We are WOVAN
WOVAN came together through the collective vision of Ifrah Abdalla and Sarah Utley, both long term advocates and activists for those experiencing homelessness, domestic and sexual violence and discrimination locally and internationally. Through a serendipitous unravelling of combined vision in 2020, Ifrah and Sarah quickly realized their shared passions for intentional and deliberate multi-cultural anti-racist services were deeply needed and could easily be a reality.
Director of Programming
Ifrah Abdalla leads our Minnesota based programming efforts. Ifrah moved to Minnesota with her family as a small child, as a refugee from Ethiopia. She identifies as a proud Oromo and Somali woman. She and her family settled in the Minneapolis/Saint Paul area and since then she has formed deep roots in our city in the form of activism, advocacy and community service. Ifrah has been deeply involved with Minnesota's "Black Lives Matter'' Movement since its beginning. She identifies as a black feminist, activist and abuse amd homelessness survivor. Her passion is also rooted within immigrant communities fighting for human rights. She has pushed to remove religious and cultural beliefs that have become an international threat to all women. Ifrah is committed to using her voice and talents to lead our Minnesota based advocacy services and our WOVAN Minnesota endeavors.
Director of Operations
Sarah Utley, originally from Illinois transitioned to the Minneapolis area in 2017 to continue her work as a Domestic and Sexual Violence advocate and activist . Since 2009 Sarah has worked at both the local and international level providing direct services, training and education, program development and implementation services and leadership to both local and international agencies. Sarah, through her work has observed and identified a deep need for a complete reconstruction of the homeless services model, specifically those used for victims of domestic and sexual assault, intentionally through an anti-racist inclusive lens. It is well known that this work has been predominantly monopolized by white women and their voices and stories, while what we do know is that women, children and men of color tend to be the largest group to need shelter and outreach services. This has led to a deeply racist framework, consciously and unconsciously, and one where domestic and sexual violence and homeless services agencies often become another form of oppression. This realization is at the root of why WOVAN has been formed.