Monday, December 27, 2010

What a year! No words for it!

I’ve been trying to write this post for days with no luck, then I realized that I was avoiding it, cause it’s probably one of the hardest things I will have to write about.
How can I write about this year? Short version? Long one? Month view? By days? By problems? By tears? I don’t remember I was that unhappy like I was in 2010, yet I can’t just say it was an unhappy year.

Let’s see, Quick version? OK. In 2010, I lost my place, my savings, my family so-called bond, who are thought-to-be friends, and was close to lose one of my sisters. I got my heart broken, and I lost track of life and control over anything happening to or with me. I don’t remember I ever cried that much, and I don’t know a time when I was that consciously scared. I knew I am loved, and that I am hated, and I realized why exactly that happens.

More detailed version? Fine.

I started this year with a conclusion that the “Sinister Spinster” is a stage, and I had to evolve. Like any other big decision that I've taken, it was a moment when I knew I want to start a new voice and a moment to reach a name!
Throughout 2010, I read so much about women, violence, and violence against women. I knew a lot of dedicated women, and so many fake ones too. I knew this is what I wanted to live for, and this is what I wanted to do. I found my passion!
But as everything this year, I couldn’t peruse it as I wanted, and I knew what it takes to “part of the system”, and as I was never part of any system, I couldn’t do it. But then again, I came very closer to what I want to do, and how I want to do it.

Coming closer to the world of civil work here in Egypt, it was clear how we live in a very nasty world. Personal agendas, bigger agendas, previous back falls and preferences control what should be only about one thing; People!
Speaking of people, I met a lot of new people this year, all very special. All managed to have part of how special this year is.

Finally, I finished my masters first part examination only when I was certain I didn’t want to be a doctor. Ain’t she interesting? I mean life. I knew what I didn’t like about medicine in Egypt and why I would never fit in this field. Don’t get me wrong, but I hate doctors! I hate how they feel they are the masters of the universe, the smartest, the greatest, and most successful, while in Egypt we all know it is most of the time a big fat joke, and the patient is the last concern. But part of me was always asking if that was because I really thought so, or because I was exhausted from studying and that I was burnt out in the academic part and if I was just trying to find myself a less embarrassing way out. Honestly, I thought there was at least a small part of that, till I found my current job, which is medical, and which I am not going to talk about for now. I found myself hungry for information and willing to study again.

This year I allowed myself to be a rebound, and it broke my heart. I slipped into being that person that scared me. I felt everything I ever wrote about, that I didn't want to feel, and I took all the risks that I should take, and now I know I wasn’t coward and for that, I have no regrets.

I learnt new words; Intense, Orthodox, Warm, and Intimidating. For some time I used to think being intimidating is sure a flattering feeling. I learnt it is one of the worst things ever, for I feel like a monster, just because I am me! But then I became certain that the closer I will get to myself, the more of this will happen, and the more grateful I should be. It became clear to me that my honesty with myself is the mere reason why some people accuse me of lying. "We live in a fake-oriented society" One very person once told me , and he couldn't be more accurate. And after thinking a lot of why it is that hard to assume honesty, I knew that that was wasted time, and I should not care, because they need to believe no one could be that honest, or else they'll face their unreal world, and their "traces and hints" of personalities!

I knew the value of friends, and the true meaning of friendship. I knew that the people who agree with what I do, and support me for it are good friends, but s/he is the great friend whose support is not conditioned. For I don’t have to do what you agree with to get your support if you are my true friend. Because it is about me, not about you and what you believe or don’t believe in!

I got in touch with a new depth of praying, and I knew, felt, smelled, and saw, that God is there, here and everywhere. And I think this is the best thing that happened this year.

I gained weight, then lost it, then gained even more, then lost all and reached my best, then gained it all again, and now I’m struggling to lose it.

This year one of my sisters had a very big car accident and was so close to lose her life. Thank you God for saving her. After seeing her car after the accident, I looked at her standing, talking, and in one piece, and I couldn't believe it for a few seconds.

September 16th 2010. I don’t think I will forget this day. When my life as I knew it literally fell over my head. I remember crying, and I remember not being able to cry anymore. I remember lying on my back, with no single clear thought except that I couldn’t take it anymore. I went through all the long roads of despair, tried hard to reach this final destination; Letting go… I couldn’t. That wasn’t bravery, I was so scared to let go, I heard the little voice in my head saying “You don’t have it in you” and “You wouldn’t dare doing it, even if you wanted!”
Letting go was a luxury at that moment by the way, it was not an option, though it was what I back then wished I could do.
Bit by bit, starting from October, things started to get very slowly better, then much much worse, then the worst ever, then the storm – like any other storm- started to calm down.

I can’t claim I am all happy now, because there’re a lot of mixed emotions in my heart, and blurred prints on my soul. I know they exist, but can’t define them yet. But it’s OK for now. 

Now … I’m emotionally exhausted, physically burnt, mentally challenged, and so overwhelmed by the so many highs and lows. But I’m thankful it’s over, looking forward to the next, grateful for my friend (yes, only one), and content I can now say …. “Thank you God!”

Note: I hate how much I had to say the word “I” but could not help it.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

The Peace of the Wild Things

Dedicated to Marwa Rakha. My companion, my inspiration, and my friend!

When despair grows in me
and I wake in the middle of the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children's lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought of grief.
I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting for their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

This poem is mistakenly attributed to William Blake but the truth is it is by Wandell Berry (1934-present) and it's titled The Peace of the Wild Things 

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Increasing Muslim Women’s Significance through Mediatization, Part II

Yesterday, I went over the presentations at the NVIC conference “Female Actors in the Egyptian Islamic Public Sphere-Increasing Significance through Increasing Mediatization;” today, I’ll cover the speakers’ day.
Four female speakers were invited, representing different messages and perspectives. The speakers were Dalia Younis, a final year medical student who is the moderator for her mother’s website and preaching business; Dr. Suzan, a neurophysiology professor who is also a female preacher; Kawthar Kholy, the head of the social department in OnIslam; and myself. -- More

Increasing Muslim Women’s Significance through Mediatization, Part I

A very interesting workshop was organized on November 24-25 by the Netherlands-Flemish Institute in Cairo (NVIC) titled: “Female Actors in Islamic Public Sphere – Increasing Significance through Increasing Mediatization.” This was a great conference, and I wish I could recap it all for you. But I’ll keep my review to the media-related panels. --- More

Saturday, December 11, 2010

A day in the real life!

After spending a day in the real world, I found out it’s still the same;

-         Men still wait till their ex’s wedding week to confess they couldn’t get over them and they loved them.
-         Women still don’t say what they want, but they get angry when they don’t get it.
-         People still find it easier to live miserable than to speak up about how they truly feel!
-         Mothers still think they own their children like dolls, they feed them, bath them,  and treat them like little girls treating dolls …they are theirs!
-         Married people talk about sex as if it’s Physics class; too complicated if you get into it, and won’t be of use if you understand it. At the end of the day, it has only one “mission” !
-         A lot of people are still not aware that most the cafes waiters are highly educated with a university degree, but they just don’t have parents to get them jobs and support them till they die!
-    A lot of people are actually still a bunch of wanna-be’s and look- alikes with every fake hint of someone else’s life!
-         Egyptians believe in Artificial Intelligence. They do, otherwise why would they press on the elevator button harder when they are in hurry? or press it every second? It’s because they are sure the elevator will get the message that they are in a hurry and come faster!!!
-         Women think it’s high-class to wear accessories on your hair, neck, hands, ears, ankles, purses, and clothes!
-         Some men still think it’s impressive not to have an opinion of his own, since by that everyone is his friend, and no one is his enemy! In other words, they think being colorless is sexy!!
-         Men still  confuse mucho with bossy as much as women mix sexy with bitchy!
-         Women still think they need men in their lives to feel feminine!

No wonder I moved to Twitterland and happy there.  

Thursday, December 09, 2010

One School-Girl morning Thought!

Few days ago, I was heading to work when I saw this little girl. She was at the age of 5 or 6, so skinny, black hair in a Minnie-mouse like hairstyle. Her school uniform is yellow & dark blue, and her bag was almost as big as her. She kept holding on to the bag tightly trying to put it on her back, and then she ran to catch up with her older brother to cross the street to go to school.
She has this glorious determination in her eyes, and this “I will do it” look on her face, grabbed her brother’s hand while looking at cars thinking “I’m going to school today!”
I thought to myself “ What a wonderful morning!”

Couple of mornings after, same girl was walking in front of me. This time they were a group, looking like siblings from two families. She was talking to two older girls about her classes, teachers, and books! Her eyes, her body, her raised head, flying hair and proud soul were filling the space with joy. Everything in her was saying “I’m a girl, going to school, and I’m happy to learn!”
I thought to myself “What a blissful morning!”

Call me whatever, but there’s nothing more beautiful than a happy girl giggling in a school uniform. We are the joy, the sweetness, we are peace, prosperity, and future! Remember that when you look at your daughter, when you look at other people’s daughters, and when you look at yourself!

Love yourselves, Ladies. Embrace yourselves. And have a very happy morning!

I hear babies crying, I watch them grow.
They’ll learn much more, than I’ll ever know.
And I think to myself “What a wonderful world!”

Monday, December 06, 2010

Everything was Life

Everything was Life is an experimental documentary using animation and live action to explore the practice of female genital mutilation. Ellie is currently working on educational film and animation projects with young people of different ages and backgrounds in the Northeast of England. She is particularly interested in pushing the boundaries of animation and documentary in the exploration of challenging subjects.

About Human Trafficking

What is Human Trafficking?
Human trafficking is what slavery, as a business, looks like in the 21st century. It describes the procurement of people against their will through force or deception, to be transported, sold and exploited for:
  • Sex and forced prostitution
  • Forced labor in sweatshops, farms and construction sites
  • Slavery or domestic servitude
  • Illegal international adoption
  • Forced marriage or child brides
  • Child soldiers
  • Forced begging
  • Sale of human organs
  • Sacrificial worship
  • Sports (e.g. child camel jockeys or football players)
Trafficking victims are stripped of their basic human rights and treated as commodity.
A single victim can be bought and sold many times.

.Source of the picture: This blog

Human Trafficking – Some Key Facts
  • Human trafficking is the fastest-growing criminal industry in the world.
  • Its total annual revenue is estimated at between US$5 billion to US$9 billion.
  • Rough estimates suggest that between 700,000 to 2 million women are trafficked across international borders annually—more than one person per minute.
  • Approximately 80 per cent of those trafficked are women and girls.
  • An estimated 1.2 million children are trafficked every year.
  • Those trafficked often come from poorer areas, ethnic minorities, or are displaced persons such as runaways or refugees.
  • The most common destination countries are Thailand, Japan, Israel, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, Italy, Turkey and the US

 Source: The Pixel Project

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Zainab Salbi: Women, wartime and the dream of peace

 I was lying in bed feeling so blue about the world, with a remote hint of hope waiting to sleep, or actually forcing myself to sleep. Then I got an email, opened a video, and wow!
It's been a long time since I was that inspired. I personally thank her for her amazing efforts, and her glowing spirit.

I came across this other amazing video for her:

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Female Actors in the Egyptian Islamic Public Sphere -- My own Statement!

Last Thursday, I had the honor of being invited as one of the speakers in the second day of the workshop titled Female Actors in the Egyptian Islamic Public Sphere: Increasing Significance through Increasing Mediatization?"  organized by the Netherland-Flemish Institute in Cairo (NVIC). The speakers were Ms. Kawthar  the head of the social department in OnIslam, Ms. Dalia Younis, last year ,medical student who is the moderator and spokesperson for her mother Dr-Suzan, the medical professor and Islamic preacher, and myself. I’ll be posting about the whole event in a while. Here’s my opening statement:

Thank you NVIC for the honorable invitation. It’s very special to me to speak on this special day, November 25th is the international day for elimination of violence against women, such a very interesting coincidence.
It is very special to me to share my experience that has been a journey of self exploration that has been helping me a lot.
During my last year in medicine school which is a training year, and for a whole year after graduation, I was struck by the low standards women put for themselves.
My colleagues had minimal – if any- interest to their grades & performance, compared to the rings they have on their fingers. I found out that the ultimate role of a woman according to them was to get married before being 25, and for that anything was accepted; humiliation, abuse, quitting her career… when I started to talk more about that, I was called “a jealous spinster”
So In late 2007, I started my own blog in Arabic “A Diary of a Sinister Spinster”.
At the beginning, I only wanted to vent away my own anger & frustration, but then I found out that I was not alone thinking like that, and that I have been giving an amazing blessing; “The Voice”
So .. for two years, 2008 & 2009, I expressed my impressions & concerns about the Egyptian community and how single women are being treated. My main debate was even though marriage is a good thing, being single is not the end of the world, and I should not give up what is important for me just to get the marital status.
The biggest challenge when I was interviewed by media, or from the comments, was that I was perceived as “A spinster by choice”. It took me some time to keep on saying that the title of the blog is sarcastic and not expressive of how I see myself.
Most of the comments were supportive & encouraging from anonymous women & aggressive from anonymous men. Of course, I got me a few online proposals J
Then I knew that our main problem is that we don’t bring up our daughters in a way that preserves them any hint of self esteem. The concept of beauty that made facial bleaching creams in a Caucasian country a best seller is a very good example of how we here don’t raise our daughters to believe in themselves, until today I fight with that… girls still think to have dark skin means you’re not beautiful!!
The most controversial debate was when I tried to hit the concept of choice; talking about women living alone or women getting married by themselves (to say their own vows) were topics that I get comments on till today and a lot of them don’t agree.
I share my email all the time and my cell phone sometimes with people who comment, through which I got to know a lot of friends & people that I now know personally.
By the end of 2009, I knew that even though my anger was deeper, it was a stage, and that I had to evolve. So I started a new blog “The Purple Revolution” my own revolution, where the  main focus is young women ranging from 15 to 35, women who are in the beginning of either a relationship or a marriage.
My tools are diverse now, using the Twitter hashtag technique, Facebook netblog services, and the different Google applications are helping me to reach my target audience, and helping them to reach me.  Using codes like VAW or FGM is a very easy way to get in touch with those who have the same interest on the web, and to be always updated regarding these topics.
Let me give you an example; October is the month assigned by the UN to raise awareness of domestic VAW. A very big group of websites owners, bloggers, and activists joined their online forces by posting videos, data, simple straight numerical facts and posts of their own words about that issue. Through dedicating a tag or a label, sharing a banner, and tweeting about all that, the term violence against women was (and still is) widely and constantly spreading through the web.
In Sept 2009, I joined Muslimah Media Watch (MMW), an online English speaking website where Muslim women from around the globe emphasize how media portrays women in general in Muslim dominating countries, and Muslim women in the West. Naturally the audience is a bit different, as an Egyptian and an Arab, most of the topics I talk about are from Saudi Arabia, being the highly controversial and Lebanon, being highly exposed to media. As much as we get positive feedback, I still get comments stating that this categorization though it might help saving the identity but in the mean time it gives marginalization a bigger chance.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

The WHO November 2009 VAW Fact-sheet!

Key facts:
  • Violence against women is a major public health problem and a violation of human rights.
  • Lack of access to education and opportunity, and low social status in communities are linked to violence against women.
  • Violence by an intimate partner is one of the most common forms of violence against women.
  • A wide range of physical, mental, sexual and reproductive, and maternal health problems can result from violence against women.
  • Many women do not seek help or report violence when it occurs.

Source: The WHO November 2009 VAW Fact-sheet!