On November 13, 2016, Tahirih Justice Center’s Carey Eisenberg spoke at a fundraiser in the Los Angeles home of Simin Taghdiri. Carey’s remarks were recently published in Los Angeles-based Persian magazine Rah-e Zendegi, highlighting Tahirih’s work to support immigrant women and girls who refuse to be victims of violence. Her full remarks as they appear in Rah-e Zendegi (Volume 87, #1355) are included below.
Hello, my name is Carey Eisenberg. I am honored to be here tonight to share with you our work at the Tahirih Justice Center. Tahirih is a national non-profit organization that protects courageous immigrant women and girls who stand up against violence such as female genital mutilation, honor crimes, forced and child marriage, human trafficking, and domestic violence, among other horrific forms of violence.
And there is much to do.
Women and girls are suffering violence at astonishing rates. By the time I finish this sentence, an underage girl, sometimes as young as 13 in the United States, will be forced to marry against her will. By the time I finish my remarks, six girls will endure female genital mutilation.
By the end of our time together, nearly 30 women or girls will report to police that they have been raped. By the time you go to bed tonight, 14 women and girls will be murdered because they are considered a “dishonor” to their families.
By this time next year, between 600,000 and 800,000 people – mostly women and girls – will be forced or coerced into modern-day slavery.
But there is something we can do about it.
Tahirih transforms the lives of people who have decided for themselves to say ‘no’ to the violence they’ve suffered and to also say ‘no’ to practices that have existed for centuries in their communities. They are saying ‘no’ to female genital mutilation. They are saying ‘no’ to honor crimes. They are saying ‘no’ to forced marriage. They are saying ‘no’ to rape. It is our honor to support them in that moment when they decided to say ‘no.’ Tahirih’s job is not to convince women that they should be demanding equality; it is to be supportive when they have decided for themselves. And we are honored to do that.
A Little History About Tahirih
Tahirih was founded 20 years ago by our CEO and Founder, Layli Miller-Muro. As a young law student, Layli helped bring a case to the highest immigration court in the nation. This case represented a young women named Fauziya Kassindja who, at the age of 17, fled Togo and sought asylum in the United States to avoid a forced marriage and female genital mutilation. Instead of finding protection, she spent more than 17 months in detention. Because of Layli’s efforts, Fauziya was granted asylum in 1996 by the U.S. Board of Immigration Appeals. The decision set national precedent and established gender-based persecution as grounds for asylum. Layli and Fauziya then wrote a book on the case, and Layli used the proceeds from that book to found Tahirih.
What We Do
Tahirih provides holistic support to courageous immigrant women and girls fleeing violence in the form of direct legal services, social services, training of front-line responders, and elevation of our clients’ voices in the halls of Congress to promote truly systemic change.
Tahirih has been able to serve over 19,000 women and girls since its inception 19 years ago. Last year alone, we litigated 972 cases, and trained almost 9,000 front-line responders.
Without an attorney, a woman in danger has a 16% chance of gaining asylum. With a Tahirih attorney, her chances rise to 99%. And we take the tough cases that others won’t take.
Our model leverages donated services and capacity with an army of pro bono attorneys. We received over $13 million in donated services in 2015, which allows us to multiply every $1 donated into $4 of impact.
Right now, we can help only 1 in 6 women and girls who come to us for help. This has changed from our previous rate of 1 in 4. We are doing the same amount of work, but there is greater need.
We do not accept this. We can’t turn these heroes away. That’s why we started our expansion campaign. The goal of this campaign is to raise $10 million, which will allow us to help 250% more women and girls and open two new offices – one in San Francisco and the other location yet to be determined – by the end of 2017. It will allow us to double the efforts of our policy advocacy program to raise the voices of immigrant women and girls and double the reach of our award-winning training and education program for critical first responders. It will also allow us to expand our groundbreaking Forced Marriage Initiative, a program to end child and forced marriage in the United States.
I know that you are hearing about Tahirih for the first time. You may need some time to reflect and make a thoughtful decision about our work. But I would be remiss in not giving you the opportunity to partner with Tahirih in our efforts to serve 250% more women and girls. I owe it to our clients who have been brave enough to stand up to violence.
There are many ways you can partner with us. You can give to the campaign. Donate $5,000 over the course of a year, and you have saved the life of one woman or girl – paying for all of her legal representation and social services management. If you’ve ever hired a lawyer, you know that this is a great deal.
If you would like to give over time, then you could give $5,000 per year for two years. That would save two lives. Or two of you could join together to give whatever is most comfortable for you. You could also choose to introduce us to others who might want to partner with us or have a small gathering where we can share our work.
We are fortunate to be here tonight, we are all blessed with many opportunities for prosperity, and we have been given this gift of possibility to make a profound difference in the life of someone else.
I thank you for being here tonight. For hearing about our work and our clients. I hope that we can engage together in making the difference that is desperately needed to help our clients – our heroes – live a life in safety, with dignity, and free from violence.