Photo: Jahleh

From Silenced to Storyteller

From Our Members, Member Showcase

Jaleh Siyan found her voice (again) through Toastmasters

Growing up in Iran, there were no opportunities for children and teenagers to speak publicly. However, as a child, I was privileged to find that opportunity in the Baha’i faith where I developed my confidence as a speaker.

Leaving my home country at age 22 and moving to Brazil meant learning a new language – Portuguese. It was quite challenging. The language barrier resulted in no opportunities for public speaking for me at all. I felt silenced once again. But I learned the language, graduated from university, traveled, and built a career.

I moved to the U.S. in 2004 with some English-speaking skills acquired through university and my job. I could communicate but I knew my grammar wasn’t all it could be. Leaving work one evening, I saw a flyer promoting a Toastmasters meeting. Without hesitation, I attended and knew I had found a platform to help me get back to my old practice of public speaking! The grammarian’s feedback was especially helpful for me to improve my English-speaking skills.

By participating fully in all that Toastmasters offers, I have also developed leadership and networking skills. Until COVID hit, I organized monthly meetings and the celebration of International Women’s Day (March 8th) in the Baha’i Center. The leadership skills I learned at Toastmasters apply in many areas of my life.

As I worked through the program, I discovered my love of storytelling. It has inspired me to use my voice to take these skills to teenagers and help them create their own stories based on lessons learned from daily life.

I am now pursuing Pathways because there is always more to learn. It is an opportunity to learn workshops and practices that I have not done before.


Jaleh Siyah earned her Distinguished Toastmaster Award in November 2020. She is a member of Clearwater Community Toastmasters in Clearwater, Florida.

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