The University of Iowa

UI holds Refugee Week

November 14th, 2016
Refugees are human beings

By Jake Markowitz, The Daily Iowan

Refugee Relief week runs from today through Friday with events taking place each day. There will be nine events around campus, varying from creating clothing for those in need to hearing the stories of refugees who recently traveled overseas to America.

The week kicks off with the event “Hats That Help,” every day from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. on the T. Anne Cleary Walkway. Carhartt hats will be sold on the walkway with all proceeds being donated to refugees in need.

Also today, a sewathon will be hosted in the Women’s Resource and Action Center.

Students and Iowa City residents are invited to participate by sewing T-shirts, flannels, and towels into reusable feminine-hygiene products that will be donated to women in Tanzania.

In Tanzania, women are faced with two main issues: access to feminine-hygiene products and fighting the stigma against menstruation. Women and girls miss an average of four days of work and school due to their periods in Tanzania, Just Living Student Ambassador Rebecca Howard said.

“We decided to send the pads to Tanzania because there is limited access to feminine-hygiene products,” Howard said.  “This means women and girls have to make pads out of items like old rags, mattress stuffing, and other things that are often unsanitary and usually lead to infection, but when feminine-hygiene products are available on a sustainable basis, school and work attendance rates have increased.”

Beyond events with goals to donate to those that are in need, events will be taking place that will work to educate the public, UI junior and refugee Monzer Shakally said.

Shakally will be joined on a panel by another refugee from Somalia, as well as a Muslim imam and a human-rights lawyer. The discussion will talk about the journey of the refugees and will touch on topics such as xenophobia and integration in the United States. The event will be hosted by the Human Rights Students Collective in 348 IMU on Tuesday.

“It’s cool that I’ll be able to tell people my story,” Shakally said. “It’s important to talk about topics like this to people who might not be that informed

The importance of having a week dedicated to refugees is felt by more than just the student refugees.

“Moe’s journey is an extremely interesting and eye-opening story,” said UI junior and Shakally’s roommate, Michael Buffa. “I’ve always wished more people understood the troubles that many refugees face. With a week on campus that puts refugees on the center stage, more people will be educated on the lives these people live that are probably very different from their own.”