Saturday, October 23, 2010

About Dancing

Tonight was the Gala party of the AFF, we went to a very nice restaurant with a pool and a garden and it was lovely, the food, the music and the best element was the company .
The Senegalese dancing is phenomenal, I was really inspired and I decided to write about dancing, yesterday I was arguing with my Egyptian friends in the AFF, that the Egyptian dancing is for seduction and not just for having fun . and I still think it is seductive, it is always focused on women and how to show the beauty of her body and always men or older and more powerful women are the audience , I hate also that the attention is focused only on one person, the dancer and it is not community dancing or group dancing like the Nubian dancing , where all the community, males and females dance collectively, so the attention is not focused on one person.
I hate being under the lights, I hate the feeling that people are looking at me, I know that I am suffering from low self esteem problem in addition to huge body issues , that’s why I do not like dancing in public, although I do know how to dance , like many other young Egyptian women, but the attention bothers me .
I really liked the dancing in the AFF, the women are just powerful, celebrating themselves, their beauty and enjoying their pride and self esteem, and creating with their smiles and colorful outfits a very beautiful photo.

Friday, October 22, 2010

From Dakar ... with love

I am passing a difficult phase of my life, where I question everything, especially the labels I am carrying and my multiple identity, I hate being in a box and can not be out of it, I hate when people do not bother to explore me and prejudge me. Sometimes I ask myself why I am labeled with certain affiliations , do I choose all the relations I enter in, why are people assuming ideas about me.
These are the questions that come again and again to my mind in the first day of the 3rd African feminist forum, AFF is gathering women from all over the continent . we are four from Egypt and very few from North Africa.
In this AFF I felt the power of connections and the importance of sharing knowledge and building capacities, however although all the positive vibes and the good points I am seeing in the AFF, I was sorry for the weak participation from the Arabs or the North African region, although I felt cherish by the people I already  know before the AFF and others know I just know many showed a very welcoming attitude
What stroked me is the North African and how they are exerting effort to assert their African identity, in Egypt the population defined itself as Arabs and Muslims and the African identity is only just shown in the Nubian minority or when we engage African in sports and cultural activities.
Seriously I can be African, Muslim, North African, Egyptian and before all of this is I am Nubian, and I am happy with that and my labels are not in conflict with each other.
I am so happy in Dakar, I feel the peace and solidarity and I will carry all the positive vibes back with me to Beloved Cairo .

Friday, October 15, 2010

Memories of a very ordinary day

Yesterday was one of the good days in my life, although some difficulties took place.
I will start with telling you a cute story, I was having my morning tea in café downtown with Mozn, my shoes were dusty like all of Cairenes who are surrounded by desert. So there was the man who polishes the shoes and I asked him to polish my shoes and this is not ordinary at all, a man will never polish women's shoes and women do not do this, I did not think of it, I just did it, Mozn was surprised and she is not easily superised
then we  started very early in a work meeting with Mozn and a resource person about one of our researches, and we spent good time arguing about the patriarchal society and its system of women oppression, I have to admit that it is hard to talk to start such dialogue with a conservative man that see women in their roles and not as individuals.
Then we had a great day organizing the office and enjoying the team spirit, we held an event and it went really good
The bad things were the news of the arrest of the Gambian women rights defenders Isatou Touray and Amie Bojang-Sissoho , although it was really sad to hear such news abut I enjoyed the solidarity of our network, Women Live Under Muslim Laws. Tens of emails were exchanged between all the countries of the African continent to share love and support.
This is the main events that happened in my day, Is not it a great day?

Friday, October 8, 2010

On Mental Illness in Egypt

I was invited to attend a raising awareness event " Biking Depression Away" by my ex coworker and friend Dr Fahmy Bahget, fahmy is a Psychiatrist and he is doing great work , like participating in training refugees to be sico – social workers, he is part of the ministry of health initiative to enhance the human rights status of the mentally disabled persons and he is involved in  an association of the rights of the mentally and psychological disabled persons.
Fahmy invited me to the event, I over slept and I am too fat to ride a bike, so I decided to write about the status of mentally and psychologically disabled persons.
In a nut shell, they are invisible, they are socially stigmatized, they die slowly because of lack of adequate and accessible  services, I remember my family member who was bipolar and he was in denial and he refused to take his medication and he committed suicide in a low mode episode, I blamed my family which negated that we are suffering from mental illness, I blamed myself that I never noticed or made any action , I blamed him that he stayed silent and died alone in pain and I blame the society and the government for being too inhuman to mentally ill persons
I lost a family member and many are detained in bad conditions facilities and they are denied their rights as human beings , I wish one day the mentally and psychologically ill persons will not be called crazy and they get the needed help, may that day come to save many innocent souls   

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Nazra For Feminist Studies : when work place is a dream

Writing about my dreams which came true is not easy, I want to talk about our Nazra for feminist studies, it strated with Mozn Hassan- our executive director- attempted to claim her place in the Egyptian feminist movement, then we knew each other in 2002, and since then we are trying to negate the fallacy that a secular feminist never work with Islamic feminist and vise versa .
We were tried from years of being neglected and not appreciated or even being invisible as young feminists , not belonging to the leftist  and pan Arab feminist movement.
Nazra started to be a reality in 2006 , when Mozn and I decided to start lobbying to create a legal platform for young  women and men to discuss gender issues and promote gender equality in Egypt . in 2007 we started the long process to create Non governmental organization.
Nazra is aiming to end the age of invisibility of the young feminists in Egypt and produce and disseminate knowledge and artistic products that promote gender equality in Egypt .
Our office, the small save cave is full on young women and men trying to fight patriarchy and to enhance women status in Egypt, the team is composed from scholars, activists and film makers.
I am very passionate that we are in action, we are implementing more than 5 projects this year, with a team of four full timers and five part timers, we are trying to build a safe place to articulate the interests of young people of Egypt regarding women issues.
Nazra for feminist studies is not an office or a team, it is a spirit and a safe cave
Follow Nazra for Feminist Studies on Twitter @nazraegypt account

Friday, October 1, 2010

Politics of ethincity and color

In my trip in the USA, I was overwhelmed by the politics of ethnicity and identity politics , I feel very sensitive to such issue as a person of color belonging to ethnic minority . I noticed that in some places the services workers are predominately non White Caucasians, they were either African Americans or Latinos or Asians and that differs from place to another, that gave impression that still some ethnicities  have  better societal status and that true, I just saw the simplest manifestation of this phenomena.
Add to that the ethnic factor is shaping the dynamics or relations and imposing challenges of persons of color in various realms, I remember a female judge saying that she was from the first patch of female judges in Mississippi and the gender and ethnicity were challenges in her career life. Also Ashley Jackson, youth queer advocate told me that life is difficult for LGBT, but way more difficult for LGBT person of color.

The ethnicity politics did not have only negative aspect, it has a bright side which is the solidarity of between the persons of each ethnicity, I felt the very special attention and care from the African American with me, that I am an African dissident person , I felt a strong link with their ongoing struggle for the African Americans to claim their civil rights and that sense of belonging was limited to the African American struggle, it went further, I did not feel happy and keen to take photos of Martin Luther King only also I was delighted to find some good photos of the Great Nelson Mandela . I just felt that I  belong to the Pan African Nation and that we are struggling for equality and justice and that is not limited to certain country m however it unite all the Africans all over the world. i felt although the context may differ, but the Nubian cause is deemed to be an African cause against centuries of discrimination.
Sorry I could not upload my photos , the connection is failing me  
Viva Africa  

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Meeting new sisters

In this trip we are a  delegation of from eight countries, 14 women and two men.
Usually I do not show friendly attitude in the beginning of such event, I rather stay alone observing who  is nice , and who is not . so I was away from the group , then I started getting to know people I believe in the Arabic wisdom saying that  souls are soldiers of God, they might get a long or they rebel .
I get along almost with everyone, I was lucky that the team is really sweet and not fake. Although we came from different professional back grounds and the majority is not really working on women rights issues but rather in corporate law , to be honest that irritates me in the beginning, I was wondering why they brought them and what is the added value to their participation , but by time they showed their deep adherence to the principles of promotion of women rights.
I would love to share with you a bit about my favorite women, with the four of them, I just felt very easy to talk about my life and its small details, I felt the warmth that melt the ice between us.
I will start with Miss discreet, she did not want to say where she is from or even stating her initials, and I respect that, she belongs to an  extremely conservative society which depends primarily on oil . Miss discreet works as a legal consultant in the oil industry, she has a lot of stories to tell, starting with being brought up in a family that celebrates its daughters, where she was able to learn in prestigious educational institutions aboard, Miss discreet is fighting daily to assert her identity in a society suppress women, on daily basis she is conforming and bargaining with her society for many things one of them her appearance, she is not veiled and she have a firm belief that Hijab is not religious obligation , however she is conforming with her very modest plain formal outfits with the social norms, in addition to that she is a wife and mum of two and she is struggling with her multi tasked life , Miss discreet is very determined and goal oriented , I loved her high sense of ethics and integrity , she does not compromise with her ethical beliefs. She is" happily"  married but her struggle to reclaim her individual identity in the marriage institution is remarkable 
Another great human portray is J from Saudi Arabia, she is just a free spirit , she resists all forms of suppression and she is just against all the social prescribed constraints , J is living in a society where individual is subject to a very rigid religious system and this system is failing women, J is from the first group of women lawyers in Saudi, she is practicing all the principles of feminism as if it is part of her daily life style, with every word that get out of her mouth I affirm my belief that humans are powerful than any cruel system of suppression. Although she might seem like a person who is living a double life inside or outside Saudi , I never questioned her integrity, every compromise she is doing was a patriarchal bargain that empowers her .  
My third favorite women is N , she is Palestinian living in Israel, I feel she is in a permanent struggle to claim her identity as an Arab citizen in Israel, she get along well on the professional side, because we are only social science researchers in the group , the rest are lawyers, she is in a multi side battle, with the Israeli government that discriminates against her and her own patriarchal community were women are negated their rights.
My forth favorite woman K is Palestinian living in West Bank, she is just a very peaceful soul, she has ability to absorb the negative energy and transform it to positive energy , she is living is hard situations, besides the situation in Palestine, personally she is working in a semi governmental Human Right instrument, where everything is subject to politics game , she was courageous enough to get out of the miserable system and seek her individualism , K is always hopeful, she believes that tomorrow is a better day, and that was quite interesting to a skeptical gloomy person like me .
This is a small note about new sisters I met in my trip , and it does not mean that the rest are not great creatures, i just picked a sample of women who  just affirmed my belief in the universality of women struggle and the great impact of women sisterhood .     

Again on LGBT rights

I will continue on my last post, the journey of discovering the world : LGBT rights. I just want to share with you why I decided to talk about such issue, as I stated before my dear friend N and reading Bareed Masta3jil , but the immediate reason was the meeting with LGBT rights advocate in Jackson, Mississpi .
I noticed that my visit program does not have any scheduled meeting with LGBT advocates, I do not know , but I am a skeptical person, I thought that they US department of State and the contractors thought that we are good Arab and Muslims who do not want to see culturally  insensitive  topics like LGBT rights, so I asked a very good soul we met, Jed Oppenheim to fix us a meeting with LGBT advocate .
We met Ashley Jackson from the Mississippi safe schools coalition ,   she talked about her work in ensuring safe places for LGBT persons in schools, she told as many sad stories of persons been bullied for been LGBT or even if people think they are.
The stories were just about small tiny basic rights like attending the prom with your partner, being able to dress whatever they want and the end of stories like committing suicide was just horrible and I could stop myself from writing a supporting post. I found similarities between the situation of LGBT persons in the south of the US in the very conservative states and the situation in the Middle East and North Africa.
In addition to that , Ashley shared with us very interesting ideas like the struggle of LGBT persons to assert their identities as believers belonging to various faiths, I was always inspired by persons that we just think they do not belong to our strict dogma , but they have a flexible and inclusive perception of their faiths, I shared with them some progressive Islamic ideas about LGBT and I still can remember the reaction of my very liberal Saudi friend , when she just spoke in Arabic in my face saying " are you really speaking of homosexuality in Islam?"   
Yes I spoke about homosexuality and Islam , although they might sound oxymoron, but there are individuals  in the billions of Muslims who thing that we can have whatever sexual orientation and whatever gender identity and still be deemed a pious Muslim.
Allah will never punish you for your fate , you do not shape your destiny    

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

On the journey of world discovering :LGBT rights

I was always waiting to talk about my taboos, the issues that really had hard times to decide what I think about it and one of this issues is the LGBT rights, or the rights of the sexual minorities . I will tell you some of my stories with LGBT issues in this post.
I never thought of it before April 2008, in the meeting of raising fund for the feminist movement in the Middle East and North Africa. There was my first encounter with LGBT advocates, my good friend N was very outspoken and she articulated her interests as LGBT advocate and her talks showed the intersection between the sexual orientation, gender identity and age . I remember that I never approached her and I did not know how to deal with her , what to say and what not to say. She just broke many of the fundamental ideas I had, she offered me a complete new image which is  contradicting with my so called Islamic vision, I thought I have simple idea about Homosexuality and I considered  it a disease  as my source of knowledge Islam online said. My dear N stood in front of the icons of the Arab feminist movement claiming that the liberty of a woman will be gained by liberating her vagina, N advocated for freedom of all women not only women belonging to  the sexual minorities.
Then many bells rang in my mind, I started reading progressive interpretations of Islam and started question my deep rooted ideas, but what really make me feel completely different is reading Bareed Mast3jel , the stories of queer women in Lebanon, when they shared their fears, anxieties and small moments of joy through this book, I felt that we share more than I think and what differentiate us is only human made labels that will never be static and should not be taken for granted.  I just felt the pain and misery they face for no good reason other than claiming their rights to be who they are.
I know that I will never be a vocal  advocate of LGBT rights, i will be a supporter to this cause and  I will always support any person right to claim whatever identity they want .
Thanks N for showing me another dimension of the human diversity