SuWA is a student-organized community effort sponsored by the Kenan Institute for Ethics working to empower refugee women in Durham, North Carolina through education, small business development, and community building. The support and relationships present in the refugee community motivated the name SuWA, which is Iraqi for “togetherness.” SuWA is also an acronym for Supporting Women’s Action, which reflects the “togetherness” the women share. Follow the SuWA page on Facebook for updates on the program!

The project was begun in Fall 2013 by two students—Leena El-Sadek and Maura Guyler—who wished to further their relationships with local refugee families built through their community engagement work in the DukeImmerse: Uprooted/Rerouted program. The adjustment to life after resettlement in Durham can be very challenging for refugee women in particular. Cultural and linguistic barriers are often a daily frustration. And the obstacles to finding quality health care, access to education, and employment can be daunting.

Watch this short film made by Alexa Barrett and Leah Catotti in Spring 2014:

SuWA Skills is a subdivision of Supporting Women’s Action dedicated to providing professional mentorship opportunities to refugee women resettled in Durham, North Carolina. Many of these women are skilled workers who were forced to leave their homes and successful careers. Through SuWA Skills, female Duke students encourage these women and help them develop their own small business enterprises. The work experience gained through their endeavors helps the women in their future career pursuits. We currently support an eyebrow/facial hair threading business geared toward Duke students.

If you are a female Duke student interested in social entrepreneurship, cross-cultural interaction, and getting involved with SuWA Skills, please contact Michelle Khalid ( or Sama Naqeeb (

One of the SuWA Skills endeavors is an eyebrow threading venture here on East Campus Wednesdays during the semester. To make an appointment, fill out the form below:

SuWA Speech works to develop English skills and cultural familiarity in resettled refugee women in the Durham, North Carolina area. The adjustment to life in a new country is difficult, but even more so when faced with linguistic barriers. SuWA Speech works to help refugee women overcome language challenges and become more familiar with English in its everyday use. Female Duke students meet with these women once a week in a comfortable, on-campus space to discuss challenges and move towards solutions.

Weekly programs include:

  • English classes
    • Topic driven for basic English learners
    • More experienced learners work with their tutor to determine learning goals
      • Examples: Citizenship preparation, GED preparation, advanced speech experience
  • Community-building events
  • Focus groups to facilitate cultural expression

We work primarily with Arabic-speaking partners, but all women are welcome. If you are interested in joining SuWA Speech, please contact one of the following members or call the Kenan Institute of Ethics.