“The fact that we have helped 22,000 women and girls, that we are in four cities, that we have a budget of over $18M and 70 staff, that we maintain a network of almost 2,000 pro bono attorneys from over 400 leading law firms and fortune 500 companies, is a reflection of the power of many.”
These words, spoken by the Tahirih Justice Center’s CEO, Layli Miller-Muro, to 600 guests at this year’s Annual Spring Gala, summarized the unique and extraordinary dedication of Tahirih champions over the past 20 years. She went on to share the story of Tahirih, from its inception in 1997 to its critical, expanding work in 2017, highlighting with admiration, the evening’s Founders Award honorees.
Congressman Jamie Raskin, former Dean of Students at American University’s Washington College of Law when Layli was working on Fouziya Kassindja’s groundbreaking asylum case, which would be the inspiration for Tahirih, played a critical role in enabling the law school’s human rights clinic to take Fouziya’s case pro bono. He then continued to mentor Layli and even served on the Board of Directors in Tahirih’s early years.
Jamie Gorelick, former Deputy Attorney General under Janet Reno, worked behind the scenes during Fouziya Kassindja case’s to ensure that justice was done for Fouziya and for women seeking gender-based asylum in the future, and that U.S. law evolved. She remains a significant supporter and dedicated pro bono attorney, helping Tahirih with cases and policy issues as a partner at WilmerHale.
Bo Cooper, Layli’s asylum law professor at American University’s Washington College of Law, assisted Layli in developing the legal arguments that eventually won Fouziya’s case. In addition, he played an important role as Deputy General Counsel of the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) in enabling girls fleeing female genital mutilation/cutting to receive asylum in the U.S. Bo was an early board member of Tahirih and continues to be a long-time supporter.
Kathleen Behan, former chair of Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer’s pro bono committee, represented Layli during the writing of her book, “Do They Hear You When You Cry,” and facilitated APKS taking on the incorporation work as Tahirih incorporated as a 501(c) charitable organization. Kathleen remains an important mentor to Layli and an avid supporter of Tahirih.
Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer, the firm that hired Layli and enthusiastically supported her efforts to grow Tahirih and its pro bono representation, allowed Layli to spend 50% of her time doing pro bono work. Over the past 20 years, APKS has donated over $2 million in in-kind legal services, continuing its strong financial and pro bono partnership with Tahirih.
Michael Maggio, founder of Maggio & Kattar, was a brilliant lawyer, passionate defender of justice, and trusted advisor to Layli. He sat on Tahirih’s first Board of Directors and even signed on to be Tahirih’s Legal Director, bringing on the first asylum cases, offering office space, and supervising Tahirih interns. Michael passed away from cancer a number of years ago, but his impact lives on.
“It is truly stunning to think back on the amazing souls who saw possibilities that I did not, who marshaled resources that none of us had, who insisted on boldness when we were tired, and who wisely solved problems that seemed impossible.”
Tahirih’s work to combat the epidemic of violence against women and support survivors seeking justice is possible because of its army of dedicated supporters. In her impassioned speech, Layli reminded Tahirih champions that even in an unjust and tumultuous world, there is much we can do to stand up against gender-based violence.
“By helping Tahirih, you are supporting a woman in her moment of courage and giving her the tools she needs to end female genital mutilation forever for her family; you are giving her the ability to legally work so that she can leave her abuser; and you are giving her legal safety from the man who sold her into sexual slavery to that she can testify against him and get him locked up.”
This is an extraordinary moment in Tahirih Justice Center’s 20-year history. We are replicating our efficient, effective, and innovative services nationally. We need your help to raise $10 million so that Tahirih can expand to other cities and increase by 250% the number of women and girls served by 2017, transforming lives, laws, and communities. Donate today.