On June 8th, PAAIA hosted its inaugural Civic Engagement Forum at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS). The event brought together nearly two hundred Iranian Americans from across the country to celebrate the incredible achievements of Iranian American women and empower aspiring leaders to be involved in public service, public advocacy, or elected office. We heard from inspiring leaders in and outside of the Iranian American community, including women’s rights activist Mahnaz Afkhami, State Representative Anna Eskamani, Councilmember Shireen Ghorbani, State Senator Zahra Karinshak, Councilmember Mitra Jalali Nelson, Councilmember Amir Farokhi, Judge Nahal Iravani-Sani and many more.
This year’s Civic Engagement Forum served as the kick-off for PAAIA’s new Civic Engagement Initiative, a program committed to encouraging and enabling Iranian Americans to get involved as concerned members of their communities. The conference consisted of seven different panels covering various topics including the challenges of running for office as an Iranian American woman, how to effectively advocate for a cause, the need for diversity in the legal profession, the importance of financially contributing to issue based or political campaigns, and what goes on behind the scenes in Congress. The conference was followed by a book talk with Washington Post journalist Jason Rezaian and an evening soirée featuring an authentic Persian dinner and an opportunity for attendees to socialize and network with each other over dessert and upbeat melodies. The first of many advocacy training sessions took place the next morning, where participants learned about the basic tools needed to organize and advocate for the issues they believe in.
The annual Civic Engagement Forum will be held in Washington, DC, and complemented with tailored regional events throughout the year–subscribe to our mailing list to hear about upcoming events near you.
PAAIA thanks the event and initiative sponsors for their generous support. We would also like to thank our volunteers and staff for their work in putting together such a successful event, especially our Civic Engagement Forum co-chairs Yassamin Ansari and Samira Jali. Finally, we are grateful to Johns Hopkins SAIS for hosting the conference and training portions of the weekend.
To learn more about this year’s Civic Engagement Forum, read the biographies of our speakers, and check out photos from the conference and soirée, please visit ceforum.paaia.org.