Taking part in a two-day retreat in Nazareth in October, seventeen women enjoyed each other’s company and exchanged their thoughts and feelings about the future as part of the “Women’s Activism for Social Change” course in Haifa. The women have been participating in the community organizing course since May. The retreat featured lectures and workshops exploring different aspects of grassroots leadership and how to best achieve social change. The group discussed why such change is important and explored the women’s needs and aspirations within each of their communities. “I understand and know how to build my project and work with other women,” said Suhair, who lives in Haifa. “I liked the dynamic of the group,” she continued, “We have a stronger relationship and are more connected. Now I can put things in a certain order and I know what to do.”
At the conclusion of activities, the women sat together to reflect on the retreat and express their hopes and fears about the future. “It was very busy but it was worth it,” commented Manwa, who is originally from Mashhad. “It was like putting a puzzle together.” Lana, from Daliat al Karmel, said, “I enjoyed the planning and construction [of the projects] and I see things clearly. I know what I want to do and where I want to go. I had many fears in the beginning, but now I am optimistic.” Regarding her future plans, Lana said she looks forward to helping other people through personal challenges she has already overcome.
But while many of the women expressed confidence in their ability to apply what they learned in the course to their future projects, uncertainty remained. “I am confused and have some contradicting thoughts about what I have learned and what I am currently doing in my community,” Suhair admitted. Lana had similar concerns. “I will continue to need the coaching from Kayan,” she said, “confrontation with the community is still hard.” Rafah Anabtawi, Kayan’s Coordinator of Empowerment and Community Organizing, stressed that it is important for the participants to express their fears and encouraged the women not to try and undo what they had already accomplished in the community, but continue forward with the new tools they had acquired.
As the women move ahead in their efforts to establish local initiatives, Kayan will continue to provide these leaders the resources, professional mentoring, and opportunities for exchange they need to succeed.