Every year, 12 million girls are forced to marry before the age of 18. That’s 12 million girls robbed of the opportunity to pursue their dreams. What if we #LetGirlsDream instead?
Join MALA for a screening followed by a panel discussion of Sitara, the story of a young girl who finds her dreams crushed by child marriage. The event will take place at WeWork 175 Varick Street, NY, on December 19, 2019, between 6:00 pm – 7:30 pm.
Shireen Soliman is a Muslim-Egyptian-American with extensive experience in the world of fashion, education, art and design. Aligning her unique professional and personal worlds as an artist, educator, and community advocate, Shireen creates art, offers workshops and speaks on topics including Fashion, Identity, and Culture. As a community leader and advocate, she sits on various boards and councils (including Turning Point for Women and Families) representing and amplifying the voices and experiences of Muslim-Americans. Shireen uses her platform to uplift and amplify the universality of our experiences, honoring and celebrating our diversity through themes of inclusion, representation and the power of narrative.
During her legal career Kate has had many opportunities including working as an Ella Baker Fellow at the Center for Constitutional Rights, a law clerk at the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, a research assistant to the Chair of the United Nations Committee Against Torture in Geneva, Switzerland, and a fellow at the Women’s Refugee Commission. She has experience as an attorney through her work at the RFK Center for Justice & Human Rights and was a legal advisor for Legal Action Worldwide, where she worked on sexual violence legislation in Somalia. Kate has litigated before the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights and consulted on the United Nations High Commission on Refugees report titled “Women on the Run.” Her career has involved extensive work on human rights and women’s rights, including roles as Strategic Advocacy & Policy Counsel at Planned Parenthood and Legal Fellow for the Human Rights in the US Project at Columbia Law School’s Human Rights Institute. Kate graduated cum laude with a J.D. degree from American University Washington College of Law.
Kate believes that women’s rights are human rights and that legal advocacy is crucial to gender equality, because in many places women cannot rely on community leaders or even their families to respect their rights. Having been raised in a conservative religious community where women and girls are treated as less-than, she is inspired by women who speak up in their own communities to claim their rights and voice. Her hero is Mona Eltahawy‐a Muslim feminist, journalist, activist, and author who inspires Kate to be more brave and bold, and to hold space for women from conservative traditions with nuance and grace. One of her favorite quotes is by author and CEO Kobi Yamada: “Sometimes you just have to take the leap and build your wings on the way down.”
Fraidy Reiss :
Fraidy was 19 when her family arranged for her to marry a man who turned out to be violent. But with no education or job, in an insular religious community where only men have the right to grant a divorce, she felt trapped.
Still trapped at age 27, Fraidy defied her husband and community to become the first person in her family to go to college. She graduated from Rutgers University at age 32 as valedictorian (called “commencement speaker” at Rutgers).
Her family declared her dead, but Fraidy persevered: With her journalism degree, she was hired as a reporter for the Asbury Park Press in New Jersey, eventually getting promoted to the paper’s elite investigative-reporting team. She went on to a career as an investigator at Kroll, the world’s largest investigations firm. At the same time, Fraidy managed to get divorced, win full custody of her two daughters and get a final restraining order against her ex-husband.But Fraidy knows that most women and girls who want to flee or resist an arranged/forced marriage are limited by finances, religious law, and social customs. For them, Fraidy founded and now leads Unchained At Last.
Fraidy is recognized internationally as an expert on forced and child marriage in America. Her writing on the subject has been published in the New York Times, Washington Post and countless other publications in the U.S. and beyond, and she has been interviewed and featured by those outlets as well as Financial Times, BBC, PBS, NPR, CBS, and others. The legislation she helped to write to end or reduce child marriage has been introduced and, in some cases, already passed in multiple U.S. states.
Azfar is an award-winning creative director whose work has been called ‘poignant’ by the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. In 2019, Rolling Stone Magazine referred to his work as ‘transformative’. These days, he’s consulting for a television series which is ‘unabashedly idealistic’; according to NPR. Azfar’s passion for using ‘content as a force for good’ has been paramount throughout his career.
Over the past 15 years, his clients have included Silicon Valley giants, Hollywood shops, UN agencies, News networks, and the US State Department. He has produced radio, news/current affairs content, taught journalism/filmmaking at universities, and produced content for Google, CNN, BBC, Lionsgate, and Al Jazeera.
His recent work focuses on enabling internet and tech firms leverage efficient trust and policy, and content paradigms to mitigate online abuse, extremism, radicalization and hate speech. He is a sought-after speaker at entrepreneurship, filmmaking, and mentorship events, and has worked across Syria, Pakistan, Azerbaijan, South Korea, United States, Canada, and Afghanistan. He tweets occasionally, and writes for local and global publications on topics involving empathy, social justice, and mental health.
In 2020, Azfar will continue his work on Hollywood narratives that shape global public perceptions involving the Muslim community.
Natasha R. Johnson, JD/RYT :
She is an activist (activist + artist), advocate, academic, attorney, and yoga instructor. She has been an educator and attorney for 20 and 14 years, respectively as reflected in her services as an Anti-trafficking Legal Specialist drafting reform legislation in the Solomon Islands and having created the only holistic legal services program to date in NYC for continental African survivors of domestic violence. In 2015 she founded a non-profit organization, Globalizing Gender (GG), whose mission is to create a ‘Gender Just’ world. GGeducates prevents and reforms Gender-Based Violence (GBV) through capacity building, rule of law, governance, and awareness. Tackling FGM in the US, Natasha organized NYC’s inaugural march to end FGM in the United States in 2018, The V March: Voices, Victories and
Vitality and is currently working to organize additional anti-FGM programming. Natasha is a recipient of an Equal Justice Works Fellowship, a Fulbright Specialist Fellowship and a host of other awards. She lectures and consults locally, nationally, and internationally on issues of GBV, art and the law. Natasha earned her Juris Doctorate from CUNY School of Law, her yoga certification from Breathe for Change, and her Bachelor’s Degree from Columbia University.