Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Muslim Women Leaders in Madison - 6/23

Saideh Jamshidi

Twenty women from eleven countries in the Middle East gathered this month in Madison to share their experiences and challenges they face to bring broader political and social rights for women in their home countries. They are a selected group of women to participate in the Women Leaders Academy Retreat created by the National Democratic Institute in Washington DC.

In our show yesterday, we talked with two of these powerful women and asked about the next steps they may take to apply what they learned at this retreat within their home countries.

Chantal Souaid is from Lebanon. She is in charge of the transparency and accountability Grants Projects at American-Middle East Educational and Training Services known as AMIDEAST. She is eager to go back to Lebanon and create a similar organization to AMIDEAST. See my interview with Chantal below:

Batool Al Khalaf is from Saudi Arabia. Batool has created women-only public speaking groups in Saudi Arabia in order to boost women’s confidence to take a stand in public speaking arena. Batool is currently working with the Toastmaster International group to expand its program in Saudi Arabia by starting Arabic-language public speaking clubs for women-only groups. See my interview with Batool below:

What are your experiences with standing for women's rights? Do they compare to the experience described by Middle Eastern women? Leave your comments below!


fahed said...

I want to first say that I am grateful for all your efforts to inform your audience regarding the Middle East. This episode however was not only less edifying than your usual programs, it featured a lot of hot air from your speakers.

I found it disturbingly ironic that Batool from Saudi Arabia supports the French Government’s impositions on women in France (through the veil ban) at the same time she is fighting imposition on her and her fellow Saudi women from their government. And Shantal from Lebanon told us that it does not matter if you are Christian or Muslim, and yet the very first thing that she wants to start her comments with is to assert that Lebanon is a Christian country, which I think the majority of Lebanese would have a strong reaction to.

I am still a fan though!

Batool said...

I find it very interesting Fahed how you have generalized my comment and framed it in a way that makes it seem like it contradicts with what I am doing in my country to empower women to be great speakers and leaders. Very slick, and very political, but I will assume that you did not understand and will further elaborate. In times of wars, occupations, and terrorism where people are terrified by the slightest warnings, alerts, and gestures, I believe it is absolutely not healthy to hide one’s identity by covering one’s face whether you are a man or a woman. People these days are afraid of each other even for no reason at all. Many are afraid to ride buses, subways, trains, planes, you name it! The trust between humans has been tampered with. So my point was simply to say that covering your face is something that will not help anyone and will only put you in a way of danger and suspicion especially if you were living in a Western country where security laws are different and much tighter. In the Arab world they have found a way around it as covering a woman’s face is part of many Middle Eastern cultures, by having separate check points for woman only, and also by other means, not to mention that at the end it is something deeply integrated and imprinted in the Arab culture. Therefore, I can understand why a Country would want to ban covering ones face and hiding ones identity, but regarding the country’s other policies regarding religious freedom for example whether to cover your hair or not or whether to wear a cross on your chest or not when going to school, etc I absolutely disagree with and I see it as injustice and complete ignorance. People are meant to be unique and different, and you should have the freedom to express yourself in your own unique way as long as it doesn’t threaten the security of others.