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A history-setting crowd filled the International Ballroom of the Washington Hilton last night to pay tribute to the incredible courage of Tahirih clients, and renew the commitment to end the epidemic of violence against women and girls.

Tahirih welcomed its largest audience ever to its 17th Annual Gala, “Saving Lives, Celebrating Courage,” on April 9, 2014 in downtown D.C. Nearly 450 guests attended the event to raise critical funds to help Tahirih continue its lifesaving work in Baltimore, Md., and the greater D.C. area.

“I always get here and every year it’s growing. It’s amazing this year to see this room full of people. It occurred to me this year that although the size has changed, the exact feeling I had the first time I came here is the same one that I have tonight, and will probably always have about Tahirih,” said Debra Winger, an actress, advocate and Tahirih board member.

That feeling, she told the audience of hundreds, is one of kinship with others who share her hope for a world where women and girls enjoy equality and live in safety and with dignity.

Tahirih is in its 17th year of serving courageous immigrant women and girls who refuse to be victims of violence. The national, nonprofit organization protects immigrant women and girls through free legal services and advocacy in communities, courts, and Congress.

Kristen Uhler-McKeown, local director for Tahirih’s D.C. and Baltimore offices, praised Tahirih’s three-pronged approach to saving lives: legal services, education, and advocacy. Photo Credit: Michael Colella

“I am very proud to be a catalyst in helping us serve our clients and those who really have nowhere else to turn – people who are turned away from other organizations who don’t have the capacity to take on the complex kind of cases that our clients come to us with, cases that sometimes take years to reach a conclusion,” said Kristen Uhler-McKeown, local director for Tahirih’s D.C. and Baltimore offices.

“Our goal is to enable every woman and girl who walks through our doors to leave our organization empowered with justice, with freedom and safety to start their lives anew,” Uhler-McKeown said.

With a staff of just 14, Tahirih’s D.C. and Baltimore offices provided legal representation and advice to more than 600 immigrant women and girls fleeing violence in the United States in 2013. A robust network of pro bono attorneys, medical professionals, and other experts enables Tahirih to maximize its impact, and turn every $1 donated into $4 of impact.

As part of the gala’s inspirational program, one of Tahirih’s former clients, Mercy,* shared her transformation from a battered spouse to an empowered advocate. Today, Mercy helps train police officers to better understand and respond to the crime of domestic violence. Tahirih named Mercy its 2014 Courageous Voice Honoree.

“I have my dignity back. I have a lot of hope. I am looking forward to the future, to greater things and bigger things. I’m not that person that was shrank to nothing. I see a life with a lot of promises for me,” Mercy told the audience during a live interview with longtime NPR journalist and award-winning author Barbara Bradley Hagerty.

Tahirih’s Founder and Executive Director Layli Miller-Muro ended the evening with a testament to the strength and power of Tahirih clients like Mercy.

“We transform lives of people who have decided for themselves to say ‘no,’ to say ‘no’ to the violence they’ve suffered, but also to say ‘no’ sometimes to generations of practices that have existed for centuries in their communities,” she said.

“By that act of courage, they’re transforming not only their lives, which you can see are profoundly transformed, they’re transforming the lives of their families – their daughters who will never again be subject to mutilation, their children who never again have to see violence, and they are transforming the lives of their communities who are inspired by their courage, which is contagious,” Miller-Muro said.

Tahirih Founder and Executive Director Layli Miller-Muro and Tahirih Board Member Debra Winger at the gala’s reception. Photo credit: Michael Colella


Video By: Temily Tianmay
Featured Image Photo By: Steve Jeter
Gala Photos By: Colella Digital

*Name changed to protect client privacy.