Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Laila .. Hold your Ground

This Post is part of Kolena Laila initiative

I chose to wear the Hijab when i was 15 years old. My family was against this decision and my mum tried to convince me to delay this step claiming that I am too young and when I join college and see my friends dressing up and changing hair styles every now and then I would get jealous and might take it off. But I held my ground. it was my life and I had the right to choose. Now, it has been 14 years 5 months and 15 days and i have never regretted this decision.

I chose to join the Faculty of Arts and study English Literature. If you are familiar with the educational system in Egypt you would know that the Faculty of Arts is not exactly classified as one of the top faculties to join. My grades were really high and my family tried to convince me to join something else, but I loved Literature and I knew I wouldn't be comfortable studying anything else. So I held my ground. it was my life and I had the tight to choose. It has been 8 years since i have graduated and i have never regretted this decision.

I chose to travel and work in a different country. Once and opportunity came in the horizon I had to seize the chance to enhance my career. Again my parents were hesitant and as usual my mum was sick worried about here little kid who would live and work in a different country away from her and faces life all alone (I was 26 then by the way) but I didn't yield and I held my ground, it was my life and I had the right to choose.

If there is something I am really proud of in my whole life, it is my ability to always decide and choose for myself when it comes to things that really matters, things I am passionate about and things that will shape my future.

So you can imagine how mad I get when someone tries to convince me that wearing the Hijab is the result of peer pressure or brain washing and not my free will.

You can imagine how mad i get when i find laws are being drafted to force me into wearing or not wearing whatever I choose.

How mad I get when someone tries to undermine my achievements and tells me that as a Muslim woman I shouldn't be working and that the only place i belong to is at home.

When I see people forcing things on me I can't help but wonder what gave them the right to decide for me? Do they have any idea who am I?

I am Laila ... God created me with a brain and a strong will to decide and choose my path in life. I don't need you to tell me what to do. what to wear or how to live. I don't want anyone to force anything on me under the claims of religion, social norms or women's rights. Once you force something on me you then take away from me God's own gift .. my free will and the right to choose.

So, to all the Lailas out there, here is the bottom line:
Be brave and always hold your ground

Monday, December 14, 2009

Kolena Laila!

The first time I heard about Kolena Laila was through a tweet from my cousin. I was really intrigued to find out more about it. I mean, why Laila? Why not Samia, or Rawya or any other name?

Kolena Laila or "We are all Laila" is a virtual initiative on the blogosphere that calls to review values and prevalent ideas related to females, and how society enacts them with no consideration of their impact on women themselves. The call here is not to propagate a certain value or culture, but it is rather a call to criticize and review our own daily behavior, with a true desire to change and purify our attitudes in life.

The idea started with a group of female bloggers, and despite the fact that Kolena Laila was founded by bloggers from Egypt, the founders assure that it is for all Arab women in general, not only Egyptians.

Why Laila?

Simple, it is an adoption of the heroine’s name from the novel "The Open Door", written by the Egyptian novelist "Latifa El Zayyat", which was turned into a movie later on starring the famous actress Faten Hammama, It’s one of my favorite movies by the way.

In "The Open Door" Laila represents Egyptian girls who suffer oppression and injustice in Egyptian society during the time of the Suez Canal Crisis. The novel features Laila's struggle with the community to prove the importance of the role of women in this society.

Of course comparing our position now and Laila’s then I have to admit that we are way better but unfortunately you still find some similarities in how some women are being oppressed, suffering from lack of freedom and not being acknowledged as an element of society. Now, whoever is reading this post please note the word some because I don’t believe in generalizing stuff and it is a fact that only some women face these issues.

Previous Kolena Laila Days

So far there have been 3 Kolena Laila Days; the first day was held on 9th September 2006, the second on 9th September 2007 and the third held on 19th October 2008. Though the initiative started with women bloggers only but later on men were invited to join the dialogue as the main aim of the initiative was to shed the light on oppression and other problems faced by women in the region that are not just the creation of men alone, but women have contributed to them as well.

Kolena Laila 2009

Once again it is time for Laila to speak up, this year Kolena Laila seeks to extend the experience to include as many Arab countries as possible and participation is open for men, women and anyone who feel they have a say about Arab women.

Kolena Laila is seeking bloggers to join and help in this year's initiative which will start on the 24th of December and end on the 30th of the same month.

Come on everyone it’s time for our voice to be heard. If you want to know more about how you could participate and how the process goes you can contact me on marwayehia@kolenalaila.com (forgot to mention I volunteered to be their UAE representative)

For further info and an overview of last years entries
Arabic Website - English Website