Morocco World News
Washington D.C, May 24, 2012
“My personal background is Arab-American…and the divisions between my two identities are so strong that sometimes I feel like I need to talk to myself.”
I am writing today to advocate for the increased participation of women in conflict resolution and peacebuilding work, to encourage women to address and rise above stereotypes and misperceptions that persist in mainstream media news bytes, and to make a contribution, however small, to building a global community of trust, and an awareness of a rich world culture.
Arab, Muslim, and Western women need to sit down and talk to one another – now. Persistent misunderstanding about the ‘other’ – cultural, religious, political, and otherwise – is only contributing to an increasingly tense relationship between the ‘West’ and the Arab and Muslim ‘world.’ There is a lack of mutual respect on both sides, and a strong need for cross-cultural exchange to address this issue. My personal background is Arab American (Morocco and Plymouth, Massachusetts!), and the divisions between my two identities are so strong that sometimes I feel like I need to talk to myself.
In both Western and predominantly Arab and Muslim societies the international political arena is dominated by men, and our social structures characterized by insidious patriarchy. Our problems do not lie in our differences, which are not as stark as we believe them to be. Rather, our problems are rooted in a lack of direct communication and interaction. We must own up to the role we have played in maintaining a contentious relationship between our societies – through our complacency, through our unwillingness to consider and appreciate the circumstances of the ‘other,’ and through our strong aversion to self-reflection.
We need to talk – now. Many of us are advocating for inclusion in political processes, for equal wages in the workplace, for empowerment in the economic sector. We are advocating for a say in decision-making processes related to our health, for agency that will allow us to succeed and lead fulfilling lives in any arena that we choose. We are continually increasing our presence in the public space – and indeed in the virtual world of the internet, where women are the majority users on social networks. To ensure women’s inclusion at every level, we must consider our social responsibilities as global citizens and our growing ability to impact relationships at an international level.
So, let’s talk. This fall we are launching the Connection Point Dialogues, a program aimed at bringing together Arab and Muslim women and women from the West to directly engage with one another through facilitated discussions using videoconferencing technology. The dialogues will be structured to address a variety of issues concerning both regions, including, but not limited to:
- Concepts of identity and gender roles, and their impact on worldviews
- The role of women in social movements
- The role of the media in impacting perceptions of women’s status in Western and Arab and Muslim societies
- The use of religion in politics and its impact on gender roles in both regions
We need not only to communicate, but to learn how to communicate effectively with each other. The purpose of this program is to create a space for communication and to introduce tools from the conflict resolution field that can facilitate effective communication. It is to encourage women to engage in reflective practice, and create a shared learning process in which we can uncover interests and values that lead to positions. It is to explore differences and build common ground across cultural, religious, and political boundaries. It is to encourage recognition that perceptions create realities, and have a direct impact not only on our own decision making processes, but on foreign policies that impact us all.
Transforming relationships begins with a conversation, and we invite you to take initiative and join one. We invite you to sit down at your computers and have the conversations we need to transform the relationship between our societies. Through this program, we invite you to take ownership of your role in our global community.
Not good with talking? You have plenty of other options!