Women who inspire are women who step up to take bold actions, whether in the private or public spheres, on local or international levels, in the classroom or the kitchen, behind a desk, while running for presidency or helping others in need. Women who inspire are bold for change; they are change-makers!
This is how I started my speech and what I wrote on a board in the creative corner of an event we organized my ‘Women and Gender in the Middle East’ students and I, to celebrate the International Women’s Day at the American University in Dubai. And while listening to the courageous voices of men and women who were reciting powerful poetry for gender equality, watching talented artists deconstructing stereotypes of women in Southwestern Asia and North Africa and attendees having a visceral experience with foods that tell stories of women in the students’ families and neighborhoods, I felt hope: hope in the future of a region torn by colonialist legacies and decades of wars, and by the rise of exclusivist discourses and conflictual identities.
Yesterday was indeed a celebration of women who inspire my students as individuals, but more, I was celebrating their hard work, perseverance and their courage in taking on critically important causes that will improve the lives of all: building more equal communities and societies. I was celebrating their high expectations, their aspirations and commitments. These students, and others like them, are not to be seen as part of a doomed generation or a generation of idiots with technology surpassing human interaction. I see them believing in themselves, filling a table and sitting at it, taking risks and supporting each other, trying to break down barriers that hold them back, and creating or contributing to inclusive flexible cultures. They are already leaders in their own spheres of influence. They are catalysts and vehicles for driving greater change.