Archive for May, 2012

Muslim Women Leading Change – 10 Power Tools

Tuesday, May 22nd, 2012

(My other Youtube videos can be viewed here)

Around the world, women have less power, money and less protection from violence. They also have less access to education, healthcare and justice. Despite these injustices, women everywhere (including Muslim women) are standing up to claim their rights and becoming powerful forces for change. They are amazingly determined and resourceful in their fight to achieve a better future for themselves, their daughters, their communities and for other women.

However, change does not happen by itself and will not continue to happen unless there is conscious action.  So to help women take that conscious action to make change happen, become empowered and help others to become empowered, I recommend 10 power tools. Women will already be doing some of these – but it is always useful and helpful to have a checklist.

These power tools are (listed in no particular order):

Power Tool 1 – Know Your History

It is important to remember those who came before us including the challenges they faced.  Not knowing your history is like having a tree without any roots.  History can be a source of empowerment because it will tell you that women were not confined to mothering and household duties.  There were female scholars, leaders, judges, philanthropists, scientists, businesswomen, poets, experts in medicine etc.  However, the achievements of these women go unrecognized even in Muslim countries today.  A  coinscious effort should be made to retell the stories of our sisters from the past. To find out more about such women, visit and click on the ‘Big Sisters in History‘ section, where at least 50 women from different centuries and various fields of work have been listed.

Power Tool 2 – Know Your Islamic Rights

The roles of women in society and the barriers they face are determined socially and then justified through culture and religion. Some men and even some women will decide how they want women to behave and then they will package their opinions to make others believe they are the divine will of God. If women have Islamic knowledge, they can no longer be held hostage to patriarchal interpretations of their faith.  If they have knowledge then they can question opinions that limit  women’s lives and women’s choices.   However, it is important to investigate what the Quran says about women first. It is surprising the number of people that have not read the entire Quran in a language they understand and instead rely on secondary sources for their information.  Without reading the Quran how can women anyone know if the secondary sources are misleading or not – whether they are  objective or not? Remember that submission to God is more than carrying out ritual acts with the body. We must also submit intellectually and investigate God’s wisdom.

Power Tool 3 – Define What Power Means to You

Often women are afraid to become leaders because they associate it with power, which they in turn associate with negatives such as: corruption, disempowering others, oppression, gatekeeping, abuse, being obstructive etc.  However, if women start to define what power means to them and associate positive values with it such as: enabling, empowering, educating, giving agency, change catalyst, transformative – then women are more likely to be drawn to leadership.

Power Tool 4 – Define Your Own Goals

Don’t measure yourself by other people’s standards. Everyone can contribute to the best of their own abilities and strengths at different levels of society.  God has given us all different gifts and that means everyone does not have to go out and try and change the world!  You can make small changes happen and these are important too because collectively these lead to the bigger changes. Your goal may be to: go on a course to learn a new skill; express your views in a conversation; do voluntary work; bring up your sons and daughters equally; bring up your sons to respect women’s rights; give your daughters the choices and opportunities you did not have.  Whatever the change, no matter how small, is important.

Power Tool 5 – Have an Action Plan

Once that spark has been ignited and you have set your goals, you will need to give your ideas fuel.  This will come from an action plan – map out the steps you need to take to achieve your goals.  In that plan  define your own identity and create your own space.

Power Tool 6 – Have Courage

You will need courage to: challenge the status quo; speak out against injustices and discrimination; and push boundaries. And you will need to do all these things if you want to see change happen so your daughters and future generations of women can have a better life.

Power Tool 7 – Be Open Minded

Listen to and learn from the wisdom of others and think critically.  We should be listening more than talking.  God has given us two ears and one mouth so we should be listening twice as much as we are talking. We may find solutions and wisdom from the most unexpected places and people.  Be open to learning all the time no matter how old you are and no matter what your status is.

Power Tool 8 – Building and Joining Networks and Movements

You are not alone – remember there are many other women who think like you and have the same aspirations. So connect with other women through networks whether local, regional, national or even global.  If there is no network locally – set one up!  A critical mass of women’s voices is likely to have a greater impact. Through networks, it is easier to: spread messages, and ideas; learn from others; and share experiences and knowledge.  Partnerships, coalitions and movements are usually the driving force to changing attitudes and behaviours.

Power Tool 9 – Make Use of Internet Tools

Because of the internet, you can have an impact without leaving the house.  Find out about all the tools that are available and use as many as you can or need.  There are so many ways to share information through social networks and media such as:  Facebook, Twitter, My Space, Youtube, Vimeo, Tumblr, Pinterest, Instagram, Digg, Reditt, Yahoo buzz etc.  These are just a few ideas! You can even participate in or run your own online training sessions through Webinars (online seminars).  You can even deliver lectures through Skype to people in other cities or even countries! Many websites also allow you to create your own free online petitions in minutes. Free applications allow you to create posters, cartoons and animations that can be used to spread your ideas. So go and explore what is available.

Power Tool 10 – Have a Motivational Slogan

Think of a favourite phrase that you can use as your mantra.  This can be your innermost motivation when you need it.  There will be times in your life journey where you get disappointed because things don’t go your way or you may lose momentum.  Every step toward fulfilling your goals may be draining.   Make sure you have something that you can pull out of the bag to uplift you because your friends cannot be there all the time.

Change doesn’t just happen, we collectively make it happen.  So once you find your own path, lead others to find theirs!

Age No Bar for Action!

Sunday, May 20th, 2012

My daughter Aaliyah Gohir gets her first article published in Eastern Eye – 18 May 2012.  She interviewed the following activists from around the world:

  • Fawzia Koofi (MP from Afghanistan)
  • Zainah Anwar (Director of Musawah, a global Muslim women’s movement – Malaysia
  • Lydia Alpizar Duran (Executive Director of AWID – Mexico)
  • Anna Pelagie (activist – Cameroon)
  • Ester Jarome and Mwandiwe Kali – (farmers from Tanzania)
  • Zoe Blumenfield (Communocation Officer from Global Fund for Women – US)
  • Nannyondo Sarah (student activist – Uganda)
  • Dr Tahmineh Danioli (activist – Iran)

And she interviewed me too! I am so proud of her!

Interview with Afghan MP Fawzia Koofi

Sunday, May 20th, 2012

My 9 year old daughter, Aaliyah Gohir, interviews Afghan MP Fawzia Koofi at the AWID forum in Istanbul April 2012.