Sarah Soliman is a Gender and Global Security Program Assistant at WIIS. She is currently pursuing her Bachelor’s degree at American University in International Studies with a focus on Identity, Race, Gender, & Culture and Global Inequality & Development, with a Religious Studies minor.
As the middle child in an Egyptian family of immigrants, Sarah grew up in New York City and Cairo, Egypt with her parents, older sister, and younger brother. Spending time in her family’s American diner in Manhattan, she learned how space can transform into a center for intercultural communication. Sarah is fluent in Spanish and attributes that fluency to working with a Spanish speaking staff for so many years. Already exposed to multiple cultures and languages (Arabic, English, and Spanish), Sarah knew she had an interest in international affairs. In 2014, her interest became personal when her grandmother fell ill and applied for a visa to be close to her family and seek medical care in the United States. Unfortunately, the U.S. government denied her request and two years later, she passed away in Egypt without her daughter or grandchildren. Since then, Sarah has made it her goal to dismantle borders and has found her passion in working with immigrant and refugee communities.
Sarah has become involved in the immigrant and refugee community in various ways. During her junior year, Sarah decided to study abroad in Madrid, Spain for her spring semester. She dove into the Iberian experience and perfected her favorite language, Spanish. When she wasn’t studying the experience of Spanish feminists or the history of the Spanish empire she volunteered at Dragones de Lavapiés, a small NGO supporting immigrant communities in Madrid, where she taught English to children of immigrant families. Immediately following that semester, she worked for six weeks in a refugee camp in Samos, Greece where she taught English, organized children’s reading circles and coordinated cultural dialogue workshops. As the center’s first cultural director, she wanted to address intercultural conflict inside the refugee camp and at the psychosocial support center where she volunteered. She noticed that the lack of nuanced attention to the multiple cultures in the refugee camp played a major role in creating borders between people living in the camp – when borders were the reason for a majority of the suffering in the first place. Although she supported different multicultural perspectives, she wanted to eliminate pain caused by a lack of attention to cultural conflict within the camp.
In addition to her passion for supporting immigrant communities, Sarah is devoted to understanding the intersectionality between gender and religion, and translating that understanding to her community. As a devout Muslim and feminist, Sarah struggled her second year at American University in finding the alignment between her two identities and felt pressured to choose between the two. She constantly asked herself, “How can I responsibly support the women around me and also support my faith?” Inspired by the novel Feminist Edges of a Quran by Aysha Hidayatullah, she realized that she could continually reflect her faith as her own personal interpretation and guide while recognizing the performative aspect of her faith is up to her own judgment as well.
In order to promote the compatibility between feminism and Islam, Sarah made it her personal goal to reexamine religious and feminist texts and provide a re-interpretation of the works. Once she graduates, Sarah would like to pursue a Master’s degree and a Ph.D. in International Affairs in order to write a textbook on the Arab World. She wants to become a professor who can empower underrepresented students through knowledge and academic excellence.
In her position at WIIS, Sarah is the Head of Fundraising and Grants and is planning a panel on women in refugee camps. She is also conducting policy analyses on the NATO Women, Peace & Security Action Plan and focusing on writing about her experiences.
Sarah is a talented artist who loves to draw and paint in her personal time. She tries every type of tea she comes across and could watch Planet Earth until the end of time. Sarah hopes to one day enter an ice cream eating competition – watch out, her favorite flavor is cookies & cream!
The WIIS Global Team is thrilled to have her on the team. Her excitement and positive energy brighten the office every day! We are excited to see her contributions and how she makes a lasting impact not only at WIIS but in the world.