Our Mission Statement
To mobilize, advocate and empower African Women living in Oregon and Southwest Washington by providing a culturally supportive and nurturing environment that builds the capacity of the community to help itself and allows other members of the community to reach their highest potential through support, guidance and educational opportunities.

About AWC

On January 11, 2003, a group of African women from different countries came together at Lutheran Community Services Northwest to discuss issues of concern in their communities.
They decided to form a non-profit organization that would address those issues and gives their communities visibility at decision-making tables. Their aim was to help recent immigrants and refugees easily integrate into this new country.

It was their passion and positive energy that made their idea a reality and thus, AWC was born. AWC is the first organization led by African Immigrant and Refugee Women in the State of Oregon and in the USA as was indicated by the ORR representative.

Organization History

Oregon is the eleventh largest refugee resettlement state with 1700 new refugees coming annually. Since the early 1990s, Portland’s African refugee population has grown steadily, with the largest number of refugees coming from Ethiopia and Somalia in the beginning, and now from many other regions. In the Portland tri-county area, there are an estimated 16,000 African refugees and immigrants, making it the largest African population in the state.
While all refugees face serious challenges during resettlement, African women are especially vulnerable and at risk. Many are single mothers with several children. They have lost their husbands, sons, brothers, and fathers to the ravages of conflict and food insecurities resulting from climate change, they must now assume the position that in their traditional cultures was held by men. Most are ill-prepared for this role, and the absence of a supportive partner in their new environment creates enormous stress and anxiety.

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The AWC was established in January 2003. A group of African women began meeting with Lutheran Community Services Northwest (LCSNW) to talk about the issues of concern in their communities. With the help of LCSNW, they applied for a grant from the office of Refugee Resettlement to create a community-based organization that would act as a voice for African women and their families. In 2003, they received the funds through ORR. The AWC was then formed to address the needs of African refugee and immigrant families in the community.

Our Members

Objectives of the Organization

  • To create a shared dynamic vision for Portland’s African Immigrant and refugee communities and develop a plan to address community problems and concerns, based on cultural, civic, and socio-economic values.
  • To help the women leading AWC build the leadership and management skills to be effective advocates, problem-solvers, and providers of services.
  • To strengthen the role of the African refugee women as decision-makers on project activities and community needs.
  • To build a sense of trust and partnership among the various communities, so that the community members can see each other as resources.
  • To empower refugee women and foster self-sufficiency through English language mastery and general education.
  • To help African immigrant and refugee children develop skills to be successful in school and in life.
  • To build healthy families by providing culturally appropriate parenting resources and child development activities.
  • To help African immigrant and refugee women become more economically stable and successful in utilizing the financial resources within their community to create businesses.
  • To improve community perception of African refugees, not as needy recipients but as economically productive and contributors to the local economy.
  • To provide opportunities for the expression of individual and cultural ideas and talents.
  • To educate African immigrants and refugee women about women’s health issues so that they can practice preventive medicine and be proactive in their family’s health outcomes.
  • To build bridges between African refugees and other members of the local communities, service providers, career programs, policymakers, and public and private institutions.

Our Partners