A special thanks to our friends at Nisaa for providing this important service to help some of Iowa’s newest citizens find a home—and support—in communities across Iowa. This is their story:


Nisaa African Family Services is a culturally specific sexual assault/domestic violence nonprofit organization stationed in Des Moines and Iowa City that works with African immigrant/refugee survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence in all of Iowa’s 99 counties. At Nisaa, we provide advocacy in any capacity that is necessary and possible for the survivor’s wellbeing, including but not limited to medical, legal, and therapeutic advocacy.


Nisaa staff also assist women with immigration documents to help them to obtain VAWA (Violence Against Women Act) protections when they are in jeopardy of being deported. At Nisaa, we hope to give African immigrant/refugee survivors the confidence and knowledge to propel themselves into lives that place their wellbeing at the center.


Our client base is predominantly women (due to gender-based violence) who don’t possess English speaking skills. These women are vulnerable in a multitude of ways and at Nisaa, we hope to empower them despite layered, marginalized identities. Nisaa also engages the African immigrant/refugee community through outreach events and partnership projects.


The community that Nisaa serves has voiced their gratitude, “We desperately need this program around here,” said one Nisaa client. And according to another, “If it weren’t for Nisaa helping me to find assistance for my rent, I would be homeless right now.”


Recently Nisaa African Family Services received a grant from the Iowa Women’s Foundation in order to jump start a women’s sewing club. In April of 2017, Nisaa launched the Friendship Sewing Cooperative (FSC), and with the help of local sewing instructors and its advocates/volunteers, we were able to create not only a practical and useful learning environment, but also a safe space where African women could thrive and find support.


Nisaa’s Friendship Sewing Cooperative consists of two sessions and works with about 10-15 women in each session. The women that have partaken in the cooperative have spoken to Nisaa advocates about how much the class has given them confidence, supportive friendships, and a way to break from their oftentimes tumultuous lives. These African immigrant/refugee women are incredibly thankful for the Friendship Sewing Cooperative, and Nisaa African Family Services is happy to provide this service. This would not be possible had it not been for the generosity of the Iowa Women’s Foundation and their willingness to partner with Nisaa and give marginalized women a chance.


We thank the Iowa Women’s Foundation immensely and hope that this project will be sustainable enough to touch even more lives.


Nisaa African Family Services Advocates (left to right); Fatima, Barwaqo, and Sumaya.


Friendship Sewing Cooperative participants and instructors.


More about Nisaa African Family Services:

Nisaa African Family Service’s mission is to end domestic violence and sexual assault in African immigrant and refugee communities by promoting social, economic and political self-determination of all women; it seeks to build healthy communities through transformative justice and social change. To learn more about this organization, or to learn how you can help Nisaa fulfill their mission, visit http://nisaa-afs.org/what-can-you-do/.