The Women's Initiative, a new, fast-growing program created by Refugee Transitions, builds on the successes of our current programming for refugee and immigrant women with small children. 

The Women's Initiative is based on Refugee Transitions' innovative parent/tot class, which focuses on education for both mothers and their preschool-aged children. The class, which has been running for three years, improves women's English skills and self-sufficiency, supports female community and leadership, and reduces childcare barriers to education. While mothers attend class, early childhood development professionals engage the children in educational activities, including holding reading groups with our partner Tandem. Partners in Early Learning. We help children learn English; develop interpersonal and social-emotional skills; grow their fine and gross motor skills; express themselves creatively; and be more independent. 

The class includes multilingual, culturally sensitive assistance by female community leaders. These leaders, as well as the childcare assistants, are hired from within the communities that we serve, which include forcibly displaced populations from Afghanistan, Syria, and Yemen. 

The vast majority of the students make significant gains in their English skills. In the Fall 2017 semester, the Women's Initiative students' English gains outperformed state averages--by 18% for women whose English reading skills were at the literacy level upon entry; and by 23% for the low beginning level. In addition, student surveys show that the program helps women feel more confident using English and navigating systems in the U.S. Also, after participating in the program, women report a higher likelihood of using English to help other newcomers.

One of this program's success stories is M. After attending our classes, she advanced her skills and was hired as a Women’s Initiative Classroom Assistant. According to M., students participating in the program “have made a community; they can share and solve their problems, they can share their culture with people from many countries. And the program this year is even better than before, because there is a separate childcare room and professional teachers for the children.”

Refugee Transitions is currently raising funds to expand the class into a new space, to more than double the hours of class time per week, and to implement a new preschool curriculum. Please support the Women's Initiative by donating here. We are grateful to Galorah Keshavarz (RT Board Member), Nancy Reyes Mullins, and Nealan Afsari for supporting this program through the "Refugee Voices" fundraiser on World Refugee Day 2017. 

AuthorAndrew Bogrand