Why Up Close va Personal?

Welcome to Up Close Va Personal, a summer storytelling project to collectively explore our passions, our purpose, and our power online as Iranian-American women. This story project is the first element of an evolving digital strategy around our collective work and contributions as we scale the impact and reach of the Iranian-American Women Foundation beyond the leadership conferences.

Since 2011, the IAWF Conferences have been a unifying force for our community. But in 2016, we need a unifying strategy for the digital age. Today, Iranian-American women should be interacting across social media to give voice to the important stories in our community and begin engaging around a digital platform. We might not have a demographic boom but we do command buying power, knowledge, and expertise. Now, we have to learn how to embrace and celebrate our individual contributions and seek a collective purpose.  With all the means of distribution these days what really matters is content.

We need collective content from our female scientists, architects, mathematicians, entrepreneurs, policymakers, fashion designers, athletes and financial leaders.  We need to put Iranian-American women on the map as influencers in American society, not only as businesswomen and thought leaders but as moms, sisters, daughters and yes, grandmothers. For we too, as a community, grapple with difficult topics such as racism, sexism, divorce, domestic violence, poverty, sex, drugs and alcohol addiction, and mental health issues.

Since 2011, IAWF Founder Mariam Khosravani, has brought together a critical mass of engaged professional women to talk about their lives, their desires, their professions, their failures, and their visions for the future. Every woman attending has had her own remarkable story of perseverance and resilience. Iranian-American women have expressed stories of exile and alienation and then shared the tools they used not only to survive, but to thrive. They shared how they picked up their broken spirits and turned to their Persian heritage for strength.

 In finding our digital community, we can learn a great deal from African-American and Latina women across America, who have found their voice through  blogs and social media platforms as they become ever more influential and a force to be reckoned with economically and socially. In Spring 2012, top Latina Bloggers held a retreat in Washington D.C. that included a briefing at the White House where administration officials discussed top issues affecting the Hispanic community including “education, health and jobs.” The takeaway from the retreat was to emphasize how the worlds of social media and entrepreneurship have become intertwined and how minority communities can come together through technology, innovation, and social media to make a difference across the American landscape.

As Iranian-American women we too share an undeniable bond. The goals of this summer storytelling project are:
-To capture the wisdom and experiences of professional Iranian-American women from all walks of life and industries.
-To build a digital community around IAWF and strengthening our identity in the process.
-To generate vibrant content and encouraging our community to share their own stories.
-To create a medium through which the work at the conference can continue and be built upon
as a form for continued engagement.

Let's share our stories and the strength of our community. Follow the conversation on #UpCloseVaPersonal.

Iran Davar Ardalan and Donya Nasser