According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), 81,000 women and girls were killed in 2020, with approximately 58% of them dying at the hands of an intimate partner or a family member. These harrowing statistics point to a woman or girl being killed every 11 minutes in their home— let that sink in.
As women, we can all agree that rarely do we find a place we feel 100% safe in. Add to that being a woman of color, and being subjected to racial and gender-based acts of violence. Egyptian-American activist Rana Abdelhamid is on a mission to change this unjust narrative through the Malikah Center for women living in New York City. Her non-profit organization recently opened up a physical center in Steinway Street in Queens, New York, welcoming women from all walks of life and heroically reassuring them that yes, they are safe.
Abdelhamid was only 16-years-old the first time she experienced a hate crime. She was walking down the street in New York City when a man physically attacked her and tried to rip off her hijab. Feeling scared, unsafe, and powerless, Abdelhamid hid in a shelter she had been volunteering at. From that moment on, she made it her life-mission to ensure that all women of color, black, brown, indigenous feel safe in their skin. She picked up a black belt and learned self-defense and started her own non-profit organization, Malikah, which is centered around training thousands of women worldwide in self-defense, anti-hate crime advocacy, and emotional healing work.
What started as thirteen women in a community center eventually led to a safe haven for women. One of its kind, the Malikah Center is said to be the first-ever women’s space in Queens which aims to provide refuge for survivors of domestic violence and provide affordable housing for immigrant women survivors.
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“Building safety and power on Steinway Street is building safety and power on a street where we have been surveilled, stopped and frisked, where women have not found safety because of sexual harassment, where displacement and gentrification threaten to close our small businesses,” wrote Abdelhamid on Instagram, following the opening of the non-profit community center. “Building our space here is reclaiming our space here. Steinway street is home. Where the athan calls us into peaceful existence, where kunafe and shisha smells linger, where Arabic script decorate store fronts, where our immigrant parent’s dreams find comfort in foreign lands. Steinway Street is home. And we are now at home,” she continued in the lengthy, heartfelt post.
“Malikah is the woman who marched for our freedom and our right to vote. Malikah is the aunty in shalwar kamees and New Balance sneakers working behind the Dunkin’ Donuts counter supporting generations.
“Malikah escaped war and poverty, immigrated with a dream. Malikah is a first generation college student and entrepreneur. She runs for office and preserves our herstories through art. Malikah is our singing, unshakable voice. She is the way our hips move to tabla, hip hop and reggaeton, in honor of ancestors.
“Malikah rises after her lands have been stolen and occupied. Malikah fights back in the face of racism and sexism. She reminds us of our power as individuals,” said the statement.
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The newly-opened center offers a series of transformative and healing programs, youth programs, business incubation programs, English language classes for Arabic speakers, self-defense classes, and so much more— the space covers everything from economic and healing justice to educational training in what gender-based violence, micro vs. macro aggressions, and power and privilege really mean.
According to the NGO’s website, the center’s volunteer team has so far trained over 20,000 women and girls in 20 cities across the globe with over 800 workshops and 200 global, national, and grassroots partners.
Thank you Rana Abdelhamid.