Josephine, Nissrine, Nicole
So we’ve been trying to address the issue of women’s leadership and mentorship at Nasawiya in critical and innovative ways. A working group of 20 young feminists met in Amman for a conference of a new network called ALWANE and has been meeting regularly since. We came up with a bunch of ideas – one of which is to publish a book of inspiring women leaders in Lebanon. We also wanted to build a sort of solidarity network in which successful women support younger women in their ambitions. It’s hard to find successful formal mechanisms to do so that aren’t a little fabricated or imposing. You kinda wish all women would just know that’s what they should do and you wonder why they don’t.
In the midst of all this thinking, I noticed that some really cool mentoring relationships were emerging in and of themselves within the working group. Here’s my favorite story yet.
Nissrine (26), who is part of the working group, realized that one must take on leadership roles and not just talk about them. She then decided to run for municipal council elections in her village (which had never had a female council member before). She called up Josephine whom she had met at the Nasawiya retreat last year, and who is the only female council member of a neighboring village. Nissrine and Josephine sat and talked, discussing politics of running for elections and challenges women face. Josephine gave her unconditional support. A month later, Nissrine won the seat in her council. The support relationship happened beautifully and organically – nobody advised Nissrine to contact Josephine, nobody asked Josephine to support Nissrine, it just happened because the two women had met in a space that was conducive to these kinds of relationships.
And it didn’t stop there.
Nissrine, now a member of the council wanted to support younger girls from her village. So she called up some of the parents to let them know about the Girl Geek Camp and got Nicole (16) to register. Nicole is a brilliant teen, full of energy and enthusiasm, and was the life of the Geek Camp. She learned how to make videos and build websites and use social media. She also learned about feminism and migrant rights and social justice. She is our newest Nasawiya member now and a natural leader who looks up to Nissrine and takes pride in having someone so young and supportive sitting on the municipal council.
And there you have it. Three young generations of women who are looking out for each other. Again, nobody asked them to. Nobody enrolled them in a program that encouraged them to. It just happened on its own.
Perhaps the lesson one can learn is that our task is to simply build spaces where women can find their common struggle and trust that it will somehow inspire them to act in solidarity with one another.