"Visionary Women" Combat the Refugee Crisis With Education

From left, Angella Nazarian, Krista Smith, Dayle Haddon, and Ghada Irani. (Photos courtesy of Renee Huesca)

From left, Angella Nazarian, Krista Smith, Dayle Haddon, and Ghada Irani. (Photos courtesy of Renee Huesca)

"Violence goes down. Occurrence of HIV/AIDS goes down. GDP goes up." -Dayle Haddon, on the importance of educating women.

In case you haven't heard of them, Visionary Women, a Beverly Hills-based non-profit organization devoted to advancing women in the community, host regular events with the world's most prominent masterminds while testing tradition and propelling the status of ladies in all circles of society. 

Sponsored by The Montage Beverly Hills and held at the palatial residence of Ghada Irani, Visionary Women's most recent event on February 21 tackled the refugee crisis and its impact on women and girls. Refugee camps across Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, and Iraq are cramped, and its inhabitants are living in poverty. Basic needs like electricity and clean water? Forget it. And violence against the women in the camps is rampant, and even considered to be normal.

Irani, a philanthropist and Board Chair of Unicef Southern California, created a space for association and change to discuss the countless families placed in refugee camps in Jordan and Lebanon, and encouraged attendees to help. Alongside her on the panel was Dayle Haddon, founder of WomenOne, a Unicef Ambassador who is also a member of Vanity Fair’s Hall of Fame for her humanitarian work.

Krista Smith, executive West Coast Editor of Vanity Fair, moderated the interview. 

Both panelists have played a huge role in aiding families, focusing on women and young girls in refugee camps, and providing them with proper education.

Irani comes from the same origins and culture as the women and girls in the middle-eastern camps. She acknowledged that it could have been her or her family as victims of the refugee crisis.

Now, her passion centers on kids, and she knows what will facilitate change for the younger generation.

An education.

Haddon echoed similar views on why education was so important for the young generation and girls in need.

"It's girls' education that changes everything," Haddon said. 

"Educating a girl influences so many things within the young female."

There are eight million Syrian refugees, and Zaatari in Jordan is one of the larger camps in the world. The average lifespan of a refugee is seventeen to twenty years.

Irani has made several trips to the Zaatari camp to bear witness and provide aid. According to Irani, "these people need help all around but it starts with educating the girls to prosper and grow from these experiences." 

Through her non-profit WomenOne—whose mission is "educate a girl, change the world"—Haddon teamed up with Duke University to expand the scope of their mission and bring programs and scholarships to girls and women in Jordan, Kenya, Rwanda, and elsewhere. Through their media program, they give girls in the refugee camps an opportunity to create films of what the world doesn’t see, and a chance to express what the camps are like from their own perspectives. 

Toward the end of the event, a former female refugee from the Zaatari camp stood up and shared her experience of leaving the camp and having the opportunity to make a new life in America.

"It was hard at the beginning," she said. "I didn't speak English or know anyone, but I am grateful and everything has been amazing since coming to America."