Afghan & Immigrant Women and Families in NYC
Afghan and immigrant women in New York struggle with many of the same issues as their sisters in their home countries, including domestic violence, poverty, and feelings of isolation – with limited access to opportunities to lift themselves out of these difficult circumstances.
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 also often leave their children struggling to keep up in school and many women unable to navigate daily life in the city.
Video: NYC’s 2021 Mayoral Candidates Forum in Pashto
Watch this video where the Coalition for Asian American Children and Families (CACF) and 39 other Asian American community-based organizations joined together to listen and learn how New York City’s next mayoral candidates will support our fast growing and diverse APA communities. The video of the Mayoral Candidates Forum in Pashto is available here.
The New York Community Center (NYCC) provides direct side-by-side and comprehensive services to the Afghan, South Asian, Arab, and Muslim immigrant communities of New York City (NYC) and remote (phone or online) support to Afghans and other immigrants that reside outside of NYC.
The NYCC is strategically located in Fresh Meadows in Queens, which is home to an estimated 90% of New York’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.
The NYCC serves its clients with cultural and language competencies in English, Farsi/Dari, Pashto, Urdu, Hindi, and Spanish. The impact of our programs has steadily increased from 238 clients served in 2010 to serving over 1,000 individuals and their families each year.
WHO WE SERVE
WAW’s NYCC clients are made up of:
- 60% Afghans;
- 40% other Muslim immigrants; and
- 80-90% of WAW’s clients are survivors of violence and illiterate even in their own language. They are newly arrived immigrants or refugees with no knowledge on how to navigate US systems and are very low-income.
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 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 New York Community Center in 2003. 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, WAW advocates for the rights and safety of Afghan women, girls, and children in New York and in Washington, DC 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
The NYCC offers these programs and services:
- Case management and in-house legal support that confidentially assist individuals and families dealing with issues of domestic violence, public benefits, immigration, employment, interpretation, and any other need that may arise.
- Adult empowerment classes offer women instruction on English as a Second Language (ESL) and literacy, the US citizenship test, driver’s education, financial literacy, computer literacy, and career development.
- We Earn project connects clients to part-time and full-time jobs that pay minimum wage or better. Additionally, survivors of domestic violence participate in WAW’s new vocational sewing classes to build their self-sufficiency and be in community in a safe space.
- Know Your Rights program provides information sessions, direct and referral services for immigrants, raises awareness about immigrant rights, and assists women and men in the Afghan, South Asian, and Muslim communities better understand and respond to immigration challenges.
- Women’s Circle provides a monthly support group that serves as a safe and confidential space for discussions on topics that are pertinent, but often taboo in the community.
- Girls Leadership Program is an empowerment program designed for girls aged 10-15 that offers human rights, life skills, and leadership training with counseling on career choices.
- Boys Leadership Program for boys aged 10-15 examines the rigid roles Afghan and Muslim boys are raised with and explores how gender roles, culture, and religion impact the treatment of girls and women in the community.
- Afghan Youth Rising is a new program for young women aged 16-20 to develop their leadership and career opportunities. Launched in March 2018, this program will be expanded in 2019 to also include young Muslim men aged 16-20.
- Seniors Program is a new program for senior citizens in the community to build a sense of belonging and healthy, social fulfillment among program participants, thus reducing feelings of isolation suffered by many Afghan elders living in New York City.
- Coalition X is a new coalition led by WAW that advocates for immigrant and women’s rights together with other women, Muslim, and/or immigrant-led organizations in NYC.