Women's Initiative for Self-Empowerment

Saint Paul, Minnesota, USA


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The mission of WISE is to empower immigrant women and girls to succeed. WISE envisions a future where immigrant women, girls and female-identified folks will be honored for their wisdom, celebrated for their leadership, and empowered to create change in their lives and their communities. WISE is a vehicle for educational, leadership, social and economic empowerment for immigrant and refugee women and girls.

What We Do

WISE works exclusively with immigrant refugees women and girls/female-identified youth to support their personal, academic and professional growth. The agency has three main programs: Girls Getting Ahead in Leadership (GGAL), Women's Empowerment & Leadership (WeLEAD), and Healthy Relationships. Programs provide one-to-one support, tutoring, workshops, field trips, career exploration and advising, financial literacy, English language literacy, life skills, and leadership development.

GGAL works with 6th - 12th grade girls who are overwhelming limited English speakers, low-income students who have been in the U.S. from a few weeks to a few years. The learning cohorts are varied in their countries and languages of origin, immigration status, religion, and customs. Presently GGAL is offered during the school day at Washington Technology Magnet School in St. Paul and after school at the same site and at the Oromo Community of Minnesota. College students, the majority of whom are from immigrant/refugee backgrounds, mentor the girls and assist with homework help at each workshop session. Workshops help the girls develop their leadership and life skills, learn about applying to and navigating higher education, financial literacy, improving English language skills with a focus on writing, and career exploration. Each quarter the girls volunteer with a nonprofit organization at an event or activity, and plan and implement a fundraising project for a year-end activity of their choice.

WeLEAD provides academic support, financial literacy, leadership development and English language literacy to post-secondary female students from immigrant/refugee families. Support is offered remotely through Skype or similar platforms, and in-person either one-to-one or in small groups at area colleges or WISE' office. College students from area colleges provide homework assistance and mentoring to WeLEAD participants. The program coordinator assists students with college applications, scholarship prospecting and application, navigating financial aid, career exploration and choosing a major. Workshops are held monthly that inform the WeLEAD participants about issues related to career readiness and advancement, and adult life skills.

The Healthy Relationships program focused on the prevention of dating violence, stalking, cyberstalking and sex trafficking. Workshops are presented to the GGAL students about healthy communication and relationships, and community resources for victims/survivors of gender-based violence.


Pamela Z
Pamela Z.

Executive Director

Nancy V.

Program Coordinator

Nabiha M.

Volunteer Program Coordinator, AmeriCorps VISTA