Recap of the 3rd Round of Workshps

Third round of exploring the taboos was actually different from the first two rounds; it was not directly set to tackle issues of taboos “mainly sexuality” since our country-being part of the MENA- sexuality is the most fundamental taboo topic. This round came after the 25th Egyptian “Youth Revolution” and so it has a certain specific nature, we decided that we can’t be left outside history and so we designed our workshop as a storytelling to the revolution from gender perspective, sexuality subsiding, cultural norms and LGBTS presence.

The workshop is designed for three days; unfortunately this workshop was only two days, and since each day different group attended. Doaa Abdelalla said” it is very hectic to open up and share, it’s very exhausting to be naked and wear your hearts on your sleeves” , and so as the project’s coordinator I came to be satisfied with the two days and very thankful for those who participated and opened up.

The first day I had the pleasure that my dear friend Tarek Mostapha assist me and that we take each other hands step by step in managing the day. The participants have all been females. M A is a young divorced beautifully spirited woman, who lives with her parents and children. She took off the veil and faces her small and big society with the same beautiful intelligent charisma. S B is proudly our eldest participant who is English Egyptian and lives in Egypt for more than 30 years, a smart humanist who believes in the importance of relating to our humanity than religion. M SH is our researcher participant who didn’t share much yet her silence was more of comforting than irritating. Lastly SH A is our drama teacher participant who had a sharp input who although didn’t share much yet had a clear vision and total understanding and sense of the human drama.

This day we had a slight diversion from the field “the independent state of Tahrir” as some people like to call Tahrir Sqaure. It was mostly the female input to the cultural norms and gender roles that aroused the revolution. There has been a very important discussion on the difference between “haram- religiously forbidden” and “aib – not socially accepted”. We had the understanding that it is very hard to conquer the misleading interpretation of religion and it’s more logical that we maneuver around topics that are submissive to women, since social statuses and constraints against women are coated with religion to suppress and deny women their rights which leads to women being very skeptical about their sexualities, and gender roles. Those gender roles that are forced upon women and sometimes men, who don’t conform to the traditional roles of masculinity; have left bitter sweet scares in all of us, the remembrance of the field and the “faces of angels” as one of our participants has described the protesters in one of her blog notes, the remembrance of harmony and safety and sense of security and acceptance, was also accompanied by the remembrance of refusal and skepticism post revolution and the traditionalism that didn’t just disappear that has to do with women’s submissiveness and sexual aggression as was clear in Women’s International Day as Tarek mentioned in one of his blog notes, and how sexuality being the main motivator of our country, men still use sexual aggression to terrify women.

The second day:

This day will definitely be very memorable for me. It is the first time that I manage a workshop that ends up with proudness and inspiration.
Let us not start with saying who the participants are as they will speak of themselves through the lines. It started with this discussion on the concept of the revolution, facebook, twitter and skepticism. We all understood that there might be something going to happen on the 25th but no one knew how far would it go and how many would be there, but surely we never expected it would lead to Mubarak stepping down.

Let me say that this second day marks the sincerity of Nazra taking in and embracing the LBGT community through their stories and how at Nazra we together changed what minorities is.

Minorities:

Opposing discourse.

Those whose voice are not heard

Those who are not part of the main stream, against what culture imposes and those practicing patriarchy.

It’s not democratic and degrading.

It’s those who consider themselves minorities.

It’s nice to be “minority” as special and not a victim.

It’s societal syndrome

These are some of the opinions we got out of the workshop to what is considered minorities.

We then headed to what thinking against social context minority\majority. And it took the turn to the discussion around whether democracy actually forces a minority\majority stance or is it an intended exclusion from the majorities to the minorities, or is it that those “minorities” choose to withdraw, but then there is a majority that is positively active and also negatively active; and still there is the democracy of action and of subject that creates and dismantles minorities.
Okay!!! So why did the participants actually turned to the “Independent State of Tahrir”, some just felt that there are people depending on you and so you go out there for them, searching and aiming for something bigger than oneself, something deeper and not understandable at the moment, that goes beyond the feeling of being a minority.

But then, what about the LGBT s of the Tahrir Square and how people reacted towards them during and after the revolution? There was a feeling that the LGBT were deceived by the Tahrir spirit of acceptance, which one participant analyzed it that the people in Tahrir who faked acceptance were thinking that the more the merrier even if those people were trash. And others looked at it with the perspective that, we were all for something bigger than ourselves and so we needn’t concentrate on the personal lives of each one. But then, we came to the understanding that we need to mobilize our rights, because the personal is political.

Again why did we go the revolution? Because some were overwhelmed nothing more nothing less, and going beyond reality feeling safety because of the number of people whether those people have we have been to demonstrations before or not since it’s something unique and different than any other revolting experience that we have been trough.

There has been this phenomenon that girls were pushing their guy friends to the front while the guys were pushing them back, these genders roles are proven to be nothing but fake illusions sometimes.

But then, when do we feel most traumatized? It turned clearly that it is when someone we love gets hurt, we can see blood falling off our faces and others falling back but when those who are the cause for us to fight are injured it is when we realize that we need to sustain them to sustain ourselves to have the fight of our lives.

Solidarity and accusations were still part of our society, as a participant mentioned a bearded pharmacist refused to help them because of how they were dressed and being of both sexes and moving together; but then someone else would give them directions and show solidarity even if they are not physically joining.

Let me say that these young people all agreed that the bloody 28th of January was the best day of their lives because of the solidarity and intimacy and feeling of liberty and harmony beyond any explanation.

We still can’t deny the moments of nervous breakdowns and feeling desperate, and the material loses that yet didn’t let anyone them lose hope in the revolution; as one participant mentioned how his father’s antiques shop got robbed and he had to be armed all night in the street guarding with those guarding and still, still they didn’t judge the revolution.

Let me finalize the documentation with all respect and love to everyone and choosing to believe that the third day was not attended due to prior commitments and overwhelming experience with this much openness and clarity.

Third Round of Workshops Planned

Posted by Nawara Belal

The third round will be set on the 15th, 16th and 17th of March (16th is the Egyptian Woman’s Day). It will be a story telling workshop (our stories from the field, hekayatna men el midan) by both genders on the revolutionary women stories and those who couldn’t participate and why. There will be documentation to the stories told, by Nazra team by our Vado camera.

The three days will be storytelling; Mozn (executive director) will start with an introduction about gender sensitivity and feminism pre and post the revolution. By the end of the workshop we will discuss the future of feminism post the revolution. The team will work on supporting the potentials of the participants in on line media and videography by giving them the material already prepared. The team will encourage the participants to create their own blogs and document their stories themselves. And give them a hint about www.thesexieststories.blogspot.com (anonymous blog for sexuality).

Group One Fellow up

After intensive training sessions that lasted for 3 days, the trainees were obliged to submit contributions about sexuality issues in Egypt .The trainees are free to choose whatever they like to tackle in the various issues of sexuality , how they want to contribute in whatever  module they want and for sure they were free to  keep their anonymity or not .

The follow up phase is coordinated by Fatma Emam and Ramy Raoof; we are offering the trainees technical and academic support.

We have received 4 posts from our trainees and looking forward to receive more in the upcoming weeks.

We are happy with what we have till now, because the outcome showed that the trainees were able to benefit from the training, that they managed to start 3 new blogs and they also managed to start questioning their own deeply rooted norms about the appropriate gender roles and other related issues

I do not want to be over optimistic, we still have more to do, however the beginnings are really promising

Group One is here !

Nazra team is implementing phase one of the training, the training took place from 5 to 8 August 2010. The hot weather and upcoming Ramadan heated the perpetration of phase 1; we were doing our best to hold the first group of training before the holy month of Muslims.

The training was divided into three categories in the three squeezed days, day 1 was conducted by Bassam Mortda, and he offered the trainees insights about the citizen media, video blogging and how to create a visual post.

Day 2 the heated day, the theoretical day which was conducted by Mozn Hassan and Doaa Abdelaal, the trainers opened a disscusion about the sexuality theory and its manifestations in the Egyptian society. Nazra team was insisting on securing a safe place for the trainees to question the taboos and to lead a participatory non hierarchical debate where the trainees feel encouraged to suggest initiatives and discuss whatever they like freely.

Frankly, I was really excited that day that I found many noteworthy statements and arguments have been raised, so I tweeted live in this day.

And the last day was gain technical and was conducted by Ramy Raoof about social media and digital security

This a brief for the training of group 1, stay tuned to know more about the follow up pahse

Overview to the progress of the project

I have many updates to write about, let’s start with the call of applications and the selected applicants. The project started its phases with call for application for participation. We tried to examine the attitudes of the applicants in the application, we asked about certain issues related to sexuality to know whether the participants will be open to discuss these issues or not and we got different answers, some showed rigid attitude refusing to discuss these taboo, other said they can discuss it within the acceptable societal norms and others showed ability to discuss it freely.

The answers were clear enough to know who will be able to participate and who can not, we set this criterion because Exploring Taboos is not awareness raising training, it is advocacy and technical training and it needs participants with minimum degree of openness about the topic.

Many meetings took place, some between the team of the project to coordinate the tasks and other meetings were held with Rising Voices representative Eddie Avila , who visited Cairo to meet with the three grantees of Rising Voices. In this meeting Eddie informed us about the role of Rising Voices in empowering and supporting its grantees and Nazra team tried to share its ideas and inform Eddie about its plans.

Eddie met three applicants as well, that was important to hear different point of impression about the project, personally I was happy when I met the applicants, although the applications help to know about the applicants , but dialogue is a magical tool to know more about people, I know more about three of our ten participants and I am really happy about what I discovered

We announced the accepted applicants, and we are planning to hold the training this week, we are really in rush not only because we want everything perfect, but we want to settle everything before Ramadan.

Looking forward to start the training in Thursday and looking forward to fruitful discussion.

 

Why are we expolring Taboos?

There many taboos in the Egyptian culture, we can sum them up in three main categories: religion, politics and sex. Protection zone created of traditional ideas are surrounding these taboos and because of that, they are not questionable .however there are attempts to break the silence and create societal dialogues about political issues, but still the religion and sex are guarded taboos that a minority dared to discuss.

Nazra team is interested to study the dynamics of gender politics, by this we mean how and why the gender relations and roles are shaped in certain ways and how does this affect the public and private sphere and how the state and society are interfering in the individual life through imposing regulations of conducts and behavior rules

  Nazra team is trying to dig in the societal norms and traditions for better understanding to the gender politics in the Egyptian society and through that digging we came across the sexuality taboo and how it is a crosscutting issue with many other subjects related to gender roles, traditions, norms and values.

We decided to break the societal silence not only by debating but by using alternative social media to create a momentum