroes that support Tahirih’s courageous clients every day

Washington, DC—When Layli Miller-Muro, the founder and executive director of Tahirih Justice Center, stood behind the podium at the Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium and looked out at the crowd, she saw an army of supporters, standing at the ready.

Moments before, she’d asked several different groups of people to stand—from lawyers to board members, from staff to volunteers—in order to acknowledge the people who make it possible for Tahirih to fight for justice, dignity, and safety, for every woman and girl.

Half of the crowd of 400 at the Tahirih Justice Center 18th Annual Gala were on their feet.

Visibly moved, she sincerely thanked the sea of people who have had a direct impact on Tahirih’s ability to serve the brave immigrant women and girls who refuse to be victims of violence.

The clients who come to Tahirih Justice Center are “incredibly courageous, they are women who know what they want,” Miller-Muro reminded the audience, and they demand justice and affect transformation in their communities as well as in their own circumstances.

But the efforts that go into supporting Tahirih’s clients, between free legal services, social services, and instituting policy changes, are no small feat.

Now comprised of over 50 people in three different parts of the country, the dedicated staff of Tahirih Justice Center are on the front lines of the battle against gender-based violence every day.

“The staff are the ones who hear hours and hours of stories of torture,” Miller-Muro remarked. “They hear hours of stories of young girls and of women who have suffered in ways that are hard for us to comprehend.”

The executive director, who founded Tahirih Justice Center in 1997 following her involvement in a precedent-setting asylum case, recognized the weight of the responsibility on Tahirih staff “for whether that 12-year-old girl will be raped again by the man she was sold to,” or “for whether the mother in her office will have to watch her infant daughter undergo female genital mutilation,” to name just two of the horrors Tahirih’s courageous clients may face.

“This is the world Tahirih Justice Center staff live in, this is the world our clients live in. This is the world that you live in. But you have an opportunity to change that reality,” Layli told the assembled guests and dignitaries.

Last year alone, Tahirih litigated nine hundred and nine cases, thanks to not only the hardworking staff, but also the legions of pro-bono lawyers, board members, volunteers, and donors, who together contribute to a comprehensive strategy that attacks the issue of gender-based violence on multiple levels.

In closing, Layli thanked the audience “for sharing [their] heart.”

“You all are our army, and we cannot do this work without you, thank you for being our partners and for fighting on the front lines with us.”