Celebrate World Refugee Day and Women’s Resettlement Successes — Salimah Binti Kalamiah’s Story

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Salimah 300As World Refugee Day nears, I’m proud to share stories of women’s successful refugee resettlement that we’re collecting with our friends at Refugee Council USA! Please remember, as we near this important annual day of recognition on June 20, that former refugee leaders from across America will be visiting Capitol Hill as part of LIRS-organized delegations to lawmakers. They’ll be calling on Congress to ensure an even stronger refugee resettlement program through comprehensive immigration reform. They’ll also be honored at the Walk of Courage Award Dinner. LIRS offers many resources to everyone who’s looking for ways to speak out on World Refugee Day. For starters, please stand with refugees by raising your voice today through our Action Center!

Refugee Women Resettled in the United States

Name: Salimah Binti Kalamiah
Country of Origin: Myanmar
Current State/City: Nashua, NH
Year of resettlement: 2012

Brief Story:

Salimah was born in Myanmar, the third of seven children to a Rohingya family. She was deemed “the work child,” born specifically to take the load off of family rearing by her mother. She was not allowed to attend school or explore her own interests but instead devoted her time to bathing, feeding, and helping her younger siblings with schoolwork while at the same time changing diapers, feeding, clothing, and bathing her older siblings’ children. Her family rented out a room in their house and the tenant became her husband when she was 22 years old. Salimah helped support her family by selling curry noodle soup and other traditional foods at a night market, and fried rice and fried noodles at a morning market to people as they went off to work and school. Her dream was always to open a store specializing in beautiful things: textiles, clothing, jewelry, make-up, and food.

After a year in a holding pattern in Malaysia, where the Burmese government had exiled the Rohingya population, and after applying for refugee status, Salimah came to the United States with her husband, children, parents, and twin sisters in May 2012. It was during this first year of transition that she came in contact with A Woven Thread LLC. The Rohingya community thought she was overreacting with excitement about the project, but Salimah didn’t care. “I don’t even think about the money. It is something for me. It is beautiful and I am helping my family and the families of the women in Nepal and India who we buy the yarn from,” Salimah shared. However, after just a month of selling the fair trade, recycled sari scarves, her extended family and friends are offering to roll the yarn balls so she can focus her energy on the artistic creation. The proof has been in the profit and empowerment of spirit. “I am now encouraging them by my ambition and am closer than ever to my goal of opening a beautiful shop one day,” Salimah said, smiling.

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