SWO Historical Reports
Since its conception in 1993 to the present time, SWO has organized an educational and a leadership training conference series (Women’s Wisdom, Women in Action) on a semiannual base: Spring and Fall of each year. Please see our lectures series section, and watch our calendar for the next upcoming Presentation
SWO has been instrumental in many global peace efforts and social justice movements, particularly in conflict areas, calling for the recognition of women’s rights and encouraging for peaceful solutions to end a range of abuses and violent acts committed against women and children. SWO has launched several local and international social justice programs, conjunction with other humanitarian organizations, including: to lobby for clean water in refugee areas in Ethiopia, offer maternity/child health care resources for the Navajo Nation, and sponsor academic scholarships for youth in Peru.
SWO has promoted and sponsored Voices for Justice summer time free breakfast for a local school in Marin, has worked with several global as well as local organizations and contributed towards prevention/education for AIDS. Its contributions will fund nutritious food for low-income clients; free testing; home based health care for AIDS patients.
Haiti: Medical and Humanitarian Aid, November 2012
Members of Sufi Women Organization collected and contributed over-the-counter medical products and supplies for a team of medical and humanitarian aid providers who traveled to Haiti in November 2012. The supplies went directly to help adults and children who are treated at a medical clinic outside Port au Prince. The clinic treats approximately 200 patients a day when it has enough staff and supplies to open. Basic supplies such as pain-relievers, vitamins, iron supplements, eye drops, and topical creams are often in short supply. The medical and humanitarian work is made possible by the volunteer efforts of many individuals and SWO is grateful to be able to collaborate and send supplies with those who are traveled to Haiti on this trip.
2005 SWO Report
12th Annual Sufism Symposium
Members and friends of Sufi Women Organization came together at the 12th annual International Association of Sufism Symposium in San Francisco, California on April 30, 2005. We opened our meeting with prayer, followed by welcoming those in attendance and remembering those who could not attend in person. An overview of the many accomplishments of SWO since its inception and under the direction of its founder, Dr. Nahid Angha, was presented. We then shared messages from our international chapters and from women who had sent greetings through the Sufi Women on-line dialogue. We continued with project reports.
SWO has become increasingly active in domestic violence (DV) awareness and prevention. We have participated in several local conferences and collaborate with local DV prevention groups in both English and Farsi. Awareness, support, and education continue in Farsi in the San Jose area. A panel presentation on “Women’s Rights and Creating a Safe Place” was given in Farsi as part of the symposium this year.
The SWO prison project and related literacy program continue to be strong and to positively influence many women inmates. Writing, poetry, meditation, artwork, and self-esteem groups are offered at the women’s jail throughout the year. Books for children and adults are donated for the waiting room. SWO has received feedback that the children appreciate and seem to be calmed by being read to as they wait to visit their parent or relative in the jail.
A special symposium issue of the SWO Newsletter was presented at our meeting. Articles on the work and networking of SWO are presented in the newsletter. We heard a report from our ambassadors to the United Nations on the continuing work in policy and global change in which SWO is involved.
SWO continues to work with children and families in Mexico though the Amigo Project. Books, toothbrushes, and school supplies are taken to Mexico annually as part of this project.
We announced our SWO Fall Conference, with the working title “Women’s Wisdom: Women in Action –Beyond the Myth of the Veil” for which plans are underway. Veils and coverings are being collected to put on display at the conference and in local venues.
Finally, we were reminded that all of the above and many other programs are offered from our hearts as service to humanity. Membership is encouraged and fundraising is a necessary part of our programs. At the symposium we held a silent auction of scarves, artwork, prayer beads, and other items that were donated to SWO.
2004 SWO Report
Visit to the San Rafael Canal Ministry
SAN RAFAEL, CA — Members of the Sufi Women Organization were welcomed to the San Rafael Canal Ministry by Rev. Carol Hovis, who serves as Community Advocate for the 21-year-old organization. The Ministry serves the very low-income residents of the Canal area in San Rafael, most of whom are immigrants with limited English proficiency. Carol provided an overview of their programs that include Youth Education and Development, Community Leadership, and Community Advocacy.
The Youth Education program offers English language classes, homework assistance, service-oriented youth groups, and preparation for college. Carol told us that for the last four years all graduating seniors in their program went on to college with support from the Ministry.
The Sufi Women visited the Middle School Youth Group made up of young people from many countries and answered their thoughtful questions about Sufism and Sufi women. We then visited with the Girls Speak Out group, which welcomes sixth through eighth grade girls from many cultures. We were inspired and impressed by their comments. They said that their group was a special place for them to learn about self-protection and how to speak up for themselves, to work on projects together, to develop friendships and to talk. Each girl introduced herself (sometimes translating for each other) and shared what she enjoys about the group. In turn, each of us from Sufi Women Organization then introduced ourselves and we appreciate about SWO.
Many of our comments were similar to the girls’ comments: friendship, a sense of belonging, helping each other, working together, and building confidence and self-esteem. SWO and our hosts from the Canal Ministry then went to a nearby restaurant for dinner and conversation. Our founder, Seyedeh Dr. Nahid Angha, Ph.D. talked about the reasons for founding SWO as a humanitarian and advocacy group for women around the world. We talked about our work in the local jail, our literacy program, the many stories that we have to share from our international connections over the Sufi Women Dialogue, and upcoming events such as the IAS Sufism Symposium in San Jose, from April 30-May 2.
SWO has an ongoing, supportive relationship with the Ministry and at this meeting we brought donations of homework supplies and snacks for the children. The Steps of Light program, which is a newly developed program by women of International Association of Sufism, donated Spanish language and other books for children in the Canal Ministry program.
2003 SWO Report (Given at 2003 Dinner)
Guest, The Nari Uddug Kendra Organization in Bengladesh
NOVATO, CALIFORNIA — We had a very lovely evening at the Garden Court Restaurant in Novato with Shefali last night. We opened with Fatiha. The dinner was well attended and it seemed that all of the women in the room, who came from many backgrounds and faiths, were inspired by what we learned about the lives of women and girls in Bangladesh and by the slides that were shown of the services that are being provided to some of the poor and the abused girls there. We had an introduction by Tabra, who befriended Shefali in Bangladesh several years ago.
Shefali told us about Nari Uddug Kendra, the organization she started in 1991 to work towards gender equality and for women’s rights. It was difficult to hear about some of the abuse that girls and women endure and amazing to see photos of these same women after they had begun to receive services through Nari Uddug. She spoke about rape and the stigma that goes with it, often causing the girls to attempt suicide because there is no longer a place for them in society; their families disown them and they have no chance to marry if it is known that they were raped.
Nari Uddug Kendra brings them out of their rural communities (for their safety), pays for the education and housing for these girls in the city, allowing them to be contact with their families whenever possible, and opens the opportunity for them to either become independent through education and work or to marry in a different local if that is their choice. There are other women who receive loans of $50, with which they are then able to build a business. She gave several examples of women who paid back the loan and then continued to multiply their income over the next few years. $50 is more money than many of them have ever seen.
Shefali spoke about the way that education the opportunities it brings are changing the societal structure in Bangladesh. The rich, the male religious leaders, and the government all have issues with the changes that are coming about as more girls and women are able to rise out of poverty and victimization. Part of the work that Shefali and the people in her organization are doing is to try to build alliances. If I hear her correctly, she said that there are 200 staff members in Nari Uddug Kendra and 90% of their work is in rural areas where women are generally at home under the authority of men.
At the dinner we also received copies of the latest SWO newsletter, which celebrates 10 years of Sufi Women Organization and its accomplishments. A report was given highlighting the Eleventh Annual Sufism Symposium Hilton Hotel San Jose, California, where the members of SWO were shown the plaque that the Sufi Women Organization Prison Project received in recognition of their service work in Marin County. We were reminded of the many service programs of SWO, including literacy, United Nations, Newsletter and publications, fundraising, and the chapters of SWO. We expressed the gratitude we feel for SWO and how it has enriched our lives.
Sending peace and light to the people of Bangladesh, we closed with Fatiha.
2002 SWO Report (Given at the 2002 Luncheon)
Featured Guest Speaker, Sandra Butler, Bay Area Women in Black
ALBANY, CALIFORNIA — The SWO July luncheon opened with prayer and greetings from SWO coordinator, Amineh Pryor, to a radiant group of women sharing enthusiasm and friendship. We met in a new location where the meal was excellent as well as the setting and it was apparent that attendance and SWO membership continues to flourish. Introductions around the tables reflected Sufi Women Organization trust, inspiration, devotion, humor and honesty and dedication to the SWO Code of Ethics.
Guest speaker, Sandra Butler, Bay Area Women in Black holds silent vigils, walking in silence, wearing black, as women against war. Sandra spent the afternoon with us and offered inspiring reflections about her work as a seeker and maker of peace and change.
According to Dr. Butler, “If something is wrong, then women step forward and do something about it without having to explain any further. We must keep creating what we need to exist as women of faith.”
“Silence, Dr. Butler shared, used to be terrifying.” Elaborating on your journey into deeper relationship with herself, she shared the following reflection:
“In the beginning, for me to fall silent was to be without skin. But as I became silent and listened, a softer, deeper language began to develop and I realized I had been drowning myself out for decades. Silence has been the most freeing experience in my life. Now it is where we can go to find an opening.”
In her work with grieving women and grieving incest survivors, she says, “Silence is a time when we draw out the sounds of women speaking their voices for the very first time. The politics of grief are personal and private. We cannot go into a crisis situation with all of the right answers. We can also choose the goodness and work on that. In the seeds of every moment, in every country, it may be transformative. It is a way to live my life.” Throughout her remarks, Dr. Butler stressed the importance of women coming together in prayer.
Membership coordinator, Susan Ferdowsali, encouraged SWO membership and distributed the SWO Newsletter, issue #20, featuring the Ninth Annual Sufism Symposium and SWO Annual Meeting, and including a summary report, photo album, programs, UN Report, a spiritual perspective, articles and poetry.
SWO Prison Program coordinator, Zaheda Baruti, reported on the biweekly meditation classes being offered to women in prison. There is also an adopt-a-prisoner donation program where for $16.00, an inmate can receive the award winning journal, Sufism: An Inquiry for one year. Copies of Al-Hadi: the Guide, a newsletter sent to prisoners was distributed at the luncheon.
Sufi Youth International founder, S. Kianfar reported that a religion-based social service group of 200 teens is underway. It is a yearlong endeavor where teens will be meeting in groups on a regular basis, addressing environmental and humanitarian needs in Marin and the Bay Area. Ongoing Sufi Youth programs include Literacy, Art and Tutorial projects and Community Service activities such as storytelling in ou
r communities for children and youth, working in crisis centers that benefit women, children and youth, donating food, clothing, toys and books to shelters, and continuing to partnership with Habitat for Humanity, Afghans-for-Afghans and various service organizations.
The closing prayer was led by Murshida Batul, East Bay Sufi Women.
2001 SWO Report
Featured Guest Speaker, Joanne Abrams on Jewish Reform
MILL VALLEY, CALIFORNIA — Amineh Pryor opened the 2001 SWO luncheon in friendship and peace, and Shaikha Muzeyyen, Napa Representative, presented a prayer. Following prayers and friendly introductions, reports and announcements were given.
The SWO Cookbook has been sent to the publisher and will be available in mid-December. The cookbooks are beautiful and contain internationally acclaimed recipes from our sisters. The price is $10 per copy and the project is a SWO fundraiser, organized by volunteer Sufi women.
The United Nations / UNESCO updated report was read. Sufi women are devoted to global peace for humankind through divine spirituality, building bridges at the UN level through knowledge, rather than through rhetoric.
A report on RAWA: Revolutionary Association of Women of Afghanistan was presented by one of our sisters who attended a presentation at a local college, which was deeply educational and compelling.
A new issue of Sufi Women Newsletter is out, featuring articles, poetry and design.
Our Prison Program has been offering relaxation, meditation and pictures and sounds of nature to a group of women in a jail in Marin County where they cannot see the light of day. SWO provides self help books and inspiration and the imprisoned women call out for them to lengthen their visits and to come more often.
Sufi Youth International participated in a Habitat for Humanity interfaith congregation day, helping to build their first houses in San Francisco, California. SYI has had a great response after establishing their interfaith dialogue and SYI founder, S. Kianfar welcomes new members. An after care tutoring program is being held and organized by Emily Hedges, a Sufi Youth Representative, University Group Leader, on university campuses for at risk youth by SYI which is very successful.
The 2001 SWO Luncheon guest speaker was Joanne Abrams, who gave a presentation on the meaning of her work as a woman who of Jewish Reform: Pursuers of Peace. She is program chairwoman and president of her local sisterhood and she shared many of the programs in which they are involved, including good health for women, youth work and devotion to self-education. She and her sisterhood are dedicated to improving the world by staying connected to God, and Joanne generously sang a traditional prayer for our closing. We thank her for her time and informative talk.
Future SWO luncheon dates: January 20 in California, March 17 in California, May 26 in Washington. We conclude this report with an excerpt from a poem by Meena, a determined woman, founder of RAWA, martyred in Afghanistan:
My voice has mingled with thousands of arisen women,
I am the woman who has awoken.
Helping Women Inmates to Travel through Meditation
MARIN COUNTY, CALIFORNIA (2001) — The SWO Prison Program volunteers continue to devote time every two weeks to teaching women inmates to meditate. We have been utilizing several different methods of creating a peaceful space for the women to move and grow in. By allowing them to practice relaxation, and breathing techniques accompanied with environmental sounds, they are able to locate greater stillness and peace within.
We have offered them journeys to places of peace, leaving behind their circumstances for the time being. Since we are aware of the extreme sensory deprivation experienced by women in prison, members of SWO use environmental tapes and nature scenes to enrich the women’s experience of traveling. We have taken them to sit beside the ocean on warm sand and practice breathing in rhythm with the waves. And we have taken walks through the shady forest of their lives to a place where the sunlight pours into a clearing and there they relax and begin concentrating on their hearts. While concentrating on their hearts, we allowed them to hear the sound of a real heart beating in order to train them to listen for their own beating hearts.
Although many of the women who attend come and go in our program, we have some regulars that never miss a class. They tell us how much they need this class and how much they hope we come again and again. Some have been released and on the last night they attend our class, they usually express that they have saved every handout and will continue to hold on to the skills they have learned. We hand them a resource list to help them find places in their area where they can continue their practice. We wish them well and hug them with the spirit of love and humanity. We are forever thankful for this rich experience of service and for the opportunity to be sign-posts of the path of spirituality.
Sharing Islam with Others
PETALUMA, CALIFORNIA — On April 25th, 2001, a community group of Petaluma, California, put on its 37th annual interfaith luncheon. This community has been celebrating different faiths since 1963. However, this year’s gathering marked the first time anyone from the Islamic community had been invited. The Sufi Women Organization, Prison Project Coordinator, Zaheda Baruti, was invited and served as the main speaker for the event and presented an introductory talk on Islam.
The luncheon, held at a Veteran’s Memorial Hall, was very well attended and consisted of many old timers and community natives. All the people who attended seemed to share this dedication to welcoming and honoring our differences. Zaheda Baruti sat at the head table with a Reverend, a Pastor, a Rabbi and a Chaplin from a local Hospice program. She presented basic aspects of Islam, with the goal of eradicating misconceptions. The meaning of Islam, a religion of peace not warfare and bombs was conveyed. A brief history of the miraculous Quran and its authenticity and benefits for all humanity was given.
Zaheda also made clear the way Muslims see God, the Prophets of God, especially Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) and the five pillars of Islam. The main message conveyed was that Islam is not a new religion but the same message, which God revealed to previous prophets and that Prophet Mohammad’s revelation was sent to complete the religion for all humanity.
The presentation was very well received, and a very productive question and answer period followed. According to a recent study on American Congregations by Hartford (Connecticut) Seminary, Muslims all over the US are reaching out to others through interfaith dialogues, presentations at churches and addressing political leaders. The process of sharing information on our different faiths is a necessary and worthy endeavor, especially if we are ever to know each other and learn to live in peace, the true meaning of Islam.
The 53rd Annual DPI/NGO Conference focused on the theme of Global Solidarity: The Way to Peace and International Cooperation. This conference brought together United Nations NGOs from around the world in an effort to build bridges among us to explore viable ways for civil society to generate action plans focused on development, peace, human rights and environmental issues. Delegates of SWO and IAS: Dr. Nahid Angha, Sonia Gilbert, Dr. Sharon Mijares, Hamaseh Kianfar (hamasehkianfar.org), Jonathan Granoff and Arife Ellen Hammerle, attended and sponsored a workshop with Dr. Nina Meyerhof of the Children of the Earth Inc.
The International Association of Sufism sponsored a workshop on Humanitarian Intervention: Human Rights, Responsibilities and Spirituality. The workshop was very well attended by representatives of NGOs interested in preventive diplomacy and creating standards for the relief of human suffering. Panelists included: Seyedeh Dr. Nahid Angha, Sonia Gilbert, Jonathan Granoff (President of the Institute for Global Security), and Dr. Nina Meyerhof of the Children of the Earth Inc. Arife Ellen Hammerle was the coordinator for this panel.
The panelists spoke about the importance of knowledge and ethics as the foundation for global peace in a civil society. Dr. Nahid Angha explored the impact and importance of positive effective intervention rather than interference or prevention of motivations that are limited and often not in the interests of people. The workshop was a great success resulting in an affirmative call for the articulation of acceptable standards for humanitarian intervention.
Click here for an excerpt of the talk that was presented before the UN.
The Millennium World Peace Summit of Religious and Spiritual Leaders, United Nations
Members of the IAS Dr. Nahid Angha, Hamaseh Kianfar, Sahar Kianfar, Sonia Gilbert, Dr. Sharon Mijares, Jonathan Granoff and Arife Ellen Hammerle participated in the Millennium World Peace Summit of Religious and Spiritual Leaders. This forum brought together leaders from around the world to make a unanimous commitment to peace and sustainable development.
Sitting in the General Assembly Hall of the United Nations together with other members of NGOs and Spiritual and Religious Leaders gave one pause to allow the unity and peace to echo within the heart and embrace the pure wisdom of the meaning of these events. This inspiration is a message for all of us to work within our selves and share this inner peace with others, expanding the effect and building a culture of peace among humanity. The IAS United Nations Representatives continue to embrace the teachings from these events and facilitate affirmative actions with the grace of pure intention.