Muslim women engage community at town hall meeting
By Anela Jadunandan
(April 19, 2011) – A town hall discussion titled “Community Conversations – Women in Action – Obstacles, Opportunities & Successes” attracted over 50% males to hear what the Muslim women panellists had to say.
Sponsored by DawaNet, the forum which is part of the organization’s Community Development Program (CDP) series, was held on April 17th and featured three Muslim women who related their experiences about how they balance their spirituality, family life, professional priorities, and community activism.
The speakers at the forum were Farheen Khan a consultant, writer and social activist; Fatma Nurmohamed an entrepreneur, homeschooling mother, and community organizer; and Rabia Khedr a consultant, trainer, and community organizer. The town hall was moderated by Farina Siddiqui
“CDP is an interactive series of town-hall discussions and workshops to help Muslim volunteers, activists, and leaders in the community to develop themselves spiritually and organizationally to be effective agents of social change,” according to DawaNet organizers.
Asked to describe what drove them to being community activists and passionate about their role in society, the panellists used words like, “driven, determined, meticulous, compassionate, making a difference, and contributing to the broader Canadian society”.
Farheen Khan related an incident soon after 9/11 when she was almost physically attacked for being a Muslim (she managed to escape) and another when after reaching in her purse to get her car keys, two men next to her nervously put up their hands to surrender because they thought she was going to hurt them.
Rabia Khedr, who is visually impaired, inspired the audience when she spoke about the challenges and victories of bringing up children as well as managing a career.
Khedr articulately described her struggles of getting a university education despite her disability.
She now works as a consultant and is often called upon to provide training in the non-profit sector and in large corporations.
Khedr said her strength is not in “pinning matching socks together” (she pays someone to do that for her), but teaching others on how to deal with issues and advocating for fairness and human rights.
Fatma Nurmohamed, who had to choose between a career and staying at home to bring up her family, spoke of her experiences in juggling many roles.
She recounted her experience of being a hijab-wearing mother who coached her child’s soccer team and took them all the way to the championship.
The victory stunned many naysayers who, at first, thought it out of place to see a Muslim woman actively partaking in her child’s sport.
“Now, even the male coaches show me respect,” said Nurmohamed.
Some parting advices of the women were, “Live every day with no regret”; “Be an excellent role model”; “I do it to give back to society because I grew up hungry.”
Earlier in the program, community activist Nabeel Hassan spoke about the Muslim Scholarship Fund that is posted on the Peel District School Board’s website.
For application forms, please visit: http://www.peel.edu.on.ca/student/learning/scholarship.htm
DawaNet was started in 2000 and aims to pioneer community projects that empower people and organizations ‘to lead, link, serve, and share.’