The struggles that face the increasing refugee population in the greater Seattle area continue to persevere. As these new residents search for employment, they are presented with language barriers, cultural differences and non-transferable professional degrees or certificates. Nonprofits like Muses are offering culpable training for refugee women.
Women from Afghanistan are often accustomed to contributing to their family’s well-being by the small-scale production of textiles, soap, furniture, jewelry and other handmade goods.
When these women arrive in the U.S., it is often difficult to translate their skills successfully into the job market.
Oftentimes, refugee families are in a financial position where both adult members of the household need to work. For many women, this is the first time they are faced with entering an official work environment, let alone one that follows the Western standard of living.
Sandrine Espie and Esther Hong realized back in 2012 the potential that refugees and low-income immigrants, women, in particular, had to contribute to the workforce.
They were inspired by the talents of these women and out of this inspiration came Muses. Muses is a Seattle-based nonprofit that aims to educate and provide these women with the skills necessary to enter the workforce.
Through research and interviewing, Espie and Hong found that there is a high demand for local, high-quality apparel manufacturing services. Their services aim to provide training for refugee women, enhancing their existing skills to aid them in finding a job.
Muses has also inspired other organizations in the area to pursue similar training programs.
World Relief Seattle, a non-profit that partners with the local church and focuses on refugee resettlement, has recently taken steps to begin a project specifically geared toward employment for Afghan women.
The program will ideally feature extensive orientation for women about work environments in the U.S. as well as instruction on using sewing skills to contribute to the financial security of their families.
Through training programs for refugee women like Muses, women are gaining economic and personal empowerment and are learning to contribute to the sustainable market for handmade goods in Seattle.
– Peyton Jacobsen