Orit Zuaretz

Blog Post written by Orit Zuaretz, Israeli Participant

The Forward Global women convening   “Berlin 2014” was my second meeting with women leaders from our region. After 4 years as a Knesset member in Israel, where I met women leaders from diverse communities in Israel among them Jewish, Muslim, Christian, and Druze. The Forward Global women meetings opened up a window of opportunity to interact actively with women from our region with whom we can’t meet.

During the seminar in Berlin I have been exposed to the new reality of life in general and the reality of women’s lives in particular in the M ENA countries after the Arab Spring the uprising and leadership changes. The fact that the participants came from different worlds of content, and from a different perspectives : academic, political arena and civil society organizations have enriched the discussion.. The Personal stories, the interaction and the relationship, created and formed a common base of understanding.

During the meeting we developed few ideas and thoughts about some issues and changes that we can promote in collaboration.  Maybe we will not be able to change the whole MENA region, but I’m sure that we can promote these small changes in each country. The cooperation and relationship was created is going to be the base and a part of a long chain attached to each one of the women leaders in our region.

I want to thank you, each one of my new friends, and hope that one day we will not have to travel so far to get together.

berlin 2014

Talia Sasson

Eldad Rafaeli - 0064_resize (3)-תמונה- טליהPost by Talia Sasson, Israeli participant

It was a great pleasure for me to take part in the short seminar we had in Berlin. The most important thing for me was the meeting itself with such impressive women from Arab states: Our neighbors- with whom we don’t have a chance usually to meet and express our desire for peaceת express our desire for peace. have a chance usually to meet and express our desire for peace.  . I think we all realized how similar our struggle for women rights are although we are coming from different states and cultures.

The most impressive story I heard was by the Tunisian MP who described her struggle with a lot of women in Tunisia for women rights. I was inspired by that unusual story and wish we will find the courage to do the same in Israel with demanding from our government to take serious actions for peace with Palestinians and Arab states as well.

I wish you all the best wishes there is- especially for getting progress for women liberation in your states that might affect the lives of you, your dear ones and us all.

Thank you so much for our American friends, for financing this event and giving us the chance to meet and talk. But specially thanks for your care and passion to help women all over the world and give progress for peace.

I believe that women could achieve what men don’t want to, or can’t.

We could together do more than them.

Rula Quawas

RulaPhoto (2)Post by Rula Quawas, Jordanian participant

I have to start by saying that this is the third convening on peace-making and conflict resolution in the MENA Region. For me, this is one of the biggest achievements ever. Women come together and reflect on ways to end conflicts in our volatile nation. We owe it to ourselves to be doers and enact changes in UN Resolution 1325 and in making peace in countries where people live in fear of tomorrow.

A special moment for me was seeing the music that the group made in the third convening, and I mean by music the  interactive discussions that were held throughout this very short convening. Yes, music was made on different instruments and most of it was played out in harmony and some of it was discordant, which is OK. Here, I believe we are helping each other tune in and tune out the harsh and husky sounds that need to be eliminated.  But you know what. What matters is that most of the women had a glimmer of hope in their eyes. Most of them believed that we can be agents of change and we can go home and start spreading the awareness and the weeding out of the differences amongst us.

Women sat back and others sat forward, but I could sense at more than one moment in time that there is a deep understanding of doing the right thing for us and for the new coming generations. Women listened attentively, squinting their eyes at times and at other times jotting down notes on their notepads just to make sure that they are documenting facts and unfolding feelings, making memories which they will pass on to their families and friends later.

I loved the space that we created for all of the women, regardless of their nationalities and of their backgrounds, to speak their minds and sometimes to speak back with thunder to what is being said. People tend to hate hiccups in a conversation. I tend to love them for they make us stop in our tracks for a while and to reflect on our mission only to discover that we what we are doing is worthwhile. Indeed, it is worthwhile. Isn’t after all worthwhile to build lives and futures which are based on peace and justice for all?

What will stay with me forever is the faith people have in what we are doing. We might disagree over some points here and there, but that will never deter us from doing what we are bent on doing. We are full-fledged human beings who have our own diverse opinions and kaleidoscopic perspectives. We are different and that is our point of strength. In our differences, we become a bulwark of strength.

What will stay with me forever is our re-humanization as women who come from conflict zones. We have engaged in mind negotiations and in heart ruminations; we simply run a conversation which is infused with understanding, empathy, and love. Our solidarity is not based on our victimhood; rather, it is based on our victorhood.

This convening reminded me of Faulkner’s Nobel Speech Prize when he said that “human beings will not only endure they will also prevail.” FGW will endure and it will prevail.

Rina Bar Tal

Rina Bar-TalPost by Rina Bar Tal, Israeli participant

I’ve given lots of thoughts as to my subject matter for this little essay of mine and have decided to devote my 150 words to “Getting to Know my Neighboring Sisters”

Once arriving at the Tel Aviv airport in Israel, one can see the sign – connecting flights…… funny, where are they actually connecting to?? I know we can fly to Jordan and the Turkey and am not certain we can fly to Egypt.  Am certain we have no direct flights to Morocco, Tunis, Syria, Lebanon, etc.  Thus coming to Berlin was a great moment for me – although I’ve been to Berlin several times before, this was special, this was like coming to a sort of “first date”…… and exactly like with first dates (if I remember them correctly), one feels excited; the heart beats extensively, some of us perspire some, we fear the unknown yet very much want to make a good impression, we are curious to meet that new person, etc. etc.

Same here – We met at dinner on Tuesday night, trying to say our first hello, read the name tags attached to all of us, think where is every face coming from? Which country is Marianne from and who is Amal Haddadin.  Is this Amina? So young……. I thought she’d be a bit older and Rabiaa so well dressed and young too……. And so the very next morning, I met some of my new “neighbors” at breakfast and we had a coffee together and as I found a place to sit in the convening hall, I looked around to see that Annisa and Marianne set really close to me and “my” Orit set next to me on the other side……. And I began to feel the “bind date” becoming less blind with the hello and the smile and slowly starting to make small talk with  Mary joining in and Kholoud giving a hug, and Loubna who is not a “blind date” any longer as we have met in the last convening…… and I relaxed and felt well and felt so fortunate to get to know, even for the short time we’ll be together, my sisters who live real close by…….. and whom I wish to stay in touch with and see again real soon.

And very last words to my American sisters – I’ve been fortunate to know you all and thank you for being there with us all the way……. 

Pnina Steinberg

Pnina SteinbergPost by Pnina Steinberg, Israeli participant

A few months ago, Rina Bar Tal met me at a round table of UNSCR 1325 coalition in Israel. She told me about FGW and that immediately ignited my imagination. The notion of meeting women from my region – neighbors I have no other way to meet – was irresistible. The meeting in Berlin taught me the depth and breadth of the possible meanings of “meeting”: From a mere gathering in one place to forming some professional, collegial and personal connection. Some of the women – I could hardly make eye contact with, others left me full of appreciation of their brave leading of private or public revolutionary acts of women’s liberation. One specific “neighbor” excited me with immediate connection, seemingly on professional grounds, but I think both of us felt it is not only that. I still cannot name the force that drew such excitement and pleasure of communication; it still feels like an adventure that might stay in the bubble of Berlin or it might reach further. Practical implementations of this neighborhood meeting is still a riddle for me, but I sure can start imagining some new neighborhood relationships, and some new regional voices.

Pat Davis

Patricia_Davis_(small_pic)Post by Pat Davis, American consultant 

I’ve been working with Arab women for the past decade so I’m familiar with their deep frustration that peace in the Middle East remains so elusive.  What I had not heard firsthand was the perspective of Israeli women on this issue.  The Forward Global Women (FGW) convening in Berlin presented a rare and extraordinary opportunity to not only learn more about the experiences of both sides but to have an intimate dialogue among these engaged and intelligent women leaders.  It was inspiring to witness their willingness to listen, to share their stories and really hear each other, and to work together to move toward conflict resolution.  Women have a place at that table – in fact their unique insights are essential to the effort – and FGW is establishing relationships and developing skills that can lead to real and sustainable progress.  Many thanks to Sandy, Rula and Rina for allowing me to participate.

Mary Thuraya Sweis

IMG_0191Post by Mary Thuraya Sweis, Jordanian participant

The conflict resolution peace building convening the second in St. Paul Minnesota and the Third in Berlin were a great experiences for me, I learned how important is is for everyone to believe in defending peace and security. Especially for women in conflict zones like our region in the middle east. I was particularly impressed by how our neighbours from Israel Rine and Orit discussed peace and they are serious about having peace with the palestinians, it gives me hope.

I also like the way senator sandy papas, Dr. Rula, and Mrs Anisa moderated the workshops and the brain storming sessions, which were productive in forming strategies to be applied in the future.

I hope this program expands to include more women and youth from all over the world, to work on peace building, life is too short for hatred and war, we women need to lead process for peace.

Loubna Amhair

Loubna AmhairPost by Loubna Amhair, Moroccan participant


FGW is certainly a network that allows its members to move forward, to think and appreciate every relationship that brings, every moment of exchange and sharing. Before joining, we ask ourselves what is the aim after all, what will be the outcome, Peace ?

At the very ending session of the berlin’s convening, while discussing the Slogan, i kept thinking if we were peacemakers or agents of change as it twas proposed. And then, while walking around in the beautiful and peaceful Berlin’s streets, i found a Ghandi’s statement saying that ‘there is no path to peace, peace is the path’. I realized that peace should be our aim, our motivation, our behavior, our daily life.

We will bring the change we want by walking the Peace Path !

Kholoud Barakat

203-51Post by Kholoud Barakat, Jordanian participant

Three moments I would recall as having added a great meaning to my presence in the convening. The first was when I was given a chance to do an icebreaker and felt that I can contribute to such a convening with all its powerful organizers, speakers and participants. I felt my presence was real and active. It filled me with great happiness that participants responded the way they did to the icebreaker and laughter was all-around.  The second was when everyone was asked to speak of a success story to tell to others as I enjoyed so much listening to others experiences as much as talking about mine to others. The action planning was a very interesting exercise that is also challenging and was of great value but I still would recommend that this part be guided with contribution from the trainers be given a more room for reflection before having the pen on paper; I would prefer 3 hours given to this exercise including a break in between. I look forward to the next convening and I am determined to become a mentor for folks from the younger generation! I believe in FGW!

Karen Feste

DSC02014_001 - Version 2Post by Karen Feste, American participant

The Berlin conference was a source of inspiration and understanding. First, it was truly inspiring to feel the vibrant energy among this group of highly talented women activists, all leaders in their countries, dedicated to fostering advancement of civil society–to realize that individually, each participant makes positive contributions in their homeland, and that collectively, our group may be able to achieve some progress in the pursuit of peacemaking.

Simultaneously, the meetings offered a rich experiential learning environment in the small, intimate open forum setting.  Questions and comments raised by members of this exclusive group seemed honest and forthright, revealing different, indeed, contradictory, and even antagonistic perspectives about why conflict persists in the Middle East; the flow of discussion presented a kind of barometer of current tensions across the region.

Third, out of this twofold enlightened setting, I felt both sad and humbled.  Sad that prospects for peace in the immediate future seem dim due to domestic and international instability affecting people lives over this geographic space and yet humbled by the massive efforts experts have devoted to negotiate peaceful solutions.

Lastly, these meetings served as a call-to-action.  Women are not running the world: most presidents, prime ministers, and foreign ministers among nearly 200 UN-member states are male.  Security Council Resolution 1325, although nearly 15 years old, remains current and important as a document for increasing the role of women in conflict prevention and conflict resolution decision-making to help improve life on earth.