Women's Empowerment and Leadership Development for Democratisation

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The WLUML-WELDD Butterfly Effect: Internalizing Human Rights

Published Date: 
Friday, September 25, 2015

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Salma*, from Cairo, had her first contact with WLUML through the WELDD feminist leadership workshops in 2013. 

It wasn’t until she attended the workshops that she realized her approach to activism was not only self-destuctive, but also, counter-productive.

“I was a heavy smoker of shisha,” she says. “I smoked everyday. Also, I didn't exercise at all, worked weekends and even when I took a few days off, I would feel guilty for not working.” 

Salma* confesses that she felt herself depressed about her surroundings, and helpless on how to change them: “I felt I was never able to disconnect. There was just never enough time to do all the things I wanted to do.” 

This is where the self-care portion of the WELDD workshops helped her the most. This portion taught participants the importance of taking care of themselves for the sake of the larger goal, and how self-sustainability is an enormous part of being a successful change-maker. “The self-care workshops helped me disconnect and encouraged me to take days off without feeling guilty.”

Now, Salma* says, “I am smoking much less now, only about once or twice a week, have joined a gym and also started to eat healthier.”

“I have now understood that in order for to take care of others, I have to take care of myself first.”

Indeed, this is a vital lesson for anyone working in any field.

For Salma*, this was not the only significant change she experienced. She shares how the workshops expanded her understanding of culture versus religion, of interpretations and how they can be used to manipulate, of human rights and how they relate to cultural justification.

“After the workshops, and meeting the trainers such as Doaa Abdelaal, Ayesha Imam, Edna Aquino and several others, it was clear to me the difference between culture and religion. Ayesha’s exercise on how culture changes through time was an excellent example. When I went back to my team, I trained them afresh on all the same activities. For example, my team now understands that working from a human rights perspective doesn't mean going against religion—it simply means asking for a shift in perspective.”

Salma* sums up her experience in perfectly succinct words that would undoubtedly resonate with anyone involved with activism. “I used to believe because I have the privilege of coming from a comfortable, well-educated, middle-class family, that I can speak English, that I live in a good and safe area, that I have to constantly redeem myself. But now I know that it’s not about redemption. It’s about using this privilege for change.” 

Salma’s* powerful words ring through all our ears as we go forward in our individual missions.


*Name changed for the sake of privacy.



Political and Public Participation
Culturally Justified Violence Against Women
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