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BREAKING THE BOUNDARIES OF FEAR AND SILENCE: The Struggle for Women’s Rights in Muslim Majority Countries
Los Angeles – May 5, 2013
I am in LA upon the invitation of Women’s Voices Now, an organization whose mission is to empower all women living in Muslim-majority socities by promoting their free expression, thereby giving voice to their struggles for civil, economic, political and gender rights. This is an incredible organization run by visionary men and women. In 2011 they hosted their first film festival called Women’s Voices from the Muslim World, allowing orginal and authentic voices to be heard. They have an ongoing global tour which brings film screenings to venues around the world and in May 2014 they are planning their second film festival titled Women Brought and Sold. They have on online monthly newsletter called The WVoice and are getting set to launch WAN – Women’s Art Now to serve an an independent platform for all women artists in the Muslim majority societies. www.womensvoicesnow.org
The fundraiser was held at Fleur de Lys, one of the most beautiful mansions in Beverly Hills, home of one of the supporters. Among the speakers was Leslie Sacks, a prominent art dealer and gallerist in LA for the past 22 years. Leslie is orginally from South Africa and founded WVN in 2010. He spoke about his passion for human rights and said ” I look at the world and see that the West doesn’t understand the Muslim world and I believe that an iminent clash of civilizations can be averted by empowering women”.
Among the speakers last night were Gahl Hodges Burt, co-founder of The American Academy in Berlin, Director of the IRI and social secretary to President and Mrs. Reagan; Cheryl Saban who is an author, psychologist, philanthropist and advocate for women and children. She is author of several books including “What is your self worth – a woman’s guide to Validation”; Shamila Kohestani, Captain of the first Afghan Women’s National Soccer Team, who grew up under the Taliban regime playing soccer despite the challenges she and her family faced. Shamila shared her story and her passion to play a forbidden sport and get an educaiton. Her goal is to educate, inform and motivate change for women in Afghanistan and throughout the world. I spoke on the barriers faced by women who wish to speak out. Shamila is a charming eloquent young woman who is a perfect role model for young Muslim women who wish to follow their hearts and a path of knowledge. She is extremely confident and we connected as she expressed a wish to come to Canada (and become an adoptee of course that goes without saying) but also to speak here.
The event was attended by who’s who of Beverly Hills including I believe some stars. I met Daniel Pipes of ME Forum who was very encouraged by the work of progressive Muslims including our group Muslims Facing Tomorrow, in Canada. After my talk, I was given a warm hug by two women I did’nt recognise at first, but turned out to be Wafa Sultan and Noni Derwish who said it was refreshing to hear the perspective of a Muslim woman rooted in her faith – I took that as a compliment! I also met two of my California adoptees – Shireen Qudosi who brought me a gorgeous piece of jewellery from her Qahani collection and her sister Mehreen.
It was a heart warming event, to see the work being done by non-Muslims for the cause of Muslim women in a very humbling yet practical and empowering way.