Egalitarian Feminism

Egalitarian Feminism – taking women’s needs into account, the processes used in the workshops were framed as ‘flexible’, ‘non-threatening’, ‘relaxed’, ‘informal’ and ‘inclusive’.

So I have to admit that I’m pretty nervous about tomorrows workshop I am leading. I’ve been reading a piece by Marjorie L. Devault about “Talking and Listening from a Women’s Standpoint: Feminist Strategies for Interview and Analysis” and it brings up some really good points. I know no one will be in the room evaluating me, and as far as anyone is concerned I could completely disregard her advice. However, this has been a project I’ve worked on for the past two years and the authenticity of it means more than anything to me. One of Devaults points addressed the challenges of being able to capture everything and not create a saturated version of people otherwise “her reality is not fully there in what I write” (103). Tomorrow I will be handing out a questionnaire of about 20 questions ranging from what school they attend to obstacles they have academically or socially. How do I find the balance of learning more about their lives and not creating an abstract that doesn’t address the real issues they face. I hope to avoid trying to create a narrative FOR them or asking questions that are limited in scope and create a one dimensional version of the students. What I’m hoping is the questions will lead to a free flowing discussion that won’t limit the students to 3-4 sentences. One thing I am excited about it that with the help of a HFW volunteer, I was able to have the questions translated into Arabic who prefer their native language to English. Though this will lead to more translation work for me when I get home, I hope it will provide them with more authority on what they want to say. Though the nerves are kicking in, I am sure that with the help of fellow HFW volunteers it will go smoothly.

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Are you free?

ImageYesterday was a big day for me in terms of solidifying my research. I met up with a volunteer with Hopes for Women who works as the student liaison. She is a former medical student, who in the midst of applying for her residency in the States has been spending the rest of her time with HFW. We clicked right away as I began to explain to her what I wanted to accomplish during the workshop I’m hosting on Saturday. She had an incredible amount of valuable insight on the issues facing HFW (including funding) as well as the obstacles they face in potentially opening up the application process to Syrian women refugees. As you may have remembered, from my previous posts about HFW, they are an organization that works with underrepresented women in society by not only providing University funding but workshops that work on professional and life skills. Just recently the HFW students attended a workshop on Creative Thinking. Now I’ll be completely honest, it sounded kind of bizarre at first but once I checked out the creator, Sally Safadi’s, Facebook page called Neurons Away, I was intrigued and motivated to get the students talking more about their lives and the obstacles they face. The pictures included in the post are part of her book she uses during her workshop. Its refreshing to see a workshop that focuses on how to use your mind and how not to put limits to your dreams and thoughts. Apparently, when asked if they were free the majority of the students answered “No”, plain and simple. They lamented on the fact they can’t do whatever they want and are faced with many constraints not only by their family but society as well. So during the workshop I’m going to have a session, with the other HFW leaders, discussing further:

  • ImageWhat are problems that you have now? Socially? Academically?
  • What kind of things would you want to change about your society/life?
  • Do you think that you have the same opportunities as Jordanian women? Why/Why not?

I am curious to know what each of the students has to say. I wonder if they see attending college as a means for self-support and freedom. I’ve definitely been nervous about the workshop, but now that I’ve met with another HFW volunteer who has steered me in the right direction in terms of discussion questions, I feel a lot more confident. I was worried that because I am new to the some of the students they wouldn’t be a comfortable opening up to me but apparently, they’ll talk to whoever will listen which is reassuring. Hopefully, it will be a fruitful session and I will be able to share the hopes, fears and dreams of a group of students trying to succeed.

Jerash & Ajloun Castle

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Yesterday, I embarked on a really fun trip to northern Jordan to see the Jerash ruins and Ajloun castle. Though I’ve been to Jerash before it was fun having a chance to explore with friends. The Jerash ruins are considered to be the “largest and most well-preserved sites of Roman architecture in the world outside Italy.” I went with 5 friends, 3 are studying Arabic in Jordan (2 from Germany and the other Maltese-British) while the other two guys are tourist visiting from Germany.  It was quite the German overdose and I now know how to say a “squirrel’s tail” which is apparently the hardest word in German. I’m glad I got to do some touristy adventures while I was here. During the summer, I had no motivation in the blazing heat.

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After we were done gallivanting around 3rd Century ruins we ate a delicious Arabic meal down the street. For $20 we got 15 platters of hummus, mutable, babbaghanouj and other mezze dishes. The bread was baked made to order and complemented our meal perfectly. Nothing beats a good-filling-cheap eat.

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‘i’ before ‘e’ except after ‘c’

I never realized how complicated English really was until I had to teach it. The intricacies of the language become more and more apparent as students begin to question things that come as second nature to me.

Today, a colleague and I made our way to Marka refugee camp around 20 minutes outside of central Amman. I need to make clear, that what you may envision as a refugee camp is probably a stark contrast from reality. This “camp” has been in place since the Arab-Israeli War of 1967, so families have been living there for a few generations now. Currently, Marka is a bustling small city, absent of typical UN tents and fencing. The same goes for the Wihdat camp, set up after 1948, that I had visited days earlier.

The three students from Marka were asked in advance to prepare a draft CV so when we arrived to meet them, they would be ready for us to go over. I think one the most important aspects of CV writing, that I saw absent from their own CVs, is that highlighting your accomplishments in a way, that would otherwise be seen as boasting, is acceptable. When providing explanations, I told them that I would only speak in English and if they really needed to, an Arabic translation would be provided. However, I became frustrated as I felt they would just wait for the Arabic and ignore the English. Despite the small language hiccup, it was clear by the end of the session progress had been made. Now, they are under a strict deadline to turn in a second draft by tomorrow. I’m sure they’re thrilled about having an assignment right before the weekend!

As I feel this internship creeping to an end, I am trying to accomplish everything I want with them. I’m hoping to organize and lead a workshop with a fellow intern on interview skills. We would provide 2 hours of basic english and basic interviews Dos and Donts, then following, 2 hours of interactive games and activities to build confidence and fluency in English. That is the one common denominator between ALL the women, honing their English skills. And in exchange, I want to sharpen my Arabic abilities.

Workshops

For the past two days I have been sitting in on two workshops (in Arabic I may add), one for social media and the other for CV writing and interview skills. They are being conducted for the women who were accepted into Hopes for Women during last years application cycle. Though they are all at different stages of university, they are learning invaluable skills that will create the foundation of future careers. I overheard one of my colleagues say “Social media is the most powerful tool we have at our disposal, when used properly” and I wholeheartedly agree. When used in a way that surpasses the superficiImageal status updates and selfies in the mirror, we have the entire world at our fingerprints. Not to dismiss the usage of social media purely for entertainment, (I admit, I have my fair share of selfies), I think it’s also important fully grasp how we can maximize the tools we have. In addition, the CV and interview skills workshop gives all these students a competitive leg up in the workplace. Emphasizing proofreading when it comes to CVs, sending a thank you note after an interview. It always surprises me how many people don’t take these critical components seriously, they can make or break the opportunity for a prospective job. However, the students have been earnest during the workshops, and I am so grateful to have family, and a college, who have “trained” me in the DOs and DONTs in my career pursuit.

4th of July!

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I spent the first half of my fourth of July moping about not celebrating in the United States, second year in a row, and researching the Syrian diaspora, not exactly uplifting. Towards the late afternoon, a good friend who I had spent last summer with in Palestine invited me out for dinner in al-balad, or downtown Amman. I would say it has the hustle and bustle of New York without the ‘glamor.’ It’s the hub for your average Jordanian and the occasional wide-eyed college student , looking to expand his horizons. What I love the most is it’s off the beaten path for Abdoun* loving socialites who sip on their $10 coffees, relishing in ostentatious privilege.

The not so hidden gem of the balad is the infamous Hashim’s restaurant. Delicious and affordable, also where we happened to be meeting. I was the first to arrive at Hashim’s, so I partook in my favorite past time, people watching. I watched as the waiters rushed in, around, behind, under, every crevice of the restaurant, ushering food to people without skipping a beat. I watched as waiters brought warm bread to tables not on plates, or trays, but in their hands. Promptly plopping the bread down on costumers tables then continuing on their business.

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The “kitchens” are only a couple of square feet, completely open to the public. Each station with its own responsibility. I make it a point to never look too closely into open kitchens, what happens in the kitchen stays in the kitchen. I like to think I was cured of my germaphobia after living in India for three years. So at this point, nothing really phases me. I figured, at this point a few extra unintended ‘ingredients’ probably won’t kill me. Operative word being probably. However, kitchens still frighten me.

As it turns out, we were eating at a barbeque restaurant (meat-meat-meat) down the street, so being a vegetarian I grabbed french fries, a platter of hummus, and a falafel sandwich to go from Hashim’s for around $3 and brought it to the restaurant with me. Now before people wonder where my manners went. I would never, in a million years dream of bringing food from one restaurant to another in the States. However, it’s hard to compare the social etiquette in the States to here. It’s just different. Plus, these were pretty dive-y places. I would be a social outcast caught doing that in Abdoun. In any case, the place we went to was literally in an ally.

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The tables were wedged between two buildings and a fruit stand. When they waiter saw the hummus I had brought over from Hashim’s, he pointed and said zakee (delicious). I guess it’s not weird to acknowledge the competition. I ended up having a great night, starkly different from what I would have done in the states, but the spirit of the holiday was still there.

*(posh area of Amman)

Saturday

As jetlag continues to plague me, I have sought to establish a routine in order to synchronize myself to the right time zone and further settle into my new home. I officially begin work on the 25th, but in the mean time, my boss has designated to me the task of creating a fact sheet on Syrian refugees. She hopes, in the future, to extend the work of Hopes for Women to the influx of new refugees fleeing the civil war in Syria. However, this pursuit poses many difficulties and obstacles making it my responsibility to devise a preliminary scope of the impediments facing Hopes for Women in reaching Syrian women refugees.

In other news, I have finally joined a gym. It happens to be the gym where the all the “beautiful” people of Amman tend to hang out. I’m talking, people who have heavily invested in workout gear, unlike me, happy to run in a school t-shirt and shorts. When first walking into the gym, I was greeted by pulsing techno music and a sea of robust men watching themselves lift weights. To the side there was a large group congregated by the couches drinking overpriced smoothies, with most of the women in full fledged make-up and hair still intact. Though I may not fit into the “scene”, it has pretty incredibly facilities, a smoothie kiosk (a MUST), and centrally located. It also has a wide arrangement of classes like yoga and pilates that I hope to take advantage of. Since I am only here for two months I was given a student-discount and three ‘free’ sessions with a personal trainer. Not a bad deal.

Hopes for Women in Education

After finally dragging myself out of bed around 2pm, I had the opportunity to meet with my boss for the summer. She’s a Jordanian-Canadian who is one of the co-founders of the organization, Hopes for Woman, that I am working with this summer. We met briefly, but she outlined my duties for the summer and I am so excited to be working with her! Before I get into more detail, here’s a quick, brief outline of the Palestinian refugees in Jordan:

  • The 1948 Arab-Israel conflict displaced thousands of refugees, many of whom went to Jordan (as well as Lebanon and Syria)
  • In order to be considered a “refugee” recognized by the United Nations and benefit from their services, they must fall under the definition of “people whose normal place of residence was Palestine between June 1946 and May 1948, who lost both their homes and means of livelihood as a result of the 1948 Arab-Israeli conflict.”[1]
  • This current generation of refugees are decedents of those who fall under the aforementioned category
  • Currently, there are close to 2 million Palestinian refugees living in Jordan, while only 300,000 live in designated camps
  • Most Palestinian refugees have been granted Jordanian citizenship with the exception of around 120,000
  • There are 10 official Palestinian refugee camps in Jordan

The funded research project I will be conducting is studying the social sustainability of Palestinian women refugees living in Jordan in comparison to Jordanian women. My project focus will be to compare and contrast Jordanian and Palestinian women’s access to education, employment opportunities and other social services that support and facilitate self-reliance. The organization I am working with deals with this very question. Every year they send out applications to the various camps for women to apply to in order to be in their program. Hopes for Women receives around 200 applicants, and from there 40 are chosen to come in for a group interview and then it is narrowed down to a select few. The woman selected to be in the program are given funding from donors to attend university in Jordan and in addition to financial resources, are provided with a support system with book clubs, tutoring and other activities. Once they graduate, they are prepped for applying to jobs with CV writing classes and interview skills. I will be working on both ends of the program. I will meet with students individually on fine-tuning their CVs as well as helping with new applicants to the program. I am so excited to be a part of this organization. They are providing much needed support and resources to woman who might otherwise not have the means or opportunities to pursue higher-education.

Sorry this post is a bit long! I might not be blogging for the next couple of days seeing as I am focusing on research at the moment but there will be an update soon enough!

الأردن (Jordan)

After 3 grueling flights (Washington DC to Frankfurt, Frankfurt to Vienna, Vienna to Amman) and almost 24 hours later I have finally arrived in Jordan. Granted, I arrived two days ago, jet lag has thrown off my internal clock and any perception of normalcy. One of my best friends from middle-school (when I used to live in Jordan) offered her home for the summer where I have been comfortably staying since Saturday. She has graciously offered her room which unfortunately has pictures of us from middle-school which no one should ever see. Though she won’t be here this summer, her family has been so hospitable and adopted me. Moving back to Jordan, though temporarily, for the third time has been somewhat surreal. Almost 20 years ago, to the date, I was celebrating my first birthday in this very country. Now, here I am again following my passion and conducting research through an internship for the next two months. I will go into more detail about the internship and the work I am doing, but for now I wanted to give a quick update!