By Kawther Al-Kholy
The author describes training being conducted in Egypt to engage influential religious actors in the effort to advance women’s human rights and combat violence.
Kawther Al-Kholy is the Director of the Noon Center for Women and Family Issues, a project of MADA Foundation in Egypt. She has a background in social and cultural journalism, and previously worked as the Managing Editor of the Social Department for IslamOnline.net.
Sheikh Hussein, an Egyptian imam and preacher, is sitting in the training hall of MADA Foundation, an NGO in Cairo, discussing social problems facing women with his colleagues, how to deal with them, and how the message can be conveyed through Friday sermons.
Hussein, who works in Hawamdeya village, south of Cairo, receives many inquiries from women there about their relationships with their husbands and children, among the other questions he encounters through his work.
“I strived to attend this training due to the huge number of questions I get on daily basis, where most of them stemming from customs and traditions that demean women out of misunderstanding Islam,”
Hussein pointed out.
He added that the course poses an opportunity to meet instructors and trainers with extensive and diverse experience. It is also a chance for preachers to meet and exchange experiences, and benefit from learning about creative tools for conveying the message, such as psychodrama and other interactive and engaging activities.
“The workshop aims at introducing knowledge and skills that support Egyptian family status, with special focus on women’s status from an Islamic perspective, this will help influencing a broader audience, either through sermons or media platforms,”
Dr. Sahar Tal’at, one of the trainers explained.
She added that the workshop raises number of issues, among which are guardianship, equality, women’s economic and social rights, and women’s right to produce religious knowledge, and related misconceptions.
Tal’at highlighted that the training involves 50 trainees, men and women, divided into two workshops to ensure interactivity with their instructors. All the trainees are Al-Azhar University graduates, who are 25-40 year old, and who each have a platform through which they interact with the public and convey their message, including what they’ve learned.
Mahmoud El-Sherif, one of the organizers, explained that the training program is designed in a way that causes a transformation in the trainees’ psychological and emotional orientation towards women’s issues.
El-Sherif added that in addition to the knowledge delivered, the course aims at causing deep change that makes the trainees reject the idea of injustice to women. Psychodrama techniques are used as part of the workshop program with its different tools to promote positive orientation towards relevant issues.
He pointed out that the training aims also at advancing Egyptian women’s status through presenting a vision critical of predominant cultural and religious discourses and clearing up common misconceptions that diverge from the essential message of Islam.
He elaborated that the training is inspired by Egyptian community values and stems from real people’s needs. It strives to transfer its vision at different political, social, and civic levels in a bid to spread positive cultural and social change.
This article was previously published in Arabic by Anadolu News Agency in February 2014. This English translation was provided by the author.