Woman to Woman: Building Peace through Dialogue
Director, Connection Point Initiative
“In both Western and predominantly Arab and Muslim societies the international political arena is dominated by men, and our social structures characterized by insidious patriarchy. Our problems do not lie in our differences, which are not as stark as we believe them to be. Rather, our problems are rooted in a lack of direct communication and interaction.”
Arab, Muslim, and Western women need to sit down and talk to one another – now. Persistent misunderstanding about the ‘other’ – cultural, religious, political, and otherwise – is only contributing to an increasingly tense relationship between the ‘West’ and the Arab and Muslim ‘world.’ There is a lack of mutual respect on both sides, and a strong need for cross-cultural exchange to address this issue.
In both Western and predominantly Arab and Muslim societies the international political arena is dominated by men, and our social structures characterized by insidious patriarchy. Our problems do not lie in our differences, which are not as stark as we believe them to be. Rather, our problems are rooted in a lack of direct communication and interaction. We must own up to the role we have played in maintaining a contentious relationship between our societies – through our complacency, through our unwillingness to consider and appreciate the circumstances of the ‘other,’ and through our strong aversion to self-reflection.
We need to talk – now. Many of us are advocating for inclusion in political processes, for equal wages in the workplace, for empowerment in the economic sector. We are advocating for a say in decision-making processes related to our health, for agency that will allow us to succeed and lead fulfilling lives in any arena that we choose. We are continually increasing our presence in the public space – and indeed in the virtual world of the internet, where women are the majority users on social networks. To ensure women’s inclusion at every level, we must consider our social responsibilities as global citizens and our growing ability to impact relationships at an international level.
So, let’s talk. This fall we launched a pilot of the Connection Point Dialogues, a program aimed at bringing together Arab and Muslim women and women from the West to directly engage with one another through facilitated discussions using videoconferencing technology. Four groups of women met for two hour weekly dialogue sessions, over a 7-week period between October and December 2012. They discussed a range of topics including, but not limited to:
- Concepts of identity and gender roles, and their impact on worldviews
- The role of women in social movements
- The role of the media in impacting perceptions of women’s status in Western and Arab and Muslim societies
- The use of religion in politics and its impact on gender roles in both regions
Our pilot was incredibly successful, and we are excited to report that we have over 100 women from dozens of countries around the world on the waiting list for our upcoming spring 2013 dialogues. We are inspired by the high level of interest from women across the globe who are willing to dedicate their time and engage with one another in this peacebuilding effort. However, we need your help to grow the program and make it happen! We invite you to take ownership of your role in our global community, and make a contribution today to our Connection Point Dialogues Indiegogo campaign. Please leave a comment of support, and share the link with your friends and networks! We are counting on you to help us grow a global grassroots movement of women who work collectively to breakdown stereotypes, and create social change by building positive relationships between Western societies and predominantly Arab and Muslim societies.
Get involved with Connection Point Dialogues:
*This is an updated version of a May 2012 post, Why We Need to Talk—Now.*
The views and opinions expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Peace X Peace.