The Egyptian cultural scene is alive and thriving. Books are being translated and written like never before. Through literature, poetry, painting and rap people express their inner thoughts and dreams. Women take a large and active part in this silent but expressive revolution.
The happy speakers
Women’s conference in Alexandria:
As in several African countries, it’s the women who manage the family’s economy. They are also statistically the best educated even if most of them don’t join the workforce afterwards. I discovered their determination and enthusiasm during a three-day long international conference at the Bibliotheca Alexandrina (Women gathering for Change) organized by the Human Foundation (www.hfegypt.org ) and moderated by the famous journalist Shahira Amin (interviewed in article to follow).
On top of numerous interesting speeches, a few remarkable films were shown such as Megan McFeeley’s “As She Is” and Shamin Ahmnad’s “The Rainboy in a Heart”. We also had the time to mingle and talk to each other during these intensive days and I even discovered what an “energy labyrinth” was. Ophelia, from the USA, had brought along a gigantic painting she had made with circles in bright colours. I walked on it, as instructed, and when I came out of the circles, to my utter astonishment, I felt like a light-bulb, all energy despite the long day (www.earthspiritjourneys.com ).
Utopia or a near future?
Dr. Ismail Serageldin, the library’s director, inaugurated the conference with encouraging words about gender equality and the importance of education, especially for women. He pinpointed to the fact that women’s rights are equal to human rights and that women have to play a more active role in peace-building. “We are at the dawn of a new era – an era that is about human relations where women play the leading role”.
“However this conference isn’t about feminism as such but about the feminine side that is imbedded in each individual”, Aliaa Rafea – the founder of Human Foundation – reminded the audience. Already the ancient Egyptian gods and goddesses showed the importance of an inner balance to reach outer balance, she explained and reminded me of a feminine Mahatma Gandhi with her peace message. “It’s time to understand that we’re all unified and that there isn’t any separation between individuals, that’s but an illusion.”
Dena Merriam, founder of the Global Peace Initiative of Women (in 2002), nodded her head. She’s been working with oecumenical organizations since the 90:s. “Women’s voices are needed like never before because the world is facing huge challenges. Climate changes as well as political upheavals. We’ll see new societal models take shape going from an elitist position to a more cooperative way of handling society. It can take yet some decades but a new world model is being shaped.” She also pinpointed to the fact that women have an inner wisdom thanks to their natural link to Mother Earth – through their own childbearing possibilities.
Another interesting speaker and organiser was Dr. Sharon Mijares, an American psychologist and university professor, who travels extensively giving lectures about the role of women and the importance of cooperation. She’s published and co-authored the book “A Force such as the World has never known: Women Creating Change”. Some of her fellow writers attended the conference too. Sharon emphasized how we already witness the changes from old myths to modern ones where women/girls are strong and independent. They are present among others in the modern Disney films and of course we Swedes know them from Astrid Lindgrens’ books about Pippi Longstocking. Sharon also reminded us that women aren’t only gentle creatures: we can become quite ferocious and roar like enraged animals at least when our kids are threatened. Furthermore, Mother Earth defends herself by moving mountains and creating valleys through tremendous earthquakes. So beware!
From Tubu-tubu to health care:
It’s impossible to give enough credit to all speakers in one article but I would like to mention a few exciting newly discovered ideas: in Japan there is a food-revolution going on! Tubu-tubu is based on different home-grown grains that are cooked in a variety of dishes without using any meat or dairy products. It also adapts to different cultures. Although among the wine- and cheese-loving Frenchmen I wonder how well it would work?
For the ones among us who still hadn’t had the pleasure of discovering these benefits and have gotten a few kilos extra, there is nevertheless hope. Either though hypnosis, where we learned that we can be operated upon “in our minds” or by practicing Qi Gong and discover our inner energy with which to improve our health, according to an Italian professor.
Stress can also be relieved through changes in the world’s enterprises. Women are more pro-active when they do small but numerous personal deals (horizontal thinking) while men prefer to concentrate on a few rich clients (vertical thinking) a Russian Sufi speaker explained to the mesmerized audience. Swedish Lovisa told us about the “Tea-spoon order”. We can all contribute to create a better society by doing our small part. Their organization’s book “How to cure a fanatic” by Amos Oz has been given out for free to all Swedish schools. Someone else told us that another way of helping out is to act as mentors for younger generations. A courageous Egyptian woman hailed the revolution: “at Tahrir, everybody spoke to everybody, despite age, gender, religious or other differences. That’s what we must continue to do in the future.”
Bibliotheca Alexandrina sees from the outside
It’s equilibrium between the feminine and the masculine that’s needed for our world to thrive. In French there is a word for the feminine side living in each one of us called “féminitude” – feminitude in English – a word I prefer to use rather than “feminism” that has become somewhat derogatory. It’s the caring, warm side in us that needs developing to counter the dominant, dark and destructive side that can only lead to humanity’s fall. Men also need to develop their positive masculine, protective side.
A new, peaceful world is indeed taking shape, slowly but surely, reflecting an inner harmonious world. Despite or maybe because the world is in such a dire state, we can’t be lazy about these changes though. We need to transmute our shadows to light. Only when we’ve had the courage to look deeply into our selves can we hope for an outer change.
To conclude, I’d like to add a few lines about Isis, the Egyptian goddess (and Mother Mary’s precursor) whose husband, the god Osiris, was murdered by his brother Seth. He then spread the chopped body parts all over Egypt but Isis finally managed to assemble them and gave him a new life. She then birthed their son Horus. The balance between the masculine and the feminine was thus accomplished through a woman and in Egypt.
We’ve now come full circle with this conference, taking place in one of the most ancient of lands. Women are picking up the pieces and assembling them for the world to become complete once more. The silent revolution is under way but just wait and see: it might very well wake up and roar before birthing the new earth!
Anne Edelstam, Alexandria.