Do you know how these numbers are linked?
Layli Miller-Muro explained the connection to 450 guests at The Houstonian Hotel on Sept. 26.
“One person can make a world of difference, and we are all part of that,” said Miller-Muro, the Founder and Executive Director of Tahirih Justice Center
Thanks to the courage of one woman, Fauziya Kassindja, who demanded freedom from violence, Tahirih came into being. The national non-profit has now served more than 17,000 women and children fleeing violence. Guests gathered to celebrate and sustain this legacy at the 4th Annual Houston Gala, “Recognizing the Critical Role of Men in Ending Violence Against Women.”
The gala raises lifesaving funds that enable Tahirih to continue to provide free legal and social services to hundreds of immigrant women and girls in the Houston area who are trying to rebuild their lives in the wake of extreme violence, such as human trafficking, forced marriage, honor crimes, and female genital mutilation/cutting.
To illustrate each person’s role in the fight to end violence against women and girls in Houston, Miller-Muro asked 15 guests to stand at the gala.
“You represent the judge, jury, and pro bono attorneys who were able to put a stop to a major sex trafficking ring in Houston because a brave Tahirih client testified against her traffickers,” she said.
Next, she asked 40 more guests to stand. They represented asylum officers who heard a courageous Tahirih client open up about fleeing forced marriage and FGM/C.
“Her words will continue to carry weight as you go on to make crucial decisions that could potentially save thousands of lives,” she told those standing.
The founder and executive director then asked 90 people to rise from their seats. They represented the advocates, attorneys, and service providers who could now identify and help forced marriage victims because they attended trainings and consultations as part of the Heartbeats Tour, just one of hundreds of educational and outreach events that Tahirih hosts each year.
Miller-Muro asked the rest of the room to stand.
“You represent only a portion of the dependents Tahirih was able to legally protect last year alone because of the incredible women and girls, whose refusal to accept a life of violence led them through Tahirih’s front doors. You are their children, their parents, their brothers, and sisters. You are their family,” she said.
It all starts with one woman or girl who refuses to accept a life of violence. Her courage transforms her family, her community, and all those who hear her story, the founder said.
This year’s Courageous Voice Honoree, Leila, refused to accept violence in her life. After living through domestic abuse and a life-threatening FGM/C as a child, she was able to escape a forced marriage in her home country with the help of her brother, apply for asylum, and build a new life here in the U.S.
“I have to continue to fight for women and the children that face violence, the way I did,” Leila told gala guests.
When she accepted her award at the gala, her Tahirih attorney, Samantha Del Bosque, and her pro bono attorney, Kate Hill, were standing by her side.
“Tonight, we celebrate every brave woman who refuses to accept a life of violence. Like Leilia there are so many other women and girls that have made their way to Houston, but demand is growing faster than we can keep up,” said Anne Chandler, Director of Tahirih Houston.
Guests of the 4th Annual Houston Gala raised over $500,000 to help Tahirih Houston respond to that growing need. Thanks to their support, the ripple effect that Miller-Muro poignantly demonstrated on Sept. 26 will live on.
“We are all contributing to a larger constellation of change to promote justice and equality for women and girls,” Miller-Muro said.
Gala guests learn more about the epidemic of violence against women at the gala. Photo by Lauren Claire Photography.
Rainn Wilson served as emcee at the 4th Annual Gala. Photo by Lauren Claire Photography.
Houston staff at the 4th Annual Gala. Photo by Lauren Claire Photography.
Missed this year’s gala, or want to relive the night? Learn more below.