#iumienwomenmoversandshakers: Fahm Saelee

What do you think is the most significant barrier to female leadership?

I think the most significant barrier to female leadership is the learned ideals of how girls and females should act and behave, both at home and in society. In traditional Mien and Asian households, girls are often taught to put others (males) before themselves, avoid conflict, and be a good cook. Females can be so much more than good housewives, they are bosses, entrepreneurs, leaders but very rarely are they taught these things while growing up. In a traditional home, we have to unlearn a lot of what we were taught, before we can actually grow and start writing our own narratives.

What is one event that helped shape your life?

Something that helped shape my life was my upbringing, and growing up in Oak Park. I can’t really call it an “event” but it very much made me into who I am today. My family was very poor. Of course, when I was a kid, I didn’t know that. I thought everyone had food stamps and that it was normal. It was my normal to have 8 people living in a two-bedroom duplex. Like many Mien families, my parents immigrated to the US as refugees after the Vietnam War / Secret War reached their homelands in Laos. Knowing minimal English, and coming from a farming background, they picked up strawberry farming as their occupation. I remember having to help my parents at the farm. Waking up before the sun rose and spending my weekends and summer break at the strawberry stand. Farming is very labor intensive and not easy work. It’s my upbringing that made me understand and appreciate my background. It keeps me humble and motivates me to strive for more. It inspires me to help and uplift my Mien community.

What is an accomplishment you are proud of?

An accomplishment that I’m very proud of was being the Chair of the 18th Annual Iu Mien Student Conference (IMSC) in 2017-2018. I was not new to event planning but this was my biggest event, coordinating with multiple committees to bring a free educational and cultural conference to middle school and high school students in SCUSD. The conference is important because students their age are very impressionable and they need mentors and people to look up to. It was rewarding since I attended IMSC when I was a student and I was amazed by the amount of Mien people in one room!

If there was a young girl out there who wanted to do what you did, what would you tell her? I would say to stay passionate and things will fall into place!

How can people get a hold of you? i.e., social media, phone number

Send me an email or connect with me on social media! I’m on Facebook , Instagram, and LinkedIn Fahm Saelee Program Coordinator at the Iu Mien Community Services Email: farm.saelee@iumiencommunityservices.org Instagram: @f.saelee

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