Years before Ramina Dehkhoda-Steele served on ReWA’s board— before she attended University of Washington at age 14, before she finished law school at 20—she was a refugee child who spoke no English.
Ramina’s parents were political refugees from the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran. They went from Turkey to Germany to Los Angeles, before moving in with her aunt in Seattle.
She is quick to point out that such local family support means her family’s resettlement experience was smoother than most. Her parents were able to fairly quickly re-establish professional careers and become economically independent.
Ramina picked up English quickly and it was soon apparent to her teachers that at 14, Ramina was ready for college. Her mom would drive her to the University of Washington where she studied microbiology and political science.
“I even worked at Fred Hutchison Cancer Research for a time, but I decided the lab, the white walls and classical music wasn’t for me.” After graduation, she decided to go to law school and accepted a scholarship to attend Oklahoma City University School of Law.
“That was an eye-opening experience for me. Some professors were openly hostile—to women, to non-whites.” But a politically active person, Ramina said she relished the challenge and honed her debate skills in the classroom.
“It wasn’t until I returned to Seattle that I started to process how unsettling that experience really was.”
Back in Seattle, Ramina settled into a legal career and eventually learned about ReWA from Shahzad Qadri, a colleague who also serves on the ReWA board.
“I served on ReWA’s board for about five years, from 2013-2018, and during that time I helped to professionalize the board and its processes.”
What she remembers most about her time at ReWA is the long-term impact of the work.
“It is so fulfilling to meet a woman who first came to ReWA with bruises, and then years later, she is helping others as a community advocate. For immigrants and refugees who may lack English, daily activities can feel insurmountable. But ReWA helps them learn how to adjust and then in turn, they can help others.”
Today, Ramina is a partner in the Wong-Fleming law firm, specializing in commercial law, but she still finds time to consult with ReWA when needed. You can also find her spending time with her family—including her two teens, both athletes, and her husband who teaches 8th grade science. She also loves to scuba dive. “I love adventure.”