Tag Archives: change

Starting at the right place

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Starting at the right place

A lot of times I ask myself how can we really change people’s mentality about stereotypes and prejudices through the power of conversation and whether that really works? I have been a blogger for four years now and most if not all of the interaction with my readers has been online. Unfortunately I have realized that this has programmed my mind to think that taking a stand and expressing my views would be much more useful in the virtual world. Let me assure you I was wrong.

In a recent gathering, one of my friends announced that he and his wife were expecting a baby girl. Of course I could not hide my enthusiasm and excitement being a mother of a two year old daughter myself and immediately began to share motherhood tips and advice. The mother smiled as the father joked about how he was “disappointed” when he found out they were having a girl and how there was still hope that in the last minute his baby would magically be transformed into a boy.

Now I know what you are thinking, how could someone in the 21st century think like this, well the truth is this was not the first time I had heard something like that. In Saudi Arabia the mentality of the “baby boy” being superior to a ” baby girl” is so entrenched in the society that when my sister’s doctor found out that her first baby was a girl she announced the news with a low pitched voice and a dose of sad eyes fearing that the news would anger my sister’s husband, when my sister’s second baby was a boy, the doctor could not be happier and was not hesitant to express her relief and joy.

The story of my friend and the doctor are not strange stories in our society, if anything they are sometimes the norm but I am not writing this for the sake of criticism but for the sake of taking a close look at myself and how I reacted to my friends story and the lesson this incident taught me.

Unfortunately I did not condemn my friends behavior nor did I stand up and argue that what he was saying was unacceptable. I must admit that I struggled with myself whether I should say something or not.  ” This is normal, he’s just joking and I’m sure he won’t think this way when she is born…”  are some of the things I kept telling myself hoping that they would be true in order to dismiss the inner guilt and the inner voice that was telling me that this is not Ok. The inner voice that was telling me that I should speak up and not allow this kind of conversation to even take place, even if it was a joke. But I silenced that inner voice and the guilt played its part all the way back home.

I kept asking myself why I didn’t say something, why was it so hard to just stand up and disagree and why was it so easy for me to “take a stand” online but not in real life situations? In one way or another and whether I liked it or not, by not saying anything I was saying that I was ok with what my friend was joking about and I learned that the hard way. I also learned that promoting change, voicing our opinions and expressing our beliefs is much easier thought than said.  To stand up to a group of your friends or colleagues and say that you disagree is not an easy thing to do but if we really want things to change then we have to start at the right place; with the people who are disappointed that they are having a girl instead of a boy, the people that believe that a hijab wearing woman can’t be Britain’s next great baker, people who judge and make assumptions. This is where we need to start , we also have to expand the conversation, whether it be through blogging, awareness videos, campaigns you name it. Some might argue that changing someone’s mentality is rather difficult but I’d rather give it a shot than just stand there and watch the future of our girls and their worth being threatened before they are even born and I hope you will do the same.

Esraa

Doorbell Labels

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3698c5709a05f7a875a8a10ec0768852While visiting a friend in Beirut for the first time I struggled to find her name on the 26 doorbells that were on the entrance of the building. ” Dr., Engineer, Sales Executive and most importantly the Manager” where the titles of most of the residents in the building. I had a second look at the building to make sure I wasn’t at some 15 story skyscraper and believe me it wasn’t, it was just a normal building in a normal neighborhood. Eventually I found my friends place but I couldn’t stop thinking about all the ” labels” that I saw that day and I asked my self why was it so important to label the simplest things with what we do or what we have achieved. This phenomena of ” Doorbell Labeling” was not a one time thing and the more people I visited the more I realized that this was a common practice.

In that same month I met the Chief of Staff of a prestigious hospital in the United Sates, when we first met he introduced himself as “Dave” not Dr. Dave or “Chief of Staff” Dave, simply Dave and I am pretty sure that his doorbell does not have ” Chief of Staff Dave”. His modesty made me wonder about all those labels I had seen and made me question the actions of our society.

If I was living in a building with managers and doctors it is only normal that I too would like to prove my presence and put a label over my doorbell, but why should I be forced to feel that in the first place?  Sometimes we feel pressured to present ourselves in a certain way but the truth is we shouldn’t.

Changes in our society and in our attitude towards one another begin with and are affected by the smallest things such as simply introducing ourselves as who we really are not by what we do.

What do you think?

Esraa

Veiled at 24

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Our first guest blogger Loulwa Kalache talks about her experience of wearing the veil at the age of 24.

by: Loulwa Kalache

On May 20, 2012, I was putting the first touches on my crown. It was a coronation for a new Loulwa.

I was putting the Hijab.

It wasn’t just about a piece of cloth that I merely put, it was an actual transformation of my state.

Why did I become a “Mouhajaba” at age of 24?

In 2011, I was going through a lot of personal hardships. Yet it was during this time, that I found myself kneeling to Allah. I found myself fully submissive to His will only.

Although, earlier I was pious in following almost all basic duties of Islam, praying, saying the Shahadah, fasting, believing in judgment day and the prophets…etc However, I wasn’t feeling Islam properly. I wasn’t actually submissive fully to the will of Allah.  I put a lot of worldly things before Allah.
Thus, I started feeling a tiny growing feeling in my heart that made me create a long forgotten relationship with my God. Until there was a significant day, I decided what I want from this life. It was a day that I asked and prayed for God to guide me through, to show me the way, and to find me a solution to end this dispute and get rid of the worldly attachments. Indeed, a spiritual revolution occurred inside of me.

In that year, I planned to be a better Muslim; to perfect my prayers, to wake up and pray fajr, to read Quran every day, and to deliver the right message about Islam to others. I did my best to do all these. But there was something missing that I was not following. It was one basic element that God asked from women specifically, which was to cover their heads and bodies.
But what was hindering me?

Despite I was raised in an Islamic setting where my parents always wanted me to wear the veil, they never forced it on me. They used to explain to me the consequences of not putting it versus putting it. I never listened to them and I refused to put it at a young age.
Deep in my subconscious, I was afraid of being labeled as mouhajabah. I wanted to be “free” and not chained by a cover over my hair.

I created this mindset believing that mouhajabeh can’t do anything. And that a mouhajabah  is perceived as a “shy”, “behind the man”, and not outgoing persona. And that she will be labeled differently. What was I thinking back then? Indeed, I was blind, and ignorant with these stereotypes. Excuse me for that.

So society or people were never the hindering agent. The only struggle I was facing was my own self. So as soon as I let go of this foolish mindset, I decided to put the veil. I wanted to represent Islam properly. I want to show them what it is to be a Muslimah that can follow religion and at the same time be an activist, a hard worker, and a sociable person …A veil can never hinder me, nor my ambitions.
When I put it, there were no remarkable challenges. I remember clearly the moment I put it: I was walking in Beirut, and I didn’t feel any less different. On the contrary, I felt more confident and proud.

Of course family and friends were surprised and happy. No one criticized me or told me to remove it…They did question my motives and reasons, perhaps out of curiosity. And even if some didn’t like that change, I didn’t really care.
Because it was not something I did between me and my society. It was something I did between myself and the Almighty. Because when someone is doing something purely for Allah, he or she doesn’t wait for the world to approve.

 

loulwa

The New T.V. Set

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For years my parents have had one T.V. in the house. Me and my siblings would always fight over the remote control and what shows we were going to watch. Few were the moments when we all agreed on something and most of the times we would end up watching either a chick flick or a horrifying movie. In both cases no one was happy,if it was the girls turn to choose the show,the boys would make it impossible for us to watch because of their constant nagging and we would do the same to them just to make sure we were even. No one was happy except Makdis.

Makdis has been part of our family for the past two years, she cleans and does the dishes but most importantly she never complains about what T.V. show we are going to watch, what ever is on Makdis will watch and she always seems to enjoy it.

I really never paid attention to Makdis or what Makdis wanted to watch and for some reason I always assumed that she understood  what we were watching whether in English or Arabic. I forgot that she was from Ethipoia, that she barely spoke Arabic or English and that this was the first time she had seen a T.V.

In an attempt to solve all the family disputes my parents decided to buy an additional T.V. set, of course we were all thrilled but no one was more excited than Makdis. The presence of a new T.V. empowered Makdis, now she could watch what she wants,when she wants and was  not confined by our personal choices, instead she  had the ability to hold the remote and control and choose her favorite shows.

Over the weeks I observed Makdis, in the morning she would watch a morning show with her nescafe and in the afternoon after all the housework was complete she would tune in for her favorite Turkish soap opera. Her life had been transformed!

The assumptions we make about people determine the way we treat them. I assumed that Makdis didn’t care about what we were watching but in fact she did, we assume that physically disabled people might be less intelligent so we speak loudly and slowly when in reality they are as smart as we are if not more.

Makdis’s story  taught me a  very important lesson, the basic needs of any human being such as laughter, the need for entertainment and having our own space are universal to all human beings whether they  are from Lebanon or Ethiopia. The idea might seem cliche but in practice I realized that I was not really applying it.

Today Makdis enjoys a variety of TV shows and my siblings and I still fight over the remote.

Esraa

Impossible vs I’m Possible

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Since this is my last post for the year 2012 I wanted to share with you one of the most important lessons I have learned throughout this year:  ” If we want to see change we must be part of the process, we must be involved in bringing out the change we want to see”.

If we want the laws that we see as unjust to change, protesting against these laws should not be our only option, instead we must strive to become lawyers and law makers in order to change the system from the inside rather than being observers  and waiting for others to take action. If we want to improve the healthcare system we must become doctors and healthcare professionals. If we want to break stereotypes about women in the work place there needs to be active women in the workplace to do so.

For years I thought to my self that if I want something to change I must go speak to the officials but the idea of me being an official was never an option and I am sure this is the case for a lot of other people. We choose to sit on the side and watch things happen in front of us believing that we are incapable because that is just the way things have been. This past year I fought discrimination and stereotypes by being involved, by speaking at international and and local conferences, by writing and by spreading the word. This past year I decided to stop sitting on the bench and to move and I hope that through my posts I have inspired you to move as well and to realize that nothing is impossible. I wish all of you a wonderful year ahead full of nothing but happiness, joy and new possibilities!

Esraa,

I'm  possible