Because of Them, We Will

Have you seen those photos circulating on Buzzfeed that show young girls dressed as the bold feminists that came before them- part of the international photography project, Because of Them, We Can? If you haven't, they're worth a look- young children dress to resemble the gender equality revolutionaries from both the past and present that are blazing the trail for a brighter, more equitable future- from Susan B. Anthony to Sacajawea, Frida Kahlo to Malala Yousafiszi. It's homage to those that came before us, and a way to teach children about the strong activists and leaders that paved a way for women's rights.

Yet in places like Palestine, there's not always a plethora of female leaders to look up to- given the societal restrictions and slow rates of women's participation, it's difficult to point to major icons or celebrated figures that have made major impact for equality. That's why The Women's Group at TYO seeks to fill this gap, as we encourage mothers to understand the key role that communicate has in their children's lives. In the past two weeks, The Women's Group has discussed communication with children and marital communication- emphasizing that children learn by looking at what their parents do, so it's critical for families to be modeling gender equality at home. By creating an environment where men and women both share housework, responsibilities, and decision-making, concepts of gender equality and women's rights are communicated to young boys and girls- and give them a strong reference point for how they should be respected, and respect others.

Specifically, a group of social workers, counselors, and psychologists from community partners like the Yafo Cultural Center, Palestinian Working Women's Society for Development, and the YMCA lent their voices to The Women's Group, providing interactive seminars where women could gain a thorough understanding of strengths-based communication, positive reinforcement, and communication for various developmental stages with children.

TWG Participants take part in a communication exercise, writing down the traits that make-or break- conversations between husbands and wives.

While mothers and kids in Palestine might not have Michelle Obama or Janet Reno to look to as inspiration, participants in The Women's Group have been working on becoming similar role models for their children by focusing on a few themes embodied by key inspirational leaders:

  • Alice Walker said that "the most common way people give up their power is by thinking that they don't have any." This is posted on the walls of The Women's Group, and we've been pressing to instill this as we talk about communication. Speakers have led vibrant discussions about a woman's need to be confident in what she's saying- and not deferring to her husband's, or extended family's, decision-making because she feels she doesn't have a voice. We've discussed that the only way to pass on power to daughters is by demonstrating it at home- instead of shying away and letting men lead.
  • Cheryl Boone Isaacs, President of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science, is quoted in the photo project as saying "when a light shines brightly, it lasts a really long time." That's what we're driving home- literally- in The Women's Group, as we talk about how a child's impression of her parents- and her mother's role in the family- can make a lifetime impact. As we talk about being strong role models for daughters, we know we're not just talking about the current generation- but influencing Palestine for years to come.
  • Olympic gymnasts Dominique Dawes and Gabby Douglas are quoted that "the hard days are the best days, because that's where champions are made." Whether it's been in a grueling game of volleyball in this week's fitness class or finding the courage to be positive after difficult days at home, we've been equipping moms with the right resources- and optimism- that change can be made in their lives, and that their daughters' don't have to face the same challenges they have.

So while Palestine doesn't yet have many such role models and heroes in the public sector, that doesn't mean it's not slowly happening in homes- and we anticipate the day when there's even more reason to celebrate the generations before us here in Nablus.

-Cayce, Women's Empowerment Coordinator