As Chair of the Board of Darfur Women Action Group, I invite you to join us to be part of a most impactful and important experience. But first, let me introduce myself.
My personal background included two Holocaust survivor cousins living with us while I was a child. Each night for the almost two years they lived with us, I would fall asleep listening to their experiences, especially to my cousin who had been a nurse for the horrific Dr. Mengele. Later, I learned of her courage as she rescued children from his laboratory nightly under her coat – only to have them picked up again for his experiments. She clearly had a profound effect on me and then after the revelation of the camps and the mantra, “Never again”, I believed that human evil would never again be tolerated. Of course, Cambodia, the Gulag, Rwanda, Srebenica and others proved me wrong. So, when I learned of a rally in DC in 2006 that included Brian Steidle’s first hand witness report of a genocide in a place called Darfur, I went and was astonished and swore to actively do whatever I could to end this.
And so, through the Summit NJ Darfur Rescue Committee, a faith-based organization, as Chair of the Resettlement Committee, I was blessed to meet Niemat Ahmadi just a few weeks after her arrival in the US. Fortunately, she arrived at our Committee meeting early, giving me opportunity to spend about an hour with her alone. From then, my affection for her, my respect for her humility and strength and intellect and talents and wisdom and courage and commitment, my gratitude – have all only grown.
Why DWAG? DWAG’s motto is Educate, Engage and Empower. Words are powerful motivators, but these words translate into action that not only inspire but also result in tangible, life enhancements for the internally displaced Darfuris as well as the Darfuri diaspora. Although there are more Darfuri refugees now living in external refugee camps and their existence is terrible, they do, at least, receive humanitarian, educational and vocational aid from a variety of humanitarian groups. Not so for the internally displaced Darfuris since President al-Bashir expelled almost all humanitarian aid groups within Sudan in 2009. DWAG addresses these needs through specific projects. One of the ways it works directly with internally displaced Darfuris is through its training of trainers project. Women are trained here in the US to return to Darfur to work with and train women there as regards education for all, counseling and vocational training. This is how DWAG interprets its motto into pragmatic, efficient, realistic and profound.
In addition to specific aid projects, DWAG works on outreach and political activism, especially toward a just end to the Bashir regime. Justice is yet another fundamental aim of our group, as well as bringing awareness to the magnitude of the genocide in Darfur and particularly its impact on women. DWAG educates the public about these issues as it empowers survivors to bring their voices to regional and international forums. .
Do yourself a favor and attend the 4th Annual National Symposium on Women & Genocide in the 21st Century: The Case of Darfur – Building Strategies for Sustainable Change in Sudan on October 17th‐18th , 2015. I look forward to seeing and greeting you there.