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Nadia’s Initiative receives the Cooper Award for Public Sociology by a Community Organization

April 06, 2024 2:21 PM | John Curtis (Administrator)

by Michelle Newton-Francis and Gay Young

Nadia’s Initiative is the 2024 recipient of the Anna Julia Cooper Award for Public Sociology by a Community Organization. In the face of socially produced racial/ethnic and gender inequalities, Nadia’s Initiative (NI) is dedicated to promoting sustainable projects for rebuilding communities displaced by war and conflict and advocating globally for survivors of conflict-related sexual violence.

Recently, the founder and president of Nadia’s Initiative, Nadia Murad, was named by Time as one of the Women of the Year 2024. Her profile opens as follows: “Nadia Murad dreamed of running her own beauty salon in Kojo [northern Iraq] … ‘In my imagination, the salon was a safe space where women and girls could share ideas, learn things, and have something for themselves,’ she says.” While Time’s emphasis on “the dream” of running a beauty salon is cringe-worthy, the opening sentence of Nishaun T. Battle’s article on Black girls and beauty salons argues, “The African-American beauty salon has the potential to be a space of refuge for Black women and a place where Black girls can learn from Black women about the challenges they experience in their daily lives.” * Battle maintains that the beauty salon provides a place for social commentary on emotional, mental, and physical health and where wellness and growth can thrive. Thus, Nadia Murad’s early imagination emerges as profoundly sociological.

That sociological imagination fully informs NI’s mission of creating a world where women and girls are able to live in equality and communities that have experienced crisis and displacement are redeveloped. NI advocates—at the local, national, and international levels—for resources and policies needed to rebuild communities sustainably and support survivors of sexual violence. Three Guiding Principles for the organization’s work reflect the sociological thinking that frames the analysis of how to remediate racial/ethnic and gender inequalities: All NI programs are (1) Survivor-Centered; (2) Community-Driven; and (3) intended to foster Sustainable Development and Peace.

We also note a significant accomplishment by the organization in its advocacy for survivors of conflict-related sexual violence across the globe. In May 2022, the Murad Code Project was launched as a collaborative effort among NI, the UK government’s Prevention of Sexual Violence Initiative and the Institute for International Criminal Investigations. The code serves as a guide for both investigators and journalists when interviewing survivors of conflict-related sexual and gender based violence. The intention is to institutionalize survivor-centered documentation practices which avoid re-traumatization of survivors and demonstrate respect for survivors’ needs and wishes and their right to make their own choices.

In our view, Nadia’s Initiative enacts approaches to and advocacy for displaced communities and survivors of sexual and gender-based violence that are sociologically informed and relevant to the DCSS service area—not only to residents who have experienced displacement and/or sexual violence, but also to the many local, state, national and international policymakers in the DMV region.

We hope you will join us in honoring Nadia’s Initiative at the April 18 DCSS awards reception.

* Nishaun T. Battle (2021) “Black Girls and the Beauty Salon: Fostering Safe Space for Collective Self-Care,” Gender & Society 35(4):557-66. See also Adia Harvey Wingfield’s Doing Business with Beauty: Black Women, Hair Salons, and the Racial Enclave Economy (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2008), which examines one of the most popular businesses – hair solans – run by Black women, an often-overlooked group of entrepreneurs, revealing Black women business owners’ struggles for autonomy and their successes.

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