San Diego

AWIU Chapter for San Diego


Emily Cahn

Chapter Chair

AWIU San Diego Chapter attends 2015 Annual Women’s Peace Maker’s Panel on October 7, 2015. The Women PeaceMakers Program at the Joan B. Kroc Institute for Peace and Justice documents the stories and peacebuilding practices of international women leaders. Each year, four women are paired with professional writers to record their unique stories of living in conflict and building peace. Gleda Widschut & Emily CahnGlenda Wildschut, Human Rights Activist and authority on reconciliation appointed by Nelson Mandela to serve as Commissioner on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
As I attended peace makers program  at Joan B Croc Center for Peace and Justice.Members  of San Diego AWIU also attended. 

Latest News

San Diego Chapter To Host Event with Dr. Rita Lim-Wilby on November 21: “Malaysia and Singapore: 2 Countries, 1 Common Culture”

On Thursday, November 21AWIU’s San Diego chapter will host an event with Dr. Rita Lim-Wilby who will present “Malaysia and Singapore: 2 Countries, 1 Common Culture”. The event will be held on Thursday November 21, 2013 at 5:30 pm in La Jolla, CA Light refreshments will be provided. Attendees must RSVP for admission to the Windemere Gated Community. Please RSVP to Co-Host Kathleen Roche Tansey.

Moving Youth Toward Self-Sufficiency in Zimbabwe: Lizzabetty Mhangami presents Vanavevhu, “Children of the Soil”

On July 10, the San Diego Chapter hosted a meeting with Zimbabwean social entrepreneur Lizzabetty Mhangami who spoke about her work with two organizations she founded in Zimbabwe, Vanavevhu and V2 Enterprises, to help address the needs of child heads of household – children who’ve been orphaned by AIDS. Bulawayo, Zimbabwe – Lizzabetty’s home – is the second largest city in Zimbabwe and is the home of tens of thousands of children and teens struggling to support themselves and younger siblings in an economy floundering under 70-90% unemployment. A graduate of Loyola University and a Masters candidate at DePauw University, Lizzabetty developed strong feelings about the importance of teaching self-sufficiency while working in the United States with youth in urban neighborhoods. So when she returned home she founded Vanavevhu, “Children of the Soil”, to help young heads of household, ages 9 to 22, to move toward self-sufficiency individually and within the local economy. The organization teaches essential work and life skills and provides technical training. V2 Enterprises, also founded by Lizzabetty, is a youth managed agribusiness and trade school which allows youth to acquire the skills needed to help them earn income, find jobs, or create their own businesses. The programs have found particular success in beekeeping and in growing vegetables and flowering plants. The youth use beeswax to make candles, which are highly valued due the uncertainty of electrical power, and sell honey. Long regarded highly in Zimbabwe for its medicinal properties but not commonly used as a sweetener, honey is now being marketed by V2 Enterprises as a healthier substitute for sugar. The vegetable production business has also grown into a number of sustainable businesses. Young farmers not only grow and market a wide range of local produce, but their use of a geometric planting design idea has led to a spin-off business in which the youth plant and maintain beautiful vegetable and flower gardens for wealthy Zimbabweans. They are also developing an appreciative market for new and heirloom vegetables not traditionally used in Zimbabwean cuisine. These organizations have helped stabilize the lives of these vulnerable youth and their families by providing assistance with food, education, and the cost of utilities along with workshops that capitalize on their already formidable entrepreneurial instincts. Vanavevhu has validated the concept that isolated youth can be brought back into mainstream society as productive members of the community. Vanavevhu was incorporated in Illinois in 2007 as a 501(c)(3) charitable organization. It is a Zimbabwean registered community trust (Trust Reg. No. MA0000059/2010). For more information, please visit or contact the organization at

San Diego Chapter Recommends Film on Human Trafficking

The San Diego Chapter of AWIU partnered with The World Affairs Council of America to present two screenings of “Not My Life,” an 80-minute documentary about the realities of human trafficking and exploitation in the U.S. and 11 other countries on 5 continents.  The programs were part of a nationwide program supported by a grant from Carlson and the Carlson Family Foundation. The film was written, directed, and produced by Academy Award nominee, Robert Bilheimer and narrated by Glenn Close. Following the screening, Marisa Ugarte, Executive Director of the Bilateral Safety Corridor Coalition (BSCC) of Tijuana and San Diego, spoke about the real tragedy of young girls and women trafficked across the San Diego-Mexican border from countries as far away as China, the Phillipines, South America and Mexico for conscription into service as prostitutes, garment workers, unpaid household helpers, etc. Human trafficking is a global, human rights abuse that exploits millions of woman and children in the U.S. and in countries throughout the world every day. Trafficking, whether for forced labor, domestic servitude, sexual tourism and prostitution, or child soldiering destroys lives yet earns billions of dollars for the individuals and organizations who engage in these practices.  It is the responsibility of each of us to do what we can to put an end to this vicious reality. Anyone can see additional screenings currently scheduled for July by searching Not My   To find out how to attend in one of these cities CLICK HERE Santa Fe, NM           July 9, 11:30 a.m. East Hampton, CT       July 10 6:30  p.m. Overland Park, KS      July 17 7:00 p.m. Dallas, TX             July 17 7:00 p.m. San Diego, CA          July 18   10 a.m. TWO SPECIAL EVENTS INSPIRED BY THE WOMEN OF COURAGE AND INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY March 13  A special Breakfast with Nobel Prize Winner Lehma Ghowee from Liberoa. $50 See MORE March 15  Meet the 2013 Women of Courage–FREE — at the Joan Kroc Center. See MORE

San Diego Chapter Hosts the Nile Sisters Development Initiative, Helping Refugee Women and Families in San Diego

On May 14 Mary Johnson, the San Diego chapter co-chair, hosted a dinner for AWIU members to learn about the Nile Sisters Development Initiative in San Diego and to meet beneficiaries of the organization’s work. Founded in 2000 by Elizabeth Lou and her husband Paulino Paida, refugees from South Sudan, the mission of the Nile Sisters Development Initiative is to help refugee women and their families in San Diego overcome barriers and become socially and economically self-reliant through education, training and support. Nile Sisters provides refugees with short-term assistance such as supplies (hygiene items, diapers, etc.) as well as structured programs to help refugees become self-sustaining.  These programs include refugee health acculturation, prenatal and child healthcare, preschool parent education, family mentoring, special English tutorials, and Certified Nursing Assistant training.  Many families also receive mentoring and job-search assistance as well as a supportive network in which they can comfortably express their concerns and challenges and celebrate their accomplishments. The organization has received 622 refugees and visitors since January 1, 2013, and is currently working with 108 women enrolled in programs (CAN, ESL, Driving, and Childcare, etc.) as well as with many women currently seeking employment. Co-founder Elizabeth Lou has received numerous awards for her work with Nile Sisters, including the Eleanor Roosevelt Award for Human Rights from the United Nations. Host Mary Johnson adds, “Elizabeth greets each refugee with a hug and the warmth of a women who genuinely cares about each person who crosses her doorstep.” But Elizabeth sites a continued serious need for donations to help meet the needs of these families as well as the need for administrative help, mentors, grant writers, and job search support. Anyone who is interested in more information is encouraged to visit The Nile Sisters website at The group was also privileged to meet and hear the personal stories of three women refugees, from South Sudan, Burma, and Syria. Details on one of these women, Yu Yu Khaing of Burma, can be found below. Details on another woman, Krestina Barood of Sudan, can be found in a separate “Featured Story” post below. Yu Yu Khaing, from Burma, was active in the political efforts to loosen the military controls on the people of Burma.  When it became clear that she, her husband, and infant son were at risk, they fled to the border of Thailand where they remained to help other refugees escape. There Yu Yu worked for the National League for Democracy to improve women’s rights, help empower women, and help in capacity building. She was also active with the Women’s Alliance on the Thai-Burma Border. Yu Yu’s husband, also a political activist, was assassinated during this time. Yu Yu and her son, both also at risk, applied to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and were granted permission to enter the United States as refugees.  She currently works with the Nile Sisters helping other women refugees.  Her son, now 14, doesn’t remember his father, but knows him through pictures and stories of his father’s fight to secure human rights for all people. He wants to grow up to work in politics to end wars and oppression around the world. Burma, renamed the Republic of the Union of Myanmar by the military dictatorship that took power in a coup d’ etat in 1962, was reputed by the U.N. and others to engage in vicious and systematic human rights violations, including genocide, child soldiering, systematic rape, child labor, slavery, human trafficking, and a lack of freedom of expression.  Since, 2011, however, the military have begun to relinquish some control over the government and has released its most famous human-rights activist. In response, the U.S. and other nations have lifted some trade and other economic sanctions. The Nile Sister Development Initiative was incorporated in 2000, and received 501(c)(3) not-for-profit status in 2001. For more information visit their website,, or their Facebook page, .

Featured Story: Krestina Barood, Refugee from Sudan and Board Member for Nile Sisters Development Initiative

Krestina Barood, a refugee from Sudan, is a member of The Nile Sisters Board of Directors.  She holds an Associate Business Management and Accounting degree from California College San Diego.  She has worked for Rady Children’s Hospital in the housekeeping department since 2006. Her responsibilities with Nile Sisters include assisting in training and mentoring new hires, department communications and coordinating departmental activities with team members. She speaks Arabic, is proficient in several computer programs, and is currently working on a degree in art and drama. Krestina is married with two sons and a daughter. Krestina was kind enough to write her own story which follows: Krestina Barood July 19, 2011

I never knew I’d Earn a Degree

  My family and I came to the United States of America on March, 25 2003 and currently live in San Diego, California. I have three lovely kids, two boys and a daughter, all going to school and myself already preparing to enroll in the University of San Diego. Before earning my associate degree I have always asked myself this question: “What am I going to do with my life after my long run from home.” And I made it my goal to get as much education as I can get to learn English and earn a degree and I could not have gotten anymore help then through God and determination. Throughout my life I have prayed for the good things in life, I have prayed for my family and their well-being, and I’ve prayed through the difficult times in my life and just through sheer desperation. My education was very complicated, distressful and out of control. When I was in the 3rd grade, the civil war started in Southern Sudan. It had cost me a lot. I missed my parents and relatives. I had to work hard to make a living. Everything was very difficult because of the Civil War that had been raging on in Southern Sudan in Wau, my hometown. The war put going to school and getting an education out of the question. It had destroyed many schools and closed most of the area in southern Sudan including my home town Wau. Many people died and many left their home and among those people were some of my family members. My family divided, we went separately in groups up North. In the North I started school with a different name, my nickname, Amuna. My cousin was the one to enroll me in the 4th grade until the 6th grade. During my 6th grade my father got a new job as a book keeper at a church. He spoke to the Italian pastor of the church about me, that I was going to the school and was the only Christian student there which is why my cousin advised me to use my nickname instead of my real one. So the pastor suggested that he hire a teacher for me and have them teach me at the church but to do that I had to go back and start over from 3rdgrade. Later when my older sister came from the South and my little brother turned five 5, the class expanded and became two classes, 1st grade and 3rd grade. Then the pastor asked if we can find other children in our neighborhood that would be willing to come to the classes and a year later the classes turned into an elementary Catholic school. I did not continue with the school for long though, my father enrolled me in the 7th grade at a private middle school in Khartoum. After a year later my older brother, Jamis pulled me out of the school and sent to one of schools that the government opened for students coming from the South. Students were to fill out a form for enrollment and whatever school there name falls in they were to go there, whether it was in the North, East, or West. I went east of Sudan to a city called New Hallpha. The school there was called Gold of Abduljaber and I stayed there for about one year but when I went home for the holiday, my parents suggested that I move from the East and come back North, where I had to enroll in another school called Marridy High School in the 8th grade. During that time I got married to my husband and had two children and was still going to school. By the time I finished my high school the war had gotten worse than before. My husband went back to his hometown, Wau also because his step-father was killed. So I decided go and live with my brother with my two kids because my husband went away. My brother was sent into military duty in eastern Sudan and a few months’ later investigators came to his home asking us where he was because he had gone missing. I was fearful and confused because I thought he might have died and maybe these people thought that I knew where he was and wasn’t telling them. It was only five years later that I would learn that my brother was still alive. My husband then came from the South and I told him about the investigators and my missing brother, and about them asking of him as well. So we decided that it was time to leave the country because it was becoming too dangerous. After about a week in the U.S., I immediately started going to the adult school in Linda Vista in North City. I made my goal that I was going to learn English and I started getting some help from a church member. She came to my house and taught me English for the next six months. After that time she told me, “Krestina, you are ready to go to college.”  We went to Mesa College and I took a replacement test and I passed. I was given level 19, which were a grammar class and also a few writing classes. The beginning was very difficult because while I was going to school, at the same time, I was also working. Sometimes I’d fail and try again until I passed and finished English as a second language. I started thinking of becoming a police officer because I thought it was a good job to protect and bring stability to the community, but on the other hand it was tough. I thought after the long run it was the time for me to relax. I got a new job working at Rady’s Children Hospital as a housekeeper and also was still going to school at Mesa College. I went on like this for a while until one day, I went to my supervisor’s office and asked her on how I could become a lead, and she told me I had to take management courses. I started looking for schools that offer management classes, and I found California College San Diego. A few weeks later, I got a letter in my mail box from CCSD and they offered Business Management classes. I was so happy and I filled out the form and sent it back. After some days passed I got a phone call from the manager of admission, Randy, and we set an appointment. After I went there and met with the admission consultant. I asked him about management courses, but he told me the school offered degrees:  associates, bachelors and masters.  I thought it was difficult at first and didn’t think I could do it. I tried to explain to him that I am a refugee and housekeeper, but he encouraged me and told me my English was fine and that I finished high school so I was able to do it. From there on, I made a commitment to myself to finish school and earn an Associate degree in Business Management. It was hard and hectic with the exception of everything else going on in my life but it was all worth it. On the 9th of June, 2011 I graduated with an Associate Degree in Business Management and Accounting. All the things that happened to me and the experiences and accomplishments opened a door to me that showed me anything is possible. Everything I’ve been learning at school I can use to take me higher and make me the person I want to be. Nothing is impossible if you just go to school and use the skills you learn to help you reach the top. This worked with me; it’s working with my children, and with others. Education is important for making life better, earning a way of living, and helping you take control of your life.

At the AWIU Annual Meeting for 2013 on January 26, Mary was inspired by the speaker Teri Reese.  Teri a retired naval diver who had worked with the navy underwater diving team has been working with One Billion Rising  One Billion rising advocating non violence against women is celebrating for the 15th year in a row on February 14, 2013. See our menu for One Bill Rising Here Here is what Mary Johnson did to advocate for both AWIU Advocacy Agenda of Healing Women from Violence and One Billion Rising on February 9, 2013. Mary’s memo is addressed to Kathleen Hunt, AWIU President who was responsible for the annual meeting and it’s speaker Teri Reese. Mary Johnson report Last night, as almost every Thursday night, I went to The Salvation Army’s Centre City Corps in downtown San Diego to feed the homeless.  After the dinner, we stay for a “group” meeting with the men and boys who help us feed. They tell us what they have done to help another or others in the previous week.  I should mention, the boys are teens (12-18)  are in a drug- or alcohol-addiction treatment program at the McAlister and most have been mandated there by the courts. The men are recently released prisoners from the Lighthouse Program, men coming out of prison with drug- or alcohol-addictions. When I spoke, I told them about One Billion Women and I said that I recognized that some of them there may have gone to prison for crimes against women, but that next Thursday I challenged them 1. to write to their mothers, grandmothers, sisters and/or aunts to tell them they love them and what the person has meant in their lives.  Secondly I challenged them to do something kind for a woman they don’t know next Thursday on the 14th whether it was to buy a cup of coffee for a homeless woman, give her a pair of socks, help take someone to a doctor’s appt.  On Thursday, I will ask them to report what they’ve done. Afterwards one big, black gentleman came up,  hugged me and thanked me for what I shared. He hasn’t spoken to his Mother in 16 years, and he promised me he was going to call her today to tell her he loved her! So, see, none of this would have happened had you not told me about the One Billion Women movement and had I not been able to share it with these men. I will also remind my “partner” Dick Lewis of the San Diego Chargers organization to see if the team’s players can’t also be challenged to do something to help end domestic violence on the 14th. Thank you! Mary Johnson MARCH 29 MEETING 3:00 PM: SPEAKER: Michael_Corbin Michael Corbin, Deputy Assistant Seretary of State, Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs for Iraq Issues Chapter Email: Go here to read the San Diego Chapter Blog for information about Chapter activities.