Muslim Women Social Work Association creates a space for Muslim women to be autonomous and empowered

Founded in 2019, the Muslim Women Social Work Association (MWSWA) is a group for Muslim women in social work, or those interested, but also a place where academic, professional, and personal development with the support of other women is valued. Their mission is to build connections and a safe space, as an inclusive organization that welcomes all regardless of major or background.

MWSWA logo
Muslim Women Social Work Association logo

“With such a diverse body at Wayne State University, and with efforts towards inclusivity in the School of Social Work, having individuals with similar values come together and specifically create a space that allows Muslim women to exercise their autonomy is vital,” said president, Malak Alrifai. “MWSWA provides students with the opportunity to build an empowering space for themselves with the support to flourish during their time at Wayne.”

Alrifai says her role as president is to find opportunities to build a community of sisterhood in both the professional and personal realm.

“As a first-generation college student, who took a leap of faith with the social work profession, I can confidently say that it only empowered me. I have learned how to create a space to educate, empower, and have a good time while navigating the many aspects of being a college student. I find it rewarding and comforting to share the struggles and good times with students that can relate,” she said.

MWSWA’s signature event is “Blessing Bags,” which takes place in mid-winter, involving the assembly and distribution of over 300 food packages to individuals experiencing homelessness.

“’Blessing Bags’ emphasizes the importance of community efforts and engagement by not only providing support and necessities for those experiencing homelessness, but also allows increases awareness around the experiences of one of Detroit’s vulnerable populations,” Alrifai said. “With the support of the School, we hope to expand our reach and develop initiatives that support the local Detroit community.”

2019 Blessing Bag event volunteers
2019 'Blessing Bag' event volunteers

The term “Muslim women” covers a wide range of backgrounds, families, cultures, communities, and belief systems.

“Specifically in the U.S. with the impact of social media representations, when it is looked through the lens of propaganda that is saturated with islamophobia and restrictive views on Muslim women’s identities, it is not indicative of how we truly feel as Muslim women,” said Ameena Bakkal, vice president.

“We aim to help Muslim women progress by allowing them the opportunities they desire. By giving Muslim women access to people who understand the religious framework that they use to make decisions, we are helping those women see themselves as social workers,” said Hannah Abdelhady, treasurer.

Alrifai agrees: “By allowing Muslim women to lead the conversations regarding their identities and our needs, it creates opportunities for better treatment.”

“Many of us, as well as those who came before us, intentionally created deep footprints in the path we created to get to college and become professionals. We hope that future girls do not have to forge their own paths and are able to use our footprints as guides to their own journeys and ideas of progression,” said Abdelhady.

Anyone interested in learning more about joining or helping with “Blessing Bags” can follow MWSWA on Instagram or connect via Get Involved.

Author: Laura Hipshire

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