Workshop Helps Future Women Leaders

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By Amanda Eisenberg

An Indian, an Egyptian and a Jew walk into a room. While this may sound like the start of a tired joke, it is anything but.

The Jewish-Muslim Women’s Leadership Initiative hosted 13 women on March 3 for a workshop promoting conflict resolution methods and women’s roles in peace building, said Sachi Edwards, a graduate assistant for the program and a doctoral candidate at this university.

Part of the all-day workshop included viewing and dissecting the film Arranged. The film depicts two first-year teachers; one a devout Muslim and the other an Orthodox Jew. In the film, a third teacher questioned the friendship, suggesting their religions should make them hate each other.

“When is it going to stop being about land and pride,” said sophomore biochemistry major Somayah Eltoweissy. “There is a mutual respect and modesty with both religions. We respect ourselves, so we should respect others.”

Freshman marketing and anthropology double major Naomi Lieberman added, “Every religion believes that they are correct, you wouldn’t be practicing if you didn’t believe in the principles.”

Keynote speaker and facilitator Barbara Wien critiqued the movie as showcasing the commodification of women.

“We are not complete if we can’t find a man,” said the American University professor of international conflict and peace resolution. “They are 22 and have to get married.”

One of the Muslim participants giggled that Mr. Right will be in the engineering or science fields. A Jewish participant immediately responded with “No, he’ll be a doctor or a lawyer!”

A consensus was reached by all of the women that there is a checklist for what makes a man husband material. Regarding marriage, Muslim men are allowed to marry any woman regardless of her religion. In contrast, marrying out of the Jewish faith among Orthodox Jews is prohibited.

“The woman is the conveyor,” said Dr. Sahar Khamis, an assistant professor of communication at this university. “Women are very powerful, even in traditional society. They are in charge of shaping and caring for the child. It is the power of women to make change.”

Noor Tagouri, another woman on the quest for change, aspires to be the first Hijabi anchor on American television. She is on her way to accomplishing her dreams. The junior broadcast journalism major has over 4,000 followers on Twitter, and travels across the country to speak at schools.

“It truly was a day of enlightenment, tolerance and peace. We took on the roles of being women peacemakers today and it was so empowering,” said Tagouri. “The biggest obstacle in trying to bring peace is when people do not believe in peace in the first place.”

The women who attended the event intend to start a campaign to educate others about their peace-building initiative.

“Women have played the role of non-violent peacemakers countless times in history,” Tagouri said.  “We don’t want to bring anyone to their knees, we want to bring people to their senses.”

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