Reviving the Islamic Sisterhood for Empowerment (RISE) is amplifying the voices and power of Muslim women.
Nausheena Hussain was raised in a small town north of Chicago. She grew up believing in the American dream – work hard, go to college and you’ll succeed. But she found that there are invisible barriers. She is a woman. She is the daughter of Indian immigrants. And, as a woman of color with a piece of cloth on her head, she says “People feel threatened by me, or fear me.” So, she asked herself an important question. “What can I do to break through these barriers, especially because I have a daughter myself?”
Nausheena was working in a corporate role with a major retailer. She says, “You look around and the economy is tanking, the housing bubble has burst, people are losing their jobs and their homes, and you’re sitting in corporate America in your cushy job, trying to sell a sixty-five inch TV.” She began to ask herself “What is the purpose of my life? What am I here on this planet to do?” She recognized that she has skills, but was she really applying these skills in alignment with her values?
In 2011, Nausheena found a job at the civil rights organization, the Council on American-Islamic Relations. She loved the work and found it to be important. But there was something that bothered her. Where were the women? Most of the leadership positions were filled by men. When press conferences were called, she had a tough time convincing women to step into the spotlight. And yet, women were donors. They were doing the work in the background. But their work was not always acknowledged.
As Nausheena was thinking about this challenge, she was accepted into a fellowship program at Studio E. The fellowship had her working in 90-day sprints to develop her idea. In September 2015, she began a series of conversations with Muslim women about their challenges. These women shared their challenges in finding others with similar aspirations. Nausheena began to see the need for a platform that would connect Islamic women and help them tell their stories. By November 2015, Nausheena gave a talk at Ignite Minneapolis where she proposed the idea of Reviving the Islamic Sisterhood for Empowerment (RISE).
Nausheena says that “Often, when you think of a Muslim woman, a lot of negative things pop into your head. We realized that, that is because somebody else is always telling our story. So, how do we change that narrative, if we’re not the ones doing the storytelling? My hope is, the more Muslim women step up into spaces and places, and exercise their rights and power, I think that’s going to have a significant impact on public policy.”
RISE has three areas of focus: leadership, community engagement, and philanthropy. Nausheena says “If we gain the necessary skills, and we show up, then we can create positive social change.”
Social Entrepreneurship Quotes from Nausheena Hussain
“We’re trying to get Muslim women to engage in their communities to make society a better place for all.”
“We think Muslim women are not engaged or not interested, but that’s not the truth at all.”
“Let’s listen to the women and ask them what types of workshops they want.”
“How do you tell your story that is authentic and genuine?”
“We were sold out weeks before the conference.”
“The very first conversation I had was with eight women.”
“Get to know your neighbor, even the 5 or 6 houses around your own.”
Social Entrepreneurship Resources:
- Reviving the Islamic Sisterhood for Empowerment (RISE): http://www.revivingsisterhood.org/
- RISE on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/revivingsisterhood/
- RISE on Twitter: https://twitter.com/RISEsisterhood
- RISE on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/revivingsisterhood
- Bush Foundation: https://www.bushfoundation.org
- Studio E: http://yourstudioe.com
- Ignite Minneapolis: http://www.ignitempls.org