Wednesday 6 November 2013

Building a strong link with Calthorpe Women's Center

Me, Suzan, and Annika  meet the Calthorpe projet's team.  I was very excited to know more about this women's center. we share a great time within the gardening session, in the big, but beautiful garden. 

Of course, we plan to go again ..... 

Preparing the New Women's Visit (march 2014) ......

Me and Suzan started to visite some women's center essentialy in Camden. 
We went to Crossroads, but also to Hopscoth Asian Women's Center. 

We were so happy to speak about the next women's visit, and why it's so important to meet the Palestinian women, and to share a lot of interesting things.

We are also looking for twelve british particpants to live during ten days a amazing experience.

Saturday 13 April 2013

Report of the residential

I arrived late on Friday evening, about 10:30. I think most people had arrived in dribs and drabs through the evening so everyone was in a flutter of introductions and discussions of the upcoming week. I was really excited to see some old friends amongst all the new faces. There was a really cosy feel and I quickly got changed into my pyjamas – hair down, slippers on, so I would feel as at home as everyone else.

On Saturday morning we were up early for a full English (veggie style!) which was delicious, although I wasn’t convinced the Palestinian women appreciated it in its traditional form. There was some suspicion over how integral a part of the meal baked beans were and there was a lot of blueberry jam on toast being eaten with eggs and mushrooms. Shocking!!

After breakfast we all sat in a circle on the mattresses in the main room and went through some of the plans for the project and what we wanted to get out of it. I said that I wanted to make friends and learn about ways to support Palestinian women’s rights. It was really encouraging to listen to everyone’s ideas and feel that we were on the same page about the project. Most of the Palestinian women were really keen to share their stories and talk about the difficulties they face in their lives so the morning left me really hopeful. The Palestinians also seemed a lot more on board with British menus after they ate my flapjacks! I enjoyed mine with tea Palestinian style – with sage and sugar – so the enjoyment went both ways.

It was a rainy day and the brave braced the weather for a walk around the grounds before lunch.

Lunch was butternut squash soup and ploughmans. It went down wonderfully. We then spent the afternoon visiting the nearby village of Forest Row so our visitors could get their first glimpse of England outside the airport and the campsite. We talked a little about the differences between the village and Abu Dis – of which there were many – things like architecture as well as things like rubbish collection.

Back at the residential the Palestinian women shared some of their interests with us. We did a lot of dancing (some of it dabke – Palestinian traditional dancing) as well as some boxing with trained boxing instructor Suzanne. Maram decordated our hands in henna and Nedaa showed us some embroidery techniques.

After a dinner of cottage pie and apple cruble we all sat on the mattresses again to watch Five Broken Cameras – a heartbreaking film which shows so well the courage and spirit and tragedy of Palestinian resistance. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house. 

On Sunday I had to get up early again to help prepare the Palestinian-style breakfast with my blue team mates. I had to work hard chopping things up to an acceptable tiny standard! We prepared all sorts of treats to go with the bread the women had made and brought with them from Palestine. It was incredibly tasty!

After breakfast we all met up on the mattresses again and we all talked about the items that meant a lot to us that we had been asked to bring with us. I spoke about my rings, which are really important to me because of who gave them to me – my mother and my best friend on my 18th birthday. Talking about them gave everyone a chance to hear a little bit about my family and my life.

Lots of the other British (and European!) women had brought their diaries and ipods and phones with them as examples of what are important to them or important to their day to day lives. The Palestinian women had brought items such as Traditional Dresses that belonged to their mothers and grandmothers. They brought t-shirts with images in support of Palestinian hunger strikers and other images and art in support of Palestinian freedom.

Afterwards we gathered around the tables to listen to the Palestinian women practice their speeches that they would be giving later in the week at various different events and venues.

Each woman spoke powerfully about her own experiences and I was moved over and over again by their bravery and honesty. Suzanne gave the example of her sister when she was explaining about the way the Occupation gives different identities, rights and status to people from different areas. Suzanne’s sister is from the West Bank but married to someone with Jerusalem ID. She must get a residents permit to live with her husband and her children cannot be registered on her ID so she is unable to travel them. She is also a qualified lawyer but her West Bank qualification is not recognised in Israel so she must travel through the checkpoints every day to work as a lawyer.

Zeynab talked about house demolition is Jerusalem. Do’aa, a newly qualified lawyer herself, talked about the violations against her villaged of Beit Omra near Hebron. About how the checkpoints restrict movement and the settlements have taken over much of the land and are ruining the rest with their sewage, destroying Palestinian agriculture. Settlers burn the trees and vines, beat and shoot at farmers working their land, all the while being protected by soldiers.

Maram talked about what it is like to live in Nablus’s Old City. How many people get attacked inside their houses. In July 2007 it happened to her family. She told about how her diabetic mother was held in one room for hours despite the cost to her health. How bombing has left her house half destroyed and at risk of complete collapse.

Eman spoke of the struggles of Palestinian women in Israeli jails. The difficulties for women held without sentence or those released in prisoner exchanges being subject to deportation, of women shackled to the beds while they give birth. Of lack of nutrition, no female doctors to treat them, prisons in Israel where West Bank family members are unable to visit them, of false charges held in secret without being shown to any lawyers.

All of the women’s talks were difficult to hear and exposed horrors that were hard to imagine. It was impossible not to be moved by the hard truths they told.

We had a late lunch and then it was time to make my way back to London with promises to see the women later in the week at events in the city. I was really pleased and grateful to be a part of the women’s visit this year and especially enjoyed the residential and having time to make friends with the Palestinian and British women in the project. 

Wednesday 10 April 2013

Part of the Palestinian women's visit to London...

I was a part of the Palestinian women’s visit to London organised by CADFA. As a buddy, I was extremely involved in the entire programme. Arriving at the campsite in East Grinstead, I was both excited and curious about the week to come. Upon arrival, I was pleasantly surprised by the open nature of the women and the willingness with which they answered our questions and told us their stories.
Saturday, 16th May was the ‘British Day’ organised by the British
volunteers/buddies including myself. The day began with a traditional English breakfast, which the Palestinians did not seem to have tried before. The meeting that followed was very interesting as it gave everyone a chance to get to know the entire group better. Each woman brought with them an object which they felt described their lives as British/Palestinian women. Many of the Palestinian women brought objects that bore the Palestinian flag whilst the British women seemed to bring objects such as planners and diaries. This exercise helped all the women who were part of the trip learn about each other in a short space of time. A traditional English lunch followed and then the afternoon was spent making puppets and for each group to organise their own puppet show. This gave many of the Palestinian women the opportunity to give us a picture of the true Palestine.

On Sunday, the Palestinian day was similarly interesting especially as I had
little knowledge of Palestinian culture. They set up a skills showcase which was varied and exciting, ranging from dance to henna tattooing. However, the most interesting part of the day was when each of the Palestinian women gave their presentations of various aspects of life in Palestine. Some talked about military checkpoints whilst others talked about political prisoners and house demolitions. I became so much more knowledgeable about Palestine itself after having listened to everyone’s presentations. Some of the things I learnt were shocking and gave me the ability to better empathise with every Palestinian living under the occupation.
Monday was largely a day for everyone involved in the initiative to just
have a fun day out in Brighton and for the Palestinian women to see the sea. For most of them, it was their first time by the sea and they seemed very happy. We all then attended an event at Sussex University where two of the Palestinian women gave their presentations and their leader Dr Fadwa spoke. The turn out was exceptional and the women who spoke did so with confidence and clarity. The Q&A afterwards was satisfying because we saw that many of those attending the event weren’t familiar with what was going on with Palestine, which is brilliant because we raised awareness.
Having gotten back to London the night before, Tuesday was a jam packed
day, which could not be helped as we were running on a tight schedule. The Palestinian women seemed to enjoy experiencing London and seeing the Southbank and traveling on the Thames which was lovely to see. Then we proceeded to the City Learning Centre to begin the process of making an animated film which was arguably the most important part of the visit. The women all came up with thoughtful ideas and plotlines, showing an enthusiasm for raising more awareness about Palestine in Britain.
Wednesday was a really important day as it gave my group [RED] which
consisted of 3 British buddies and 3 Palestinian women, a chance to visit and speak at Camden Crossroads women’s centre. The meeting embodied the objectives of the visit as within it a true cultural exchange took place. Women in Britain talked about the problems they faced and the Palestinian women did the same. Information was exchanged and both sides learnt new things and even took down each others’ email addresses in order to stay in contact and ideally set up a link between he Camden Crossroads women’s group and a women’s group in Palestine. In the afternoon, we continued with the animated film, which was developing well.
The next day saw the Red group visiting my school where I attend sixth form,
La Swap. The event was fairly small yet successful as the students who were listening too the presentations given by the Palestinians were definitely being exposed to new things. The British Curriculum does not cover the Israel-Palestine issue and I think this fact surprised the Palestinians but also reinforced the importance of raising awareness amongst both children and adults in their eyes. After the session at my school, we travelled again to the CLC to continue with our animated film. As our characters and backgrounds had been mostly completed, we began to film. The process was a rewarding one especially when everything came together. By the end of the session we were ready to begin editing.
Friday was spent editing and finishing the animated film. Once this had been
completed, the Palestinians had a look around the British museum. The evening was spent at Finchley Library in Barnet. The cultural evening did not have as big a turn out as was anticipated but this was most probably due to the location of the event and the timing.
The last full day of the visit, Saturday, was both sad yet rewarding. In the
morning, the animated film was showcased much to the excitement of everyone involved in the making of it. Another film depicting the visit itself was shown, which seemed a good conclusion to a wonderful trip. In the afternoon, we were invited to the Islamic Cultural Centre in Central Mosque, Regents Park. The director was extremely accommodating and seemed to be interested in the Palestinian cause as well as CADFA. The women also learnt a lot about the Muslim population in London and the activities of the Islamic Cultural Centre. The farewell party in the evening though sad for obvious reasons, was highly enjoyable and gave the participants in this visit, both British and Palestinian an opportunity to say goodbye and have one last meal together.
Overall, this experience volunteering with CADFA in a visit has been
enlightening and interesting one. I no longer see Palestine as a nation with faceless people. They have become more real to me and so has their suffering.  

Sunday 7 April 2013

Looking back from Palestine

The women’s visit was a rich, wonderful,amazing experience in my life.

It was one of the experiences in my life that I will never forget or regret because it helped me a lot to make the suffering of the Palestinian people more clear to many people in London and I really appreciate the hard work which is done by CADFA to help the Palestinian people to express their real life to many people in Britain.

Above all for me, it was full of entertainment and I knew more about the life if the people in London and I hope that I can know more about it.

Such a wonderful journey.

I am happy to have lived it


Globally, I have a good feeling of this women’s visit. I was waiting for this and I am happy to have lived it. I think it’s something useful. Also personally it was a very good experience for me even if it was tiring.

 Many good things :
-          To participate to this women’s visit
-          The exchange between the Palestinians and the British but also with the Palestinians and me ( some exchange with them are really good)
-          To have a group of women who talk about Palestine around different places in London ...

This experience will stay in my memory

Saturday 6 April 2013

An amazing human experience

The Women’s visit was an amazing experience for me. Lot of interesting meeting and a lot of new friends!  
-          Amazing human experience and very good moments .. 
  The visits to the women's centres and universities were very interesting and we  met lot of peoples who we can work with in the future  ...  Sharing experiences with Palestinian women