Afghan & Immigrant Women and Families in NYC
Afghan women – and immigrant women generally – in New York, as elsewhere in the United States, struggle with many of the same issues as their sisters in their home countries, including living in poverty and feelings of isolation, with limited access to opportunities to lift themselves out of these difficult conditions.
The vast majority of Afghan and Muslim immigrant families in New York are lower-income refugees or recent immigrants. Many are unable to access public health benefits and seek assistance due to language and cultural barriers. Low literacy rates among Afghan and other Muslim immigrants often also lead to their children struggling to keep up in school and many women unable to navigate daily life in the city.
The New York Community Center (NYCC) provides direct, comprehensive services to the Afghan community and other Muslim immigrant communities in New York City (NYC). We also provide remote (phone or online) support to Afghans and other immigrants in the United States (US) who live outside of NYC.
Many of the people that the NYCC serves in New York are newly arrived immigrants or refugees with no knowledge on how to navigate systems in the US. Many have never gone to school and are illiterate in their own language. Many struggle with severe poverty and poverty-related issues. Many live in homes where domestic abuse is considered “normal.”
The NYCC is strategically located in Queens, which is home to an estimated 90% of NYC’s Afghan community, and is within walking distance for many clients. Our success stems from our family-centered approach, which has enabled us to build trust with the community and work within it to foster positive change.
WAW’s NYCC has become a lifeline for the local Afghan and, increasingly, the South Asian and other Muslim immigrant and refugee communities.
Many of the NYCC staff come from the community we serve and innately understand the culture. We speakEnglish, Farsi/Dari, Pashto, Urdu, Hindi, and Spanish, so we can communicate directly with our community members in their own language. The impact of our programs has steadily increased from fewer than 100 people served in 2003 to over 1,000 people each year.
To download a pdf/electronic copy of our US-based services in New York and Virginia, click here.
WHO WE SERVE
NYCC direct-service clients are:
- 60% Afghans, and
- 40% other Muslim immigrants.
Community members are:
- 82% adults,
- 12% youth, and
- 8% seniors.
The trust WAW has built within communities over the years has broken the silence surrounding domestic and gender-based violence—survivors now come forward and are more comfortable asking for support compared to when the NYCC started and survivors hesitated to report due to the stigma attached to domestic violence and fears of deportation.
WAW was founded and is currently run and led by staff—the vast majority of whom are women—that have first-hand knowledge of the Afghan, South Asian, and other Muslim immigrant communities in New York.
When WAW was launched in April 2001 with volunteers serving the needs of a few Afghan immigrant women in Queens, our founders quickly found that these women endured similar challenges and abuses as their sisters in Afghanistan.
In response to a needs assessment of this underserved population, WAW launched the NYCC in 2003 and the Virginia Community Center (VACC) in 2022. As WAW got to know the community better, our programming grew to reflect the services that our clients told us they needed. Today, the NYCC continues to operate with the flexibility that allows us to best respond to the needs of those we serve. Many survivors have said that the NYCC provides them with a safe space and confidentiality, while prioritizing their and their children’s safety.
In conjunction with providing direct services at the NYCC and VACC, WAW advocates for the rights and safety of Afghan women, girls, and children in the United States to ensure that their voices, challenges, and concerns are heard by key US and foreign policymakers.
After enduring abuse for over a year, I decided to leave and came to WAW for help. I needed everything—a safe place to stay, a job, health insurance, ID, and legal support so I could get permanent residence and file for divorce. After a year, I am now safe and financially independent. I am working hard to get my learner’s permit, and I'm planning to attend school part-time while I continue to work full-time. I am so proud that I'm now able to help my family in India for the first time in my life. Thank you, WAW!
Parwana, NYCC Client
Learning English is wonderful, but using English to change things is powerful.
Farah, NYCC client
Women for Afghan Women is not just a place we go to for services—it is a lifeline; it is family.
Tasneem, NYCC client
NYCC Programs and Services
From Aug 2021 until February 2023, WAW’s New York Community Center has supported 1264 Afghan refugees/evacuees and their families. Most of them have needed comprehensive, culturally sensitive, and linguistically appropriate support so they can start over and rebuild their lives.
We have also trained over 1600 staff from partner organizations and agencies who are serving new arrivals from Afghanistan, including unaccompanied minors.
WAW directly provided 111 individuals with emergency cash assistance—through grants and other private donors—and assisted 3 individuals with their financial assistance applications in 2022. Community members received assistance with filing for unemployment, SNAP, and other support because they cannot complete the forms on their own. The team also delivered gift packages, essential items, and distributed PPE to 1107 individuals.
The NYCC also offer these regular programs and services:
- CASE MANAGEMENT assists community members who need to apply for public benefits; prepare for and find employment; find affordable housing; secure emergency food assistance; enroll children in public school; enroll in GED classes and higher education; provide domestic violence counseling and referrals; and more.
- LEGAL SERVICES provides free assistance with citizenship applications; petitions for alien fiance(e)s; petitions for alien relatives; applications for travel documents; adjustment of status; asylum; certificates of citizenship; green card renewal; employment authorization documents; and temporary protective status.
- REFUGEE RESPONSE services to meet the immediate needs of refugees resettling in the US, including all of WAW’s case management services and partnerships with private companies, non-profit resettlement agencies, and US government agencies to provide temporary housing, transportation, household provisions and personal items, among other critical needs. At this time, refugee response is approximately 38% of our overall services.
- MENTAL HEALTH PROGRAMMING to help Afghan refugees and evacuees better deal with their trauma; and, to develop positive coping skills, especially in light of the panic attacks, post-traumatic stress, survivors’ guilt, and depression that they often suffer.
- ADULT EMPOWERMENT CLASSES such as English, citizenship, driving test preparation, and other life-skills classes, including financial literacy.
- WOMEN’S CIRCLES monthly support groups that offer a safe and confidential space for clients to learn about and discuss issues relevant to their lives, including domestic violence and women’s rights.
- FINANCIAL LITERACY WORKSHOPS provides financial literacy to clients and prepares them to connect with potential part-time and full-time jobs.
- KNOW YOUR RIGHTS programming and workshops that provide information sessions, direct and referral services for immigrants, raises awareness about immigrant rights, and assists members of our community better understand and respond to immigration challenges.
- SENIORS PROGRAM is a program for older community women to build a sense of belonging and healthy, social fulfillment, reducing feelings of isolation.
WAW’s Seniors Program is made possible through the generous support of the New York Foundation for Eldercare
Case management and legal services were provided to 9,800+ women and families.
Adult literacy, empowerment, and citizenship classes were provided to immigrant women and survivors of violence.
immigrants were provided with job matching and career development support services leading to gainful employment.
individuals have taken the US naturalization exam after taking WAW’s Citizenship Classes, with a 90% success rate.
youth were provided with after-school tutoring and leadership development, including high school, college, and career readiness.
In 2022 alone, WAW achieved the following:
women, men, and their families (clients) were provided with 4,754 case management services (cases).
clients were provided with 2,581 cases of legal support, including naturalization, permanent residence, change of status, asylum, U visas, family petitions, and others.
community members participated in over 860 trainings on culturally specific response, prevention, and education on domestic violence, sexual assault, gender justice, and mental healthcare.
women participated in English as a Second Language (ESOL) classes, US citizenship exam preparation, and skill-building classes.
clients applied for US citizenship with a 89% success rate.
older Afghan women (aged 55+) participated in WAW’s seniors support program.
women participated in each of the 8 Women’s Circle sessions which discuss relevant issues such as mental health, domestic violence, sexual assault, elder abuse, and bystander intervention.
Muslim youth benefited from WAW’s youth leadership programs.
The NYCC is open Mondays to Fridays from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm.
Case management and legal services: Mondays to Fridays 9:00 am to 5:00 pm, and as needed on emergencies and/or specific case needs.
Outreach and partnership-building: ongoing/all-year.
Community events: depending on holidays such as Eid-al-Fitr, Eid-al-Adha, Nowruz (Persian New Year), International Women’s Day, or Mother’s Day.
Class schedules are as follows:
- ESL classes: Mondays to Fridays from 10:00 am to 1:00 pm.
- Citizenship exam preparation classes for women: Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 10:30 am to 1:00 pm, and one-on-one sessions scheduled with individual students and volunteers.
- Women’s Circle: once a month (time and date contingent on availability of participants and guest speakers, if any).
- Seniors Support Program: weekly on Thursdays from 11:00 am to 4:00 pm, from July to December.
Women for Afghan Women (WAW) is a grassroots civil society organization dedicated to protecting and promoting the rights of disenfranchised Afghan women and girls in Afghanistan and New York. In particular, WAW works to help Afghan women and girls exercise their rights to pursue their individual potential to self-determination, and to representation in all areas of life—political, social, cultural, and economic. WAW relentlessly advocates for women’s rights and challenges the norms that underpin gender-based violence to influence attitudes and bring about change.
Women for Afghan Women is committed to working towards a world in which Afghan women and girls enjoy peace, justice, equality, and the freedoms to participate in all spheres of life and live without fear. Women for Afghan Women envisions a world in which all women and their families thrive and prosper.