Every Woman has a Story
It all started in 2005, I was finishing up my second semester in college when I realized that I wanted to take the summer off and dedicate my time for a cause, when I came across an NGO dedicated to rebuilding woman’s lives, and I volunteered the summer of 2005 to a conference dedicated to including Women’s Rights in the Iraqi constitution.
Women for Women International the organizers of the conference that I have volunteered for is an NGO that “provides women survivors of war, civil strife and other conflicts with the tools and resources to move from crisis and poverty to stability and self-sufficiency, thereby promoting viable civil societies.”
The conference “Our Constitution … Our Future” revolved around enshrining women’s rights in Iraqi Constitution, which was held at the DeadSea in June of 2005 revolved around many major areas of debate, yet narrowed down to three main points:
(1) Women’s organization need to build coalitions with each other and with the government to create a strong movement to advocate for the viewpoints of all women.
(2) Public awareness about the Constitution and support for its implementation must be built through media, government and NGO channels. Public awareness campaigns should highlight the importance of women in all sectors of society and incorporate the viewpoints of all strata of society, including illiterate, socially excluded and marginalized populations.
(3) Leaders must exhibit a strong commitment to preserving women’s rights and ensuring that women are active in the constitutional process. This commitment should be exhibited at all levels of government.
I still remember listening to the opening session of the conference by Zainab Salbi (President of Women for Women International) and thought to my self, “wow… who is this woman? What drives her? Her passion to what she does lightens up a room and I hope that one day I can be as motivated as she is to make a difference.” By the time I was listening to Mrs. Salbi’s closing session I realized that volunteering, reaching out to the community and empowering women was something that I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I had just turned 18 at the time.
This was almost six years ago and that’s when I learned a lesson in life, every woman has a story … while many of those stories have started on a rough patch, some with abuse, some influenced with war and some with pure torture, and while we cannot go back in time to re-write that history we can always end that story with a better ending, we have the power to bring hope into the lives of women and make the ending of their sufferings a pleasant one, by empowering them, educating them and leaving small prints in their lives that they can pass on to the future generations of their families.
In addition to the program in Iraq Women for Women International currently works in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Rwanda, Kosovo, Nigeria, Colombia, Afghanistan, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. In eleven years, more than 33,000 women have been assisted, through the distribution of $18 million in direct aid and micro credit loans, and I look up to one woman and her team for making it happen Zainab Salbi, who when I was 18 years old of age, made me stutter whenever I was around her, which to be honest was three days.
In a couple of months, I know I’ll be meeting her again, this time, I look forward to live blogging many of her thoughts from the TedXDeadsea event, and if anything possibly interview her. Recently Her Majesty Queen Rania was awarded the first Women for Women Award, “The Woman of the World Award,” for her efforts and using her voice to speaking on behalf of woman world wide that have been silenced by Violence and war. As a woman, as a Jordanian, and a passionate person who still has the teenage dream of empowering woman worldwide I believe that hiding behind my keyboard and delivering my thoughts from inspirations like Zainab Salbi is a first step of a very long journey.
Honored by President Bill Clinton for her work in Bosnia and Herzegovina, appeared on the Oprah Winfery Show 8 times, and the recipient of the 2010 David Rockefeller Bridging Leadership Award, there is so many great attributed to be intimiated by so much power, but also so much comfort knowing it comes from a woman that fights for woman’s rights every day in her life. She is also a Forbes Trailblazer Award receiver an holds a chair at the Clinton Global Initiative Lead program.
Ladies and gentlemen: Zainab Salbi will be speaking at the TedXDeadsea on April 30th, until then, stay tuned …
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