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Following words of encouragement and thanks to the evening’s speakers and guests, Tahirih’s tireless leader, CEO and Founder Layli Miller-Muro, addressed the crowd at Tahirih’s Inaugural Gala in Orange County.

“The Tahirih Justice Center has now helped over 25,000 women and girls over the last 21 years. And every single woman or girl that we help is a hero. She is a hero before she gets to us, because by the time she gets to us, she has already said no to female genital mutilation, she has said no to domestic violence, she has said no to human trafficking, she has said no to the incapacity to receive an education. And she, by her courage and her departure from that situation, is abandoning sometimes hundreds, even thousands of years of traditions, patterns, culture, and community. And she is changing the course of her life, and changing the course of the lives of her children—setting a new example for her son, and a new example for her cousins, her sisters, and her own mother. And this is life changing. For many of us here—when we hear the stories of our grandmothers, the stories of our mothers—there was someone who changed the trajectory for all of us.”

She went on to remind the audience that the path towards social justice and full equality is a long one with twists and turns along the way. There will be blows to progress, steps forward and steps back, but the important part is remembering what we are fighting for. Equality. Safety. Dignity. We are fighting to ensure every person those basic human rights, and we are doing it together – across the nation’s coasts, across Congressional aisles, men and women, side by side.

It has been said that “the world of humanity is possessed of two wings: the male and the female. So long as these two wings are not equivalent in strength, the bird will not fly. Until womankind reaches the same degree as man, until she enjoys the same arena of activity, extraordinary attainment for humanity will not be realized. When the two wings become equivalent in strength, enjoying the same prerogatives, the flight of man will be exceedingly lofty and extraordinary.”

“That is why we are here and that is why it’s not a women’s issue. Because we are both attached to the same bird, and when one wing is weak, the bird cannot fly. It’s when we come together and recognize that ending violence against women and girls, enabling justice for women and girls, is a men’s and a women’s issue, it is something we are all invested in and will all benefit from, that is when we will truly soar and reach our fullest potential. And I have no doubt we will do that with all of you. Because this room is full of men and women. It is full of people who are dedicated to achieving the equality of women and men, and to helping the Tahirih Justice Center do its work.”

It takes a village, and that village gets stronger with each and every one of us who stands up and speaks out. Whether we are a donor, a volunteer, a staff member, an advocate, a client, or someone taking their first step toward creating change … the time to act is now.