Frequently Asked Questions
What is WISE? . . .
The Women’s Initiative for Self Empowerment (WISE) is a self-defense, social entrepreneurship and leadership development organization for young Muslim women. While volunteering at a domestic violence organization for Muslim women, our founder and president Rana Abdelhamid experienced a hate crime. She realized that Muslim women not only face private gender based violence but also, public harassment, aggression and discrimination. In fact, according to the FBI, hate crimes against Muslims in the US increased by 1600% after 9/11. As anti-Islamic sentiments and discrimination continue to alienate Muslim youth in some of the most formative years of their lives, we encourage the young women we work with to take pride in their identities and individuality. WISE works to develop a space for Muslim women to heal from their negative experiences and learn ways to turn those experiences into a drive for positive social change. Through entrepreneurship, leadership and self-defense trainings we then provide young Muslim women with the skills they need to propel themselves into leadership roles.
What does WISE have to offer? . . .
We offer three major programs for Muslim women: Mentee Muslimah, the mentorship program, and the leadership fellowship. We are continuing to expand based on our model for empowerment: leadership training, self-defense training, emotional/intellectual growth through dialogue, and social entrepreneurship training.
Tell me more about Mentee Muslimah - how does it empower Muslim women? . . .
Since the summer of 2010, WISE has organized an 8-10 week summer program for Muslim women ages 13-17 that embodies its core purposes. As a form of physical and emotional empowerment, participants are taught basic self-defense techniques and pressure point to use in the event of an attack. In doing so, they learn the value of their own strength and trust their abilities to protect themselves. Through facilitated dialogues on topics ranging from gendered expectations and racial prejudices to career aspirations and spiritual journeys, the participants are exposed to multiple perspectives to sharpen their critical thinking skills and to better express their opinions and points of view. Not only are participants pushed to identify injustices and limitations in their communities and lives, but are given the tools to counter those problems. Our social entrepreneurship curriculum equips participants with training in service/product development and are given the opportunity to put the business models and marketing strategies they learn into action. Each young woman comes up with a product or service meant to address a problem in their communities and presents their plans to bring their ideas to life for a chance to receive seed funding and mentoring for the development of her idea. By the end of the program, the participants are better versed in the issues they face and the goals they want to achieve, as well as more confident in their potential for success.
Tell me more about the Mentorship Program... . . .
In combination with the extensive multi-disciplinary training given to Mentee Muslimah participants, each young woman is paired with a college female based on common academic and social interests who acts as a mentor for them over the course of one academic year. These mentors provide support and further opportunities for professional and social development for their mentees. For instance, mentors help mentees who are applying to colleges look over their essays or build a more sophisticated resume for internships/jobs. Mentees go out and support their mentor’s endeavors as artists and community activists, inspired by their accomplishments and emboldened by their determination. Our goal is to create a network of Muslim female professionals who are in constant communication with each other, support one another’s careers, and offer individual experiences and lessons learned through their paths of life as gems of knowledge for one another. In the process, we can elevate the current and next generation of Muslim women by setting a standard for excellence and community that they are poised to build upon.
Tell me more about the leadership fellowship... . . .
As an extension of Mentee Muslimah, graduates of the program who exemplified a commitment to our female empowerment model and displayed impressive skills as leaders are selected and trained to lead a self-defense, leadership, and mentorship program in their community. Throughout the year, the fellows are extensively trained in the skills they need to facilitate a Mentee Muslimah program and take on the responsibilities of being a leader. Fellows learn to take advantage of the networks and resources available to them and refine their communication skills in real-life negotiations. In the process, they connect with community organizations and groups to expand their understanding of civic engagement and non-profit work. Over the summer their hard work pays off as they train a new cohort of Mentee Muslimah graduates and expand the impact of female empowerment in the Muslim community.
Where is WISE located? . . .
Since we were founded in 2010, WISE has expanded nationally and internationally. Currently, four chapters operate in the United States – New York City, New Jersey, Washington, D.C., and Texas. Internationally, we have chapters in Spain, Scotland, and Ireland.
How do I stay in the loop with all things WISE? . . .
Keep updated with all of our current and future projects on our website by liking our Facebook page and signing up for our newsletter. We send you news about the amazing accomplishments of awesome women around the world and opportunities to join in!
How can I get involved? . . .
Besides being a participant in Mentee Muslimah and becoming a mentor, you can join the movement by starting a chapter in your city/area or partnering with us to expand our impact! In addition, please consider donating to help us support awesome women around the world! Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line "Chapters" or "Partnership" for more information and any inquiries.