Our Origins

Generations of Women

WISE was founded by a group of multicultural, first generation immigrant women in 1995 as a vehicle for educational, leadership, social and economic empowerment for immigrant and refugee women and girls. WISE's founding members experienced the hardship of learning a second language with limited access to education. They came together to address the disparities in the treatment of immigrant women and those born in the U.S. in terms of educational opportunities, employment, and career advancement. The overall goal was to break the chain of poverty and provide the necessary support and education for immigrant women to seek leadership positions in the workforce and in their communities.

Over time WISE has continued to expand its understanding of the dynamics which hold back immigrant and refugee women*, girls and those on the feminine gender spectrum from achieving their full potential. WISE is a truly intergenerational organization that harnesses the strength of women and girls cross-culturally. By doing so, WISE creates a safe gathering place for women and girls from every walk of life, every nationality, culture, ethnicity, religion and age.

*We use the term "women and girls" to include any individual who identifies on the feminine gender identity spectrum.

Mission

Support immigrant and refugee women, girls and those on the feminine gender spectrum in their journey of self-actualization through culturally-responsive education, advocacy, systems change and resource development.

Vision

A world where immigrant and refugee women, girls and those on the feminine gender spectrum, are celebrated for their leadership, honored for their wisdom, and recognized for their contributions to an equitable, just and violence-free world.

Why does WISE focus exclusively on immigrant and refugee women and girls?

Historically, and even today, women earn less than their male counterparts, and immigrant and refugee women even less than them. Immigrant and refugee women and girls have had to flee violent situations in their home countries and communities, suffer sexual assault as a weapon of war, and endure significant oppression that has limited their freedom of movement, expression, and choice.

WISE believes that when we create equity, resources, opportunities and access for those most vulnerable in our society, we create it for all. Until women, girls and individuals on the feminine gender spectrum have the same economic opportunities and compensation, can live without the fear of sexual assault and other forms of violence, and have all of the freedoms and rights that every human being deserves, WISE will continue to focus exclusively on this population.

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WISE Founders

Our work is guided by 7 core values

Social Justice & Advocacy

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WISE advocates for systems change that increases opportunities for all people to develop their unique potential and use their assets fully, to benefit themselves and contribute to society.

Self-Determination & Self-Actualization

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It is the right of each woman and girl to have the freedom to develop her own identity, take pride in both her cultural heritage and personal accomplishments, and choose the best path for herself.

Art as a Powerful Tool for Healing & Learning

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WISE embraces the power of art to help immigrant and refugee girls and women to express themselves, be empowered, learn and heal; and strives to incorporate art exposure and activities into its core programming.

Cross-Cultural Communication

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Each culture is nuanced in its communication, verbal and non-verbal. WISE is intentional in learning about these nuances and assisting immigrant and refugee girls and women in learning to effectively communicate across cultures and share understanding.

Diversity & Inclusiveness

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Immigrant and refugee women and girls, although from different cultural backgrounds, share commonalities, and when working together they can impact social change and create solutions for themselves.

Economic Sustainability

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Economic self-sufficiency is the cornerstone of being able to realize one's full potential. When immigrant and refugee girls and women fully participate in the economic system, they and the community thrive.

Equity

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All human beings deserve equitable treatment and access to justice, resources, opportunities, education and fairness. WISE champions this equitable treatment and access to ensure the best possible outcomes for the immigrant and refugee girls and women it serves.