Nafisa Ahmed

  • Hosted by Peace Over Violence
  • Sponsored by Cooley LLP, Uber Technologies, Inc.
  • Service location Pasadena , California
  • Law school University of California, Irvine School of Law
  • Issue area Domestic Violence
  • Fellowship class year 2020
  • Program Design Your Own Fellowship

The Project

Nafisa will provide advocacy, outreach, and direct legal services to AMEMSA (Arab Middle Eastern Muslim South Asian) domestic violence survivors in the greater Los Angeles area.

This project serves AMEMSA (Arab Middle Eastern Muslim South Asian) abuse survivors. These communities are diverse in terms of religion and language, but individuals share the burden of a legal and societal system that privileges men, and, due to taboos about the role and rights of women in intimate partner relationships, domestic violence is widespread. In the United States, many AMEMSA women face obstacles when leaving abusive relationships. AMEMSA survivors are also less likely to seek help from law enforcement due to post 9/11 American sentiments about the population groups. Financial abuse is also prevalent in AMEMSA communities. This leads survivors to feel discouraged about leaving their abuser or pursuing legal action. While many AMEMSA abusers can afford to hire attorneys, survivors are often unrepresented and are disadvantaged in the justice system.

Nafisa’s personal connection to the population group motivates her to advocate for survivors to empower themselves and end cycles of abuse.

Fellowship Highlights to Date

So far, Nafisa has accomplished the following during her Fellowship:

  • Provided direct legal services for 21 AMEMSA survivors in divorce, restraining order, and immigration matters, with Cooley’s support on one case. Nafisa also assisted 22 other domestic violence survivors outside the AMEMSA community to build substantive legal skills.
  • Created Know-Your-Rights materials for immigrant survivors of domestic violence, which were translated into Arabic, Urdu, and Hindi with Uber’s support on translating materials. The materials were distributed to partner organizations and are available online.
  • Engaged in community advocacy seminars and partnered with AMEMSA organizations to share information about legal rights when experiencing domestic violence and battle stigmas about seeking legal support.

Next Steps

In the next year, Nafisa plans to:

  • Provide direct legal services for at least 40 AMEMSA domestic violence survivors in a range of family law and immigration matters.
  • Create additional self-help materials, including a comprehensive family law guide for pro se litigants.
  • Coordinate a pro bono clinic to assist clients with applying for a temporary restraining order.
  • Continue to involve Uber and Cooley LLP in the project through legal research and clinic opportunities.

As a Bangladeshi, Muslim immigrant myself, I have witnessed the impact of domestic violence to those close to me and in my community. I want to advocate for those who cannot advocate for themselves.

Nafisa Ahmed /
2020 Equal Justice Works Fellow

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