SWO 30 Years

Celebrating 30 Years of SWO!

The Sufi Women Organization (SWO), founded in 1993 by Dr. Nahid Angha, has been a forum for women of all backgrounds and faith traditions for over 30 years.  SWO continues to contribute to many international organizations, supporting women in their leadership and service to their communities including via its own grantmaking initiative, Women’s Wisdom: Women in Action Service Appreciation Grants.  Read SWO’s 2024 Founder’s Message here.

Highlights from the March 2, 2024 Women’s Wisdom, Women in Action Celebration:

On March 2, 2024, SWO commemorated its 30th anniversary with a celebration featuring music, poetry, a fashion show, and insightful panel discussions. The event kicked off with a welcome by Mary Granick and introductions by Dr. Elizabeth Miller, followed by a stirring musical performance by Richard Wormstall.

During the first session of the day, entitled “Conditions for Change,” Dr. Nahid Angha emphasized the importance of confidence and introspection in fostering societal transformation. She was followed by Dr. Ana Perez-Chisti, who suggested that equality will be achieved when the masculine and feminine archetypal energies stand side by side and are incorporated into our societal structures. Dr. Hamaseh Kianfar then discussed the mission and history of Voices for Justice (VFJ), established in 2006. VFJ has advocated for children’s rights with a mission to eliminate poverty and hunger and achieve universal primary education and continues its work in 2024. All three panelists emphasized that there is always the opportunity for us, individually and collectively, to make change.

The “Ripples of Change” session highlighted initiatives like “The Prison Project” presented by Zaheda Baruti; and an illuminating talk by Sarah Hastings Mullin about service as a practice; followed by Nancy Roybal’s slideshow presentation of the  2024 WWWA Service Appreciation Grants program honorees. The Grants program was founded in 1999 to honor and support women-led organizations in rural areas that advance causes such as access to health care, education, food, and poverty reduction. Proceeds from the fashion show went to the grant recipients.

The Breath and Song session was led by Victoria Guarino, who engaged the audience to attend to peace and heart presence through her beautiful songs from Indigenous wisdom traditions. Victoria highlighted the wisdom and songs of women and grandmothers.

In the “But For Such a Time as This” session, Belvie Rooks shared her journey towards social justice, including the wisdom of her grandmother and experiences with her husband traveling through Africa, while Dr. Para Ambardar stressed the significance of personal healing. Young voices like Amalya Raiparia and Zara Prime echoed aspirations for a harmonious future and shared their visions for new kinds of community.

Through stories from their own lives and work, the four men who presented during the “Setting the Heart and Mind Toward Community” panel underscored the importance of collective wisdom and maternal influence. Sheikh Salman Baruti reminded attendees of the power of uplifting women and mothers, Richard Wormstall and Dr. Jamal Granick shared stories from their families and sense of connection universal love, and Eric Guarino’s offered a metaphorical tale of life’s flow.

“Seeds of Connection and Hope” was a beautiful conversation between Reverend Scott Quinn and Rabbi Elana Rosen-Brown. They shared the power of people from different faith traditions coming together to speak not from the ego but their hearts. Reverend Quinn remarked that the heart can hold a paradox-guiding connection and a loving curiosity about different faith traditions. Rabbi Elana shared the profound significance of the feminine in our lives.

The Anniversary Celebration ended with music from Nadia, Amalya and Amit Rajparia, and then with a collective singing circle. Attendees joined their voices in harmony, leaving everyone with a sense of connection, appreciation, and optimism for the future. The event marked past achievements and ignited a collective hope for SWO’s continued progress in supporting women’s empowerment in the years to come.

*Contribute to SWO. Contributions to SWO help to sustain and grow SWO’s grants program, outreach efforts, and the next 30 years of supporting women’s leadership and humanitarian causes around the world (more on SWO’s activities below). Please click the button below to make a donation to SWO in any amount. Thank you so much for your partnership and support!

See March 2, 2024 panelist bios below!

Morning Panel: Creating the Conditions for Change (Seeding Change)
with Dr. Nahid Angha, Dr. Ana Perez-Chisti, Dr. Hamaseh Kianfar

Nahid Angha, Ph.D., a Sufi scholar and an author, is a co-director of the International Association of Sufism (IAS), executive editor of the quarterly journal, Sufism: An Inquiry,  and founder of the International Sufi Women Organization. She is the main representative of IAS to the United Nations NGO/DPI. She is a human rights activist who has created an ongoing humanitarian work that includes supporting clean water projects and medical services in refugee areas, educational scholarships, grant awards assisting women-owned small businesses, and promoting education and equity for women and girls in rural areas. She has been a university professor, featured in numerous books and collections, served in various leadership roles in interfaith organizations, and is an inductee to the Marin Women’s Hall of Fame.

Ana Perez-Chisti, Ph.D., also known as Aadya Murshida (Senior Sufi Teacher) is an ordained minister and President of the Sufi Universal Fraternal Institute, based in California. She is head of the Religious Activity for the Sufi Movement International and conducts a training program in the study of Comparative World Religions, Sufi Esoteric Studies, Ethics, Fourth Wave Feminine Principles, Psychology, and Philosophy. Retired Professor Emeritus, she resides in the East Bay, has a private psychological practice and continues to tutor graduate students. Her publications (available on Amazon) include: Sweet Reign-Fourth Wave Feminine Principles; Three Rings and Swords-The Bushido Code and Stories of the Samurai; Peace with All-Akbar, the First Interfaith Mogul King; Journey to the BelovedOriginally Blessed; Infinite Realities-Compendium on the Abhidhamma; and Farming the Heart (Available by private order).

Hamaseh Kianfar, Ed. D., is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist who holds a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from University of California Davis, a Master’s in Marriage and Family Therapy from the University of San Francisco, and a Doctoral degree in Organization and Leadership from the University of San Francisco. Dr. Kianfar has worked with the adult and juvenile criminal justice system, the psychiatric emergency unit, and in community mental health for over 18 years. In addition, she has a trained facilitator in a number of curriculum, including Parenting from the Inside Out, Thinking for a Change, Seeking Safety, Criminal Conduct and Substance Abuse, and Anger Management. She currently works as a Licensed Behavioral Health Practitioner for the County of Marin’s Behavioral Health and Human Services, teaches at the University of San Francisco, and is a committee member with the California Association of Marriage and Family Therapy (CAMFT). Her publications include: Living Positively: Narratives of Forgiveness and Imagination Among Women with HIV, and a qualitative study examining HIV antiretroviral adherence counseling and support in community pharmacies.

Morning Panel: Ripples of Change
with Zaheda Sanyade Baruti, Dr. Sarah Hastings Mullin, Nancy Roybal

Zaheda, aka Sanyade Baruti, began her association with SWO many years ago when she was a busy working mom looking for a way to make a bigger positive impact on some of the current social problems in human society. When a group of women decided to embark on a project devoted to helping women in prison, that was the project that Zaheda became passionate about and involved in. Over the years, this project and many others were launched by SWO to create opportunities for more women to get inspired and get to work on their passions. Since then, Zaheda’s passions for helping people transitioned into offering solutions for greater inner and outer health. She is a former social worker with 21 years of experience working in and around the cities of Richmond, Oakland, and the greater Bay Area. She also has always been interested in health and nutrition, which she has been studying for over 18 years. In her experience, there is an extreme lack of awareness of the basic nutritional needs required to function normally in our society. After retirement, Zaheda began serving her community as a nutrition and lifestyle transformation coach. She recently became a local business owner and opened a healthy nutrition club designed to bring together individuals to discuss and learn about their own personal nutritional needs and to promote a healthy active lifestyle.

Sarah Hastings Mullin, Ph.D. is a member of the Sufi Women Organization council and a member of the International Association of Sufism. Having attended all girls’ schools and a women’s college she recognizes the gift she received in being well supported and empowered throughout her life and since has felt called to support other women. She is a clinical psychologist with a private practice. Her clinical interests include increasing self-esteem and self-confidence, especially for women, pregnancy/post partum, anxiety and existential/transpersonal explorations. Her dissertation and subsequent publications have focused on the potential for higher states of self-development and direct knowing as taught by Seyedeh Dr. Nahid Angha and Shah Nazar Seyed Dr. Ali Kianfar. She holds a second-degree black belt in Aikido.

Nancy Roybal has been active member of the SWO Council from 2012 to the present under the guidance of Dr. Nahid Angha, founder of the Sufi Women Organization (SWO), a department of the International Association of Sufism.  She is the editor of the Sufi Women Quarterly Newsletter. She has served on the Harvest fundraising committee, and supports the recipients of the Women’s Wisdom Women in Action service appreciation grant program. Nancy is a key member of the Women Wisdom Women in Action lecture series committee and the Marin Interfaith Council board of directors. She is a women’s rights activist with a long history of promoting active relationships with international humanitarian organizations.

Afternoon Panel: The Transmission of Wisdom and Stories
with Belvie Rooks, Dr. Para Ambardar

Belvie Rooks is an essayist, educator and social justice activist whose pioneering work weaves the worlds of spirituality, feminism, social justice, and ecology. Her understanding of and commitment to human rights and intergenerational wisdom sharing was profoundly impacted by a weekend with Martin Luther King, Jr. when she was teenager. During the anti-apartheid era, Belvie was one of the first women on national steering committees and Associate Director of the Third World Fund, for which she traveled throughout Africa and was honored to serve as an election monitor during the transition to majority rule in South Africa and attend Nelson Mandela’s inauguration. She was founding faculty at SUNY College of Social Justice, and faculty at Holy Names University and Naropa University. She is creator of Hey Listen Up, a groundbreaking urban eco-literacy project, and ConverZations That Matter, featuring thought leaders from around the globe, and served on the boards of Bioneers, Ella Baker Center and the Institute for Noetic Sciences and as a founding staff member of Wild Trees Press with Alice Walker and Robert Allen. Her writing appears in numerous publications and anthologies, and she is co-producer (with Damani Baker, Danny Glover) of the award-winning film, “The House on Coco Road.” Belvie and husband Dedan Gills founded Growing a Global Heart. Their shared work and journey is detailed in I Give You the Springtime of My Blushing Heart: A Poetic Love Song and The Power of Love: A Transformed Heart Changes the World.

Para Ambardar, PhD is a clinical psychologist. Her approach to psychotherapy focuses on deepening your working knowledge of human behavior in order to foster more autonomous, better informed decisions in both professional and personal life. She believes that psychotherapy provides a space where one is encouraged to be oneself, directly experience what is happening, and reflect upon one’s complex and, at times, conflicting thoughts, emotions and behavioral patterns.relate to each person holistically and do not treat persons solely in terms of their symptoms or diagnosis. Dr. Ambardar completed her doctoral training at CUNY- Graduate Center, and completed a clinical fellowship at Cambridge Hospital, Harvard Medical School and post-doctoral work at MIT Medical. She lives in Marin with her daughters, Amalya and Nadia, and her husband, Amit.

Afternoon Panel: Setting Heart and Mind Toward Community
with Sheikh Salman Baruti, Dr. Jamal Granick, Richard Wormstall

Sheikh Salman Baruti, LCSW, has a B.A. in psychology from San Jose State University and an MSW from the UC Berkeley School of Social Work. For the past 40 years, he has provided client-centered, trauma-informed therapy and case management services to many clients, including teen parents, justice-involved youth and their families, and adults dealing with severe mental health challenges, including homelessness. Salman is an empathic listener and passionate advocate who combines years of social work training with the wisdom and compassion of Sufism to help clients navigate myriad challenges in their lives. Sheikh Salman is a student of Uwaiysi Sufism under the guidance of Dr. Nahid Angha and Shah Nazar Seyyed Dr. Ali Kianfar. He is also a member of the 40 Days Alchemy of Tranquility team, and likes to use the wisdom of Sufi stories and poetry to reveal the universal truths of human life.

Jamal Lawrence Granick, Ph.D., is a licensed psychotherapist in California and New Mexico. He is student of Uwaiysi Sufism under the guidance of Dr. Nahid Angha and Shah Nazar Dr. Seyyed Ali Kianfar, and has presented on Sufism and Psychology nationally and internationally. He facilitates a monthly Introduction to Sufism that is open to people who are new to this path, and also coordinates the Beyond Identification program which brings together practitioners across modalities to explore the spiritual dimensions of healing. Jamal obtained a Ph.D. from the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology, conducting doctoral research on transpersonal aspects of therapist’s presence in psychotherapy, and has taught counseling and psychotherapy at the graduate level in multiple academic settings. He is currently writing a book about presence in psychotherapy, and holds a fifth degree black belt in Aikido.

Eric Guarino is a seasoned entrepreneur, real estate developer, and nature enthusiast, acting as a catalyst for change while channeling boundless enthusiasm and unwavering integrity into all of his endeavors. Eric’s journey began as a real estate broker at Terranomics and culminated in his role as the Director of Business Development at Cubix. His skillset encompasses a wide spectrum, including project management, strategic analysis, public engagement, and business development. Eric’s passion for both people and the natural world has fueled his latest venture: a collaborative endeavor with his wife, Victoria, resulting in the creation of Casalma – a unique regenerative retreat with a mission to rekindle the profound connection between humanity and the Earth. 

Richard Wormstall is an educator, urban cosmologist, musician, and Director of Communications at Meridian University, with over 25 years of experience as a guitarist and composer in styles ranging from Spanish to Middle Eastern, Jazz to Flamenco, Blues and Hip Hop. Richard’s professional work and original research connects music with learning and healing, and to the evolutionary principles of the universe toward realization of connectivity and shared humanity. He is also a sound engineer and event designer with a specialty in multimedia production and music for film and radio. Richard draws from Japanese and diverse heritage, and love of rhythm, to help foster poetry of connection and communities of belonging among people of all ages.

Afternoon Panel: What We Bring Forward
with Rabbi Elana Rosen-Brown, Rev. Scott Quinn

Scott Quinn is Executive Director of the Marin Interfaith Council. He was ordained a Lutheran minister and Interfaith minister, and was an educator and spiritual director at an interfaith spirituality center in Austin that was part of a Catholic healthcare system. He is Core Faculty and a student supervisor for the spiritual direction program at The Chaplaincy Institute, an interfaith seminary/community in Berkeley, and part of the instructional and supervision staff for the spiritual direction program at San Francisco Theological Seminary. Scott lives in San Rafael where he has a spiritual direction/supervision practice, and where he and his partner tend many pets and a large garden.

Elana Rosen-Brown is a rabbi-cantor at Congregation Rodef Sholom in San Rafael, California, where she has served since 2014. A native East Coaster, Elana grew up in Hartford, Connecticut, holds a B.A. in History and Education from Middlebury College, and has studied and lived in places ranging from South Korea to New York City, South Africa to Jerusalem. In addition to her ordinations and degrees in sacred music and Hebrew literature from HUC-JIR, Elana is pursuing a masters in Integrative Health Studies at the California Institute of Integral Studies (CIIS). At Congregation Rodef Sholom she leads adult learning, conversation studies and social justice initiatives, in addition to being involved with family engagement where she strives to co-create a community that is fully inclusive of interfaith/Jewish/multifaith families. Elana serves on the boards of the Marin Interfaith Council, the Interfaith Sustainable Food Collaborative, and RAC California’s Leadership Team, and is also the founder of Makor Marin, a nature-based Jewish community for young families. Elana has spearheaded Rodef Sholom’s involvement in sanctuary work and Muslim-Jewish dialogue. In her spare time, she enjoys backpacking, exploring libraries, and checking out the local music scene.

SWO & Breaking New Ground in Women’s Leadership

In the Beginning

In 1993 a group of women, from all phases of life, different social backgrounds, cultural backgrounds, and Sufi and spiritual affiliations, got together and became the foundation of the Sufi Women Organization (SWO), headquartered in Northern California.

Their first creation was East Bay Sufi Women, and their first appearance was in the Annual Sufism Symposium 1994. They established themselves as an organization of strong and knowledgeable women when SWO founder, Seyedeh Dr. Nahid Angha, who has advanced women’s leadership and humanitarian action across her life. In a shift in tradition, Dr. Angha sat in the inner circle of zikr, side-by-side with her Islamic and Sufi brothers, as well as leaders from around the world – from Kuwait to Ghana, Turkey to Canada, India to Algeria, and many lands in between. Dr. Angha was the first woman ever to sit in the inner circle council of the annual Sufi Symposium, where she also led a zikr – a truly revolutionary accomplishment.

Inspiration to Action

SWO’s second appearance was in March 1995 at the second annual Sufism Symposium, where many Sufi women stood side-by-side with their brothers and to lead the conference. They spoke on a panel before a packed conference hall, where many attendees even stood outside the room to hear what the women of SWO had to say. In 1997 SWO established the Sufi Women Dialogue, an email group, as a complementary service to (Sufi) women. SWO became a close family, with sisters from around the world. Through this effect, people who had never met before came together and created a trust, respect and friendship. Prompted by a desire to connect with all women, including those from other faiths who were dedicated to women’s rights and human rights, in September 1999, SWO organized its first conference. It was a two-day conference, dedicated to interfaith wisdom and dedicated to Islam/Sufism. In the time since, SWO has been involved with many movements and partnerships such as:

    • Global Women’s Peace Petition
    • Amnesty International
    • The High Commissioner for Human Rights
    • United Nations NGO/DPI
    • Parliaments of the World’s Religions
    • United Religions Initiative

And SWO has organized events and programs such as:

    • Women’s Wisdom, Women in Action Luncheons and Speaker Series
    • SWO Art Show
    • Chocolate Box Contribution Campaigns
    • Save the Iraqi Children Campaign
    • Sufi Women “Working Retreat”
    • Hijab in Turkey and Afghanistan

SWO has published writing and books that include:

    • Code of Ethics
    • The Veil: Hijab
    • Women’s Wisdom: Women in Action
    • SWO Cookbook
    • Sufi Women: Journey Towards the Beloved
Learn More About the Sufi Women Organization, including:
    • The Sufi Women Organization’s Code of Ethics
    • SWO’s Women’s Wisdom Women in Action Grants Program
    • SWO’s Women’s Wisdom Women in Action Speaker Series
    • SWO’s upcoming 30 Year Celebration, including a special event in March 2024
    • SWO’s Fall/Winter Gifts of Peace Drive.
    • How to become a member of SWO – women and men welcome.