Sisters in Humanity

Participating to women’s gatherings never fail to remind me how diverse women are. Working in women’s rights, you sometimes tend to forget this basic fact, what with all the talk about sisterhood and harmony amongst women, the “common ennemy” being patriarchy.

I’m just back from such a gathering in Europe, and have to admit I was not expecting some things. Indeed, compared to my stays in Africa and the Middle East, I found a huge difference between Africa and the Middle East on the one hand and Europe on the other: while african and middle eastern women tend to question their own environement and beliefs, trying to point out what’s wrong in THEIR societies, European women (from what I’ve seen) tend to gloss over their issues in their own societies, and have a tendency to point out to other communities . HIV? A problem that only minorities from Africa have to face. “We don’t really need any HIV programmes, we’ve already done them 20 years ago” one of them said to me. The answer shot back from my mouth before I could soften them with diplomatic flowers “Oh really? Do you really think Europe does not need anti stigma and discrimination programmes for people living with HIV?”A wary stare was the only answer I got. Besides, the spectrum of discrimination, and yes, racism, is never far behind. All the calamities that happen to women only seem to happen to migrant women. The “standard” european woman’s only battle seem to be domestic violence, and even this issue is more of a migrant women thing. Now I’m not saying that middle eastern women for example are not discriminatory towards migrant women (the example of domestic worker is striking enough in the region) but women i’ve spoken to do not automatically turn to them as if the world was a bed of roses for them. They speak about both (this is particularly true about young women), emphasizing their own situation and putting into question their own prejudices and mentalities.

In any case, I also found similarities between the different regions. Indeed, as I was describing my job, which implies a fair bit of traveling, I was met with a question that I’ve now started to consider as universal: But, but, how are you going to do when you’ll be married with children? Well, I say, my husband will just have to manage now, won’t he? If I have to travel, I have to travel. More wary stares. People thinking I’ll probably be an unnatural mother. (Note: no one never ever seem to consider the possibility that I might not actually want children)

The issue of language is another thing that shocked me, what with all the talk about “helping” people and “saving” women. I know these women have all the best intentions in the world, but I’ve never been big on the “assistance” kind of vocabulary. 

However, I’ve met wonderful women as well, ready to share their experiences and views with an open mind. Like this Finnish nurse who volunteered in 1976 with the Lebanese Red Cross. Like this Italian doctor who went to Gaza to treat the wounded and train the on-site medical aid volunteers on emergency care situations. Like this Swedish young woman who stayed in Palestine for several months, partaking in journeys for justice. Like this Dutch young woman who puts on her pink bathrobes and towels to demonstrate against Ahava. Like these two young women who were pregnant teenagers and who now support women and girls in the same situation.

Not only do these women and many more act for change abroad, but also lobby within their own countries to force media to change the body image they’re promoting towards young women, advocate for equality in political participation, and fight to end stigma and discrimination towards positive people.

We shouldn’t however put women who may noth think along the same lines as us on the side. On the contrary, we should open up the conversations to any kind of comments if we’re truly committed to be agents of change.

It’s just that sometimes, when you’re a daughter of migrant people, the stigma does not go down too well.

Pour tout ceux qui se trouveront à genève le 11 Novembre, venez participer à la conférence sur les Réfugiés Palestiniens au Liban et dans les Territoires Occupés le jeudi 11 novembre à 19h30 à la Librairie Arabe L’Olivier, 5 Rue de Fribourg!

Plus d’infos ici

Salon du Livre Francophone de Beyrouth

Bonjour à tous!

Je serai au salon du livre francophone de Beyrouth le lundi 1er novembre 2010 à 18:30 pour dédicacer mon livre Café Noir, Café Blanc  au stand du journal en ligne iloubnan

Je participerai également le 2 novembre en fin d’après-midi à un débat autour du thème “Le livre numérique va-t-il tuer le livre papier?” aux côtés de Tania Mehanna Hadjithomas, directrice des éditions Tamyras et Jihad Bitar, spécialiste des médias. 

Pour tous ceux au Liban à cette période, passez nous voir! Je vous conseille vivement de  visiter ce Salon, le troisième plus grand salon du livre francophone après ceux de Paris et Montréal. Vous pouvez retrouver tout le programme du Salon, durant lequel cette année Albert Camus est à l’honneur, sous ce lien

On growing Up (Not Old)

About a week ago, I turned 26.The first year after the major landmark that is 25. Meaning I’m now the proud ticker of the 26 to 30 box. Until now, I never really paid much attention to the issue of age or growing up. Years passed, and yet I happily somehow stayed stuck at 16 in my head, blissfully oblivious that I was growing up, that is, blissfully oblivious that people expected me to act as an adult.

Now that 30 is no longer an abstract number calling to my mind ANCIENT people (that was the ageist minute of the day) and tired mothers overwhelmed by screaming toddlers, I have to reconsider my beliefs and prejudices.

Before, at the blissful age of 25, whenever 30-something people would tell me they were still young, I’d snigger. Poor old souls! I’d say. Ah, let them fool themselves! Them! Young! Ah!

Then my sister turned 30, and didn’t have the decency of fitting into my prejudices against 30 something people. A new mother, she does not seem overwhelmed by my niece’s screams. In fact, she looks more serene than ever, and even her child is plotting against me by refusing point blank to be a screaming brat, but rather a lovely smiley baby, both mother and daughter reflecting each other’s mood. My sister is still working, she’s recovered her petite figure, in a word, she doesn’t look like an exhausted 30 something who’s having no fun, looking smug pushing her pram (I hate when mothers do that, they push their prams against you while walking down streets, as if to say “Move you useless childless piece of work! I have a Child in my Pram, move away from my path”. I’m a mean young woman wearing 10 cm high heels, I usually won’t budge).

Anyway, then it was my turn to have a birthday, and I turned 26. Suddenly, something in my head screamed: 26! But that’s only 4 years from 30! Why GOD why???

I’m really feeling ambivalent regarding this age business. On the one hand, I’m quite looking forward to becoming older, when experience and maturity will finally do their job and calm my anxieties down. On the other hand, I still feel like the teenager admiring from afar women in their late 20’s, envious of their posture, their allure, their shoes, their confidence (not necessarily in that order). It’s taken all my will power to realise I was this woman now.

Sort of.

I may have the job, the shoes, and a resemblance of maturity that prevents me to turn everything into a Greek Drama like I used to do in the tormented days of teenage angst, but I do still have a suspicious fondness for little bows, I still drink my coffee in a Cinderella mug, and my 14 year old crush on Liam Gallagher STILL hasn’t faded.

Blowing the candles on my chocolate cake, I sat and waited for adulthood to finally kick in, but could not feel the hit. Instead, it just crept in on me, taking the form of small day to day changes, like realising I actually prefered having a quite night in a bar or at home with my friends when I could actually talk to them rather than going out clubbing, or being suddenly conscious that depsite my best efforts to spend my way through shoes, I somehow very weirdly managed to put money aside.

Sweet Jesus, what have I become? I’m scared, but I’ll get over it (more maturity, that’s just wonderful)

27’s glaring at me, but I feel no fear. Bring it on I say, the best is yet to come.

Happy Birthday.

New Post on My Other Blog, Café Thawra

Link: New Post on My Other Blog, Café Thawra

Café Thawra est un blog moins personnel que Myrrh and Mint et le résultat d’une collaboration entre moi et Joseph Daher, doctorant en études du Moyen-Orient à la School of Oriental and African Studies à Londres et activiste. Café Thawra est plus axé dans une perspective de recherches et d’analyse sur le Moyen-Orient.