International Women's Month Feature | Jenika Gonzales

What country were you born in, and how long have you lived in Cleveland? 

I was born and raised in Marikina, Philippines. I moved to Parma, Ohio from the Philippines in 2006 when I was 14 years old to finally reunite with my single Mom, who worked as an immigrant in the US for a decade. Three years ago, the rest of my siblings joined us, and it has been a long but very fulfilling journey.

The pioneers and supporters of International Women’s Day believe that “from challenges come change.”: What has been the largest challenge in your journey toward personal success?

As a creative woman, the challenge has always been having an “imposter syndrome” in everything I do. I try to challenge myself in ways that may seem impossible at the moment but learned through each experience that my biggest enemy is always myself. Additionally, growing up in a huge family in the Philippines and moving to a small suburb in Ohio presented a lot of challenges within me and how I interacted with my surroundings; I learned to fight through a lot of doubts and insecurities by really leaning into myself and my Mom. (I learn a lot from her and her sacrifice) I learned to trust people along the way and realized that I can build my own community in any surroundings. You really can’t do anything alone, and support from people you trust is key to any success.

You have been nominated for this recognition by another amazing person, proving that we are so much stronger when we support one another. What is one piece of advice you have for women in your community and all over the world?

I believe that the communities I am part of are a large part of my identity. I have the opportunities that I have now because of the people who helped lift me along the way. My advice is to never take any person for granted throughout your journey. Learn to understand who your people are and to be grateful. Continue to see ways you can help someone else and always pay it forward.

How can the greater Cleveland community encourage, support, and amplify the success of international women?

Understanding the importance of integrating immigrants into the workforce by providing access to resources and connections can help the city create jobs and become a more welcoming place. By creating programs where the youth can be more involved in the community and feel empowered to be heard and included.

Sadly, up to now, women still face a significant struggle in their advancement, which is why I think it is essential to highlight all the disparities when we see them and look into ways to call out problematic behaviors and biases within and outside of our communities.


International Women's Month Feature | Alenka Jerak

What country were you born in, and how long have you lived in Cleveland? 

I was born in Slovenia and lived there till graduated from Law University with mayor International Law.  After graduation and successfully passed exams, I was immediately admitted to the diplomatic service. My first post was far away from home, in Canada (Toronto), but later I served mainly in European countries (Croatia, The Netherlands, Germany, and Switzerland) and in between did a professional upgrade at Diplomatic Academy in Spain. As the first woman who served ever as Consul General in Cleveland,  I proudly took over the position on August 1, 2019.   

  • So – even though I was born, raised, and educated in Slovenia and to Slovenian parents, I feel and think, together with my family, like European and global citizens.

The pioneers and supporters of International Women’s Day believe that “from challenges come change.” What has been the largest challenge in your journey toward personal success? 

My biggest challenges were two and are closely connected. The first challenge was related to my professional career. In all decades of hard work and diligence, at the time predominantly “male profession,” I had to prove myself over and over again that I, as a woman, deserve to be at the top – in my case – the head of the government representative office. But without continued and strong support from my family, this would not be possible. 

The second challenge was personal that, being a woman, in addition to a demanding job and a considerable absence from home, I needed and wanted to be equally involved and committed to fulfill another responsible task – being a mother and a wife. However, with good coordination, goodwill and understanding everything is possible. 

You have been nominated for this recognition by another amazing person, proving that we are so much stronger when we support one another. What is one piece of advice you have for women in your community and all over the world?  

My advice to all women, based on my own experience: listen to yourself and dare to follow your dream.  Nothing is impossible. Not even to change the world – if you want to.  And rememberwomen, benefit from the collaboration over competition. So – work together! Go out, create connections, based on shared interests and goals! This way you will be stronger, more visible, and heard, as well as smarter. And do not forget a common benefit. I am strongly convinced, that good is always rewarded with good.  

How can the greater Cleveland community encourage, support, and amplify the success of international women? 

I did a little research….. It seems, that Cleveland was quite in favor of supporting capable women – Ruby Dee, actress, and civil rights advocate, Halle Berry, the first woman of African descent in the US to win an Oscar for best actress, Muriel Siebert, the first woman to become a member of the New York Stock Exchange, Florence Allen, the first woman appointed and confirmed to a federal appeals court judgeship and I can go on and on. 

I am convinced, that all communities and societies in the world should much more encourage and support women in general, not only the successful ones.  Especially those, involved in leadership and decision-making. Sadly, but today, women remain underrepresented in the highest political positions. As of 2020, women only hold around 25% of seats in national parliaments and account for less than 7% of the world’s leaders. 

And what can you do to improve women position in the world: teach girls their worth and that they are strong, capable and deserve the same respect as boys; discuss openly and call out stereotypical notions of gender and discrimination; speak out against sexism and harassment at home as well at work; demand the end of discriminatory practices and a progressive work environment through the equal representation of women in leadership and boardrooms, as well as equal pay for work of equal value and education courses on gender equality and take other simple actions – challenge stereotype beauty standards; respect the choices of others about their body, well-being, family and future and encourage men to share home household and parental responsibilities. 

 


International Women's Month Feature | Natalia Streletzky

How long have you lived in Cleveland? 

I was born in Russia, have lived in the USA for 18 years, 17 of them in Cleveland. 

What has been the largest challenge in your journey toward personal success? 

Low self-esteem, doubts will I be able to adapt and advance as a person and professional in a different country, lifestyle, job… It has also been challenging to maintain a work-family balance.  

What is one piece of advice you have for women in your community and all over the world?  

Continuously learn (new languages, cultures, areas of expertise,…), connect and communicate with others, be physically active, travel as much and as far as possible, and most importantly – believe in yourself! All of this will make you stronger, healthier, wiser, and more successful.
 

How can the greater Cleveland community encourage, support, and amplify the success of international women? 

Do what Global Cleveland does: keep everyone informed about economic, political, social news and events, organize international meetings/classes/sports events/celebrations/network groups – so everyone can learn from each other and not be afraid of our differences. 


International Women's Month Feature | Marina Jackman

I was born and raised in Buenos Aires, Argentina. My dad is a first-generation Argentinian, as my grandparents emigrated from Russia and Poland. My mom is from Tenerife, Canary Islands, Spain. I moved to Cleveland from Barcelona in April 2017.  

The pioneers and supporters of International Women’s Day believe that “from challenges come change.” What has been the largest challenge in your journey toward personal success? 

 The hardest challenge was moving to different countries with different languages and cultures, which meant having to be flexible and adaptable just to survive. Yet, that ability becomes a strength when you work in something that changes as quickly as technology does.  

You have been nominated for this recognition by another amazing person, proving that we are so much stronger when we support one another. What is one piece of advice you have for women in your community and all over the world?  

I love how we are debunking the myth that women don’t support women; we are stronger together. My piece of advice is to look and go beyond the scope of those around you. We often limit ourselves because we frame our lives within specific circumstances. I believe those who have some level of opportunity must work towards disrupting myths and collective growth.  

How can the greater Cleveland community encourage, support, and amplify the success of international women?  

I think more people are recognizing the advantages of welcoming and supporting foreigners, leading to a powerful transformation. Cities that have successfully fostered and integrated immigrant talent put themselves in a different league. I feel that the Cleveland community is uniquely supportive and willing to collaborate. I believe if Cleveland stays true to this essence, we’ll only have positive returns. 


International Women's Month | Carina Van Vliet

What has been the largest challenge in your journey toward personal success?  

I think the largest challenge we all face is the mental barriers we grow up with. Neither my family nor the society that I grew up in expected me, as a girl, to become a leading professional. And yet I always wanted to lead. The challenge was that my mother had chosen to stay home and the successful women that I encountered early in my career at the United Nations were either single or childless. I had no road map for how to successfully balance family and career. Moving to Cleveland, I decided to let go of expectations and just figure it out. That decision has very much been a personal success. Unfortunately, the Covid-19 pandemic has painfully doubled the pressures of balancing a family and a career. My hope is that, from this challenge, we will start to change how we choose to support working parents. 

 What is one piece of advice you have for women in your community and all over the world?   

 I would tell women, here and globally, to confidently believe in their own power. I saw this working for the United Nations: women across the globe are ending conflicts, building better communities, and demanding to be treated with equal respect and dignity. In fact, the United Nations has made women’s empowerment a cornerstone of its global action. Because it’s the right thing to do. And because women across the globe are such powerful agents for positive change. Women should believe in their intrinsic value and in the value that they add to society. When you value yourself, it makes it harder for others to not show you respect. 

 How can the greater Cleveland community encourage, support, and amplify the success of international women?  

 I find the Cleveland community to be – rightfully – very proud of its immigrant heritage and welcoming to more recent immigrants. I would hope that the Cleveland community would be a bit more forward-looking in supporting the role of international women – and men. This pandemic has shown us how globalized our reality is, and global trends (climate change, migration, other pandemics) will likely impact us more in the future. The international community in Cleveland is helping connect Cleveland to the rest of the world and could do so even more going forward. Global connections will help fuel Cleveland’s growth and vitality. Greater global awareness in the Cleveland community could amplify the success of international women (and men) and enhance Cleveland’s success in general. 

 


International Women's Month | Melaak Rashid

The pioneers and supporters of International Women’s Day believe that “from challenges come change.”: What has been the largest challenge in your journey toward personal success? 

The largest challenge in my journey toward professional success was definitely having to learn the road on my own. Both of my parents did not complete high school, as my mother was raised in the West Bank in Palestine and my father in Caracas, Venezuela. Both of their journeys did not afford them the ability to continue their education. My parents’ journey to the United States is one like many immigrants: for a better future for their children. My parents came to the United States with young infants and continued to grow their families while working entry-level jobs to make ends meet. When I graduated high school and knew I wanted to go to college, while my parents were excited that I am choosing a path of options and growth, they weren’t able to help guide me through it. Oftentimes in my professional journey, I have met wonderful people who became part of my professional network- but most of them had parents who helped them build connections, introduced them to professionals in their interested field of work, or connected them to internship opportunities gain experience. My parents didn’t have these experiences or connections to be able to pass them along to me. Building my own connections, branding myself all by myself with my own wit, personality, know-how, and pushing myself to build confidence to not be afraid of what downfalls may arise by not knowing anyone to help me navigate, helped me truly grow even stronger as a person. 

You have been nominated for this recognition by another amazing person, proving that we are so much stronger when we support one another. What is one piece of advice you have for women in your community and all over the world?  

My advice to women in our community and across the world is to define your success on your own terms: be your true self and amplify women around you who are on similar paths toward their success. We will never meet everyone’s standards, and another person’s standards may not be our own- but, don’t sell yourself short or let others affect your confidence. Live your own life, follow your passion, and lift other women’s long the way because you never know who wouldn’t be where they are today without your help. We, women, bloom better with one another. 

How can the greater Cleveland community encourage, support, and amplify the success of international women? 

In a world where women still face bias and other barriers at work, on top of bearing the disproportionate burden of the COVID-19 pandemic – having a safe space for women to share their struggles, give and get advice, and celebrate each other’s wins, has never been more important. Allowing for diverse women from various backgrounds to have the mic and platform to lead discussions, make decisions for their own community, lead in innovation that otherwise may not be heard- is something I hope Greater Cleveland can do more of to simply and support international women in all forms. Refugees, immigrants, to second-generation women hold beauty and knowledge from their rich background that holds so much power and benefit to the communities they work in and serve. 
 


Global Cleveland's Statement on Upcoming Immigration Policy Changes


January 22, 2020 – Global Cleveland, a nonprofit economic development organization, advocates on behalf of international newcomers in Cuyahoga County and the surrounding region. We believe in and work daily to create a welcoming community for all international newcomers.

As the local organizing leader in ensuring we increase the number of immigrants coming to Cleveland and Cuyahoga County, we will work to support and push for any policy that achieves our mission of strengthening our city by welcoming the world

With the Inauguration of President Joseph R. Biden, Jr. as the nation’s 46th President, our excitement grows with each immigration policy announced thus far. We have compiled a list of the policy updates we are both tracking and supporting under the Biden-Harris administration. Changes are happening on city, state and national levels. We will work with anyone to make Cleveland and Northeast Ohio the most welcoming community in North America.

When our sisters and brothers immigrate to the United States, they bring with them a wealth of experience, fresh ideas and boundless entrepreneurial energy. We receive each new policy with eagerness and the anticipation of the great impact expanded immigration will have on our community.

For more information, or to help, contact Global Cleveland at info@globalcleveland.org, visit our website at GlobalCleveland.org, or contact Joe Cimperman at 216-215-6765.

Immigration Update: January 2021

Local

Gateways for Growth

  • Gateways for Growth awards organizations with assistance and support with help from New American Economy and Welcoming America.
  • Gateways for Growth awarded Global Cleveland with research support to promote and improve immigrant inclusion in Cleveland.

Welcoming Week Proclamations and Resolutions

  • Global Cleveland received 51 Welcoming Week resolutions and proclamations from cities in Cuyahoga County in 2020 to celebrate and recognize immigrants living in Cuyahoga County.
  • Cleveland always has been a welcoming city and Global Cleveland is excited to see that Cleveland is still a welcoming city today!

State

Launch of OBIS

  • Ohio Business for Immigration Solutions (OBIS) launched in December 2020.
  • OBIS issued the Ohio Compact on Immigration to promote immigration reforms that will strengthen the economy and bring new immigrants and businesses to Ohio.

Launch of Vibrant Ohio

  • Immigrant integration network, formerly known as OWIN, with members in Toledo, Bowling Green, Cleveland, Columbus and Cincinnati

Federal

DACA Restored

  • Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) was restored in December 2020 and people can now apply again.
  • “DACA gives protection from deportation to undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children.”

Muslim Ban Lifted

  • President Biden has lifted the Muslim ban order that has been in effect since 2017.

Southern Border Wall Construction

  • President Biden has paused the Southern border wall construction and is looking for ways on how the funds can be redirected.

Defer Deportation of Liberians

  • President Biden is extending the Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) program to protect Liberians living and working in the United States.

Naturalization Changes

  • Fee for becoming a naturalized United States citizen was changed from $640 to $1,170 in October 2020.
  • The number of questions to prepare for the naturalization test increased from 100 to 128.


Happy New Year, Happy Birthday. - By Nathanie Y. Yaskey

- By Nathanie Y. Yaskey

We are all waiting for the New York City Times Square ball drop, especially this year. To put one of the most challenging years in history to bed and with just 20 days before a more welcoming administration, we look for a year more compassionate for our immigrants, asylum seekers, and refugees. Other than your birthday, New Year’s Day is one of the most celebrated days of the year.

According to Business Insider, a sampling of immigration data shows that over 11,000 of the nearly 80,000 people admitted into the USA list January 1st as their birthday. This is especially so with our Somalian and Ethiopian sisters and brothers. So why is this? The answer is both simple and complex, depending on whose story it is. The main reason is that these refugees fled from nations that honor birth dates differently than we do. As they fled their homes with their families, leaving everything they knew in search of freedom and acceptance in a foreign land, important documentation was left behind as well. Often access to government documentation regarding birthdays is not always easy to find.

When these refugees come to the United States seeking asylum, they are often advised to list January 1st as their date of birth, as they have no formal birth records. Marilu Cabrera, a spokeswoman for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services notes, "[for those cases] the January 1 birth date is the common birth date that we assign." Among newcomers, the January 1st birthday is so common that at the stroke of midnight, along with Happy New Year, immigrant children also wish their parents Happy Birthday.

We honor and celebrate every single immigrant, refugee, asylum seeker, and newcomer who celebrates their special day on January 1, 2021. We thank you for blessing us with your unique cultures, special traditions, and profound stories of survival and hope. Happy Birthday 2021!


Colombian Ambassador Francisco Santos Caldrerón & ProColombia virtual roadshow

RSVP by November 24th and please email elizabeth@globalcleveland.org and we will email your attendance link.


Global Cleveland Is Pairing International Newcomers With Local Mentors

Oren Baratz and Kwame Botchway

The new program Global Rising is making connections and creating a more welcoming city for immigrants such as Kwame Botchway.

Kwame Botchway and Oren Baratz seem like an unlikely duo.

Botchway, a program manager at Cleveland Neighborhood Progress, moved from Ghana to Cleveland in 2017 to study at Case Western Reserve University. Baratz, senior vice president of external affairs of the Jewish Federation of Cleveland, has called the city home for 16 years.

But once a month, the two of them hop on Zoom and talk about normal mentor-mentee stuff: leadership, values, ideas.

Their monthly chats are thanks to a new Global Cleveland program. Global Rising pairs immigrants within the city with a mentor. Over nine months, each of the 24 participants receives guidance on leadership and professional development skills.

Botchway applied for the program in an effort to make more connections and be part of the city’s growth.

“I’m really excited about the city and the prospects that it has,” he says. “And I’m really excited to be part of building the city into what it ought to be.”

That sentiment is exactly why Global Cleveland President Joe Cimperman wanted to start the program earlier this year.

“To immigrate is an entrepreneurial act,” he says. “Just to come here takes a skill set that requires you to have a lot of savvy. But what so often happens in cities is networks are closed. Our goal is to make Cleveland, Ohio, the most welcoming place in North America in five years.”

After getting an application for the program, Global Cleveland spends hours matching participants and mentors to make sure each is a good fit. And it has been for Baratz and Botchway.

“It’s about me being there for Kwame, and Kwame being there for me,” Baratz says. “That’s what friendship is.”

Botchway plans to cook a Ghanian meal for Baratz and his family as soon as they can safely meet in person.

“No matter where I end up, Cleveland would always be my American hometown,” Botchway says. “I’ve made really good friends and meaningful relationships that make it feel like home.”