March 8th recognizes International Women’s Day! Today we would like to recognize a women leader in Winona. Fatima Said is the executive director of Project FINE. She is an inspiring woman who has dedicated her life to building up the community. Not only is she a strong leader, but she is also a refugee from Bosnia & Herzegovina. Continue reading to hear Fatima’s story.
What do you want our readers to know about you?
I have been working at Project FINE for fifteen years, and have enjoyed every second of it, as our mission is truly my personal and professional passion. I love bringing people together to form relationships and learn about others, especially by listening to people’s stories. I base my life on being kind, helpful, and respectful.
What path leads you to your current leadership role with Project Fine?
Before Project FINE, I was working as a teacher and director of the Head Start program at Child Care Resource and Referral in Rochester for eleven years. Coming to Project FINE was a great opportunity to pursue two of my personal passions – education and social justice. As a refugee from Bosnia & Herzegovina, I know firsthand how hard it’s to come into new country and start from beginning. My current role allows me to make a difference by working to build bridges between newcomers and established residents in Winona and I have loved every moment!
How do you mentor arriving refugees?
I see our main role as diminishing fear and establishing relationships in the community. We work to connect them to community resources and create opportunities for learning. Refugees and immigrants go through three stages on the way to being fully integrated. The first stage is survival, which is when people arrive to our community and need assistance with meeting their basic needs. The next stage is building capacity, where we provide information to help them understand the systems of employment, healthcare, society, and begin to build a life in our area. The final stage is where we create stability and support their success. This is the stage where people are putting down roots in the community and are ready to do things like purchase a house, begin saving for their child’s college or start a small business.
What is your favorite activity or past time?
I am a very social person. I love any activity where I can spend time with my family or friends. I want to make the most out of life in every moment and opportunity. I enjoy traveling to unfamiliar areas across the globe.
March 8th is international women’s day. This year’s theme is “Let’s all be each for equal” working on moving towards a gender-equal world. What is your perspective on this topic?
In my country (Bosnia & Herzegovina) we celebrated March 8th every year. This holiday was a day for women to take off and do something for themselves. Even men recognized this day by bringing flowers to their wives, sisters, or mothers. Here in the United States, this day doesn’t receive as much attention, but I love seeing women in leadership roles and think we need to continue that trend. Women are unique and strong and can bring a different approach to the workforce. We need to continue to keep talking about women in leadership and providing them with opportunities to grow!
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