Shermin getting a hug from her 3 children

IWA: The Room Where It Happens



By Judy Carmack Bross



Over 300 of Chicago’s most globally glorious women filled The Standard Club’s dining room recently to celebrate human rights activist Shermin Nahid Kruse,  named the International Women Associates’ 2018 Woman Extraordinaire. As a board director of RefuSHE, a  non-governmental, Nairobi-based organization that takes in displaced women and girls fleeing sexual violence and terrorism, she has devoted much of her life to protecting, nurturing, and empowering refugee women and girls in East Africa.


Shermin Nahid Kruse with Rose McInerney of WomanScape, a sponsor of the event.


IWA President Marian Jacobson, WEX Award Committee Jacqueline Mitchell Loeffler, and co-chairs Agnes Cikowska-Teczar and Lisa Warshauer presented the 22nd annual award.


Agnes Cikowska-Teczar, Co-Chair, Jacqueline Mitchell Loeffler, Event Chair, Shermin Nahid Kruse, WEX Awardee, Lisa Warshauer, Co-Chair, and Marian Jacobson, IWA President. 


The table of Womanscape, the organization that sponsored the event. 


 IWA Board Members Suzanne McCormick, Marian Jacobson, and Jackie Knight.


Shermin Nahid  Kruse getting a good luck hug from her kids.


As director of Pasfarda Arts and Culture Exchange, which promotes peace between Iran and the United States through the Arts, Shermin has strengthened cross-cultural understanding and empowered refugee women. In many ways, her work has mirrored the cross-cultural exchange, community service, dialogue, friendships, and creative connections among people of diverse international backgrounds to work toward a more just and peaceful world, cornerstones of the IWA’s mission.


Shermin Nahid  Kruse with her family.


Funmi Olopade, Past WEX Awardee, Shermin Nahid Kruse, and Karen AbuZayd, Past WEX Awardee.


In her remarks, Shermin commented on the importance of IWA’s diversity with its nearly 500 members from 60 countries. With apologies to Lin Manuel Miranda and Alexander Hamilton, she commented, “this is the room where it happens,” and explained further:

In this room, among all of you, there are representatives of over 60 different countries, breaking bread together. Assembled today, right here, are Sikhs, Muslims, Hindus, Christians, Jews, Buddhists, and atheists. Native tongues include English, Spanish, Polish, Arabic, Tagalog, Chinese, Serbian, Persian, French, Portuguese, German, Japanese, Korean, Turkish, and Hindi, to name some. The age range is from 5 to 99.

This is the extraordinary gift of International Women Associates. Their work brings travel to us. What magic does it take to create such a gathering? What exchanges can happen – perhaps already have happened – here today between people from very different backgrounds, gathered not in response to politics or as a component of diplomacy, but to simply know and learn about and from one another and to celebrate each other.


Guests listened closely to Shermin’s moving speech.


In closing, Shermin urged attendees to be steadfast in their work on behalf of human rights, as she quoted from the Talmud:

Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world’s grief. Do justly now. Love mercy now. Walk humbly now. You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it.

LaSalle Investment Management and Womanscape were Ruby Table Sponsors for the celebration.


Nadia Acar, Shermin Nahid Kruse, and Sevil Kutay.


Marian Jacobson, IWA President and Shermin Nahid Kruse, WEX Awardee.


For further information about IWA or WEX, go to


Photos by Carolina Sanchez