I have been involved with MEWSO since March 2013 when I submitted an online application to Do-it.com offering to do voluntary work, particularly with women from other countries.
I specified this field because, as a feminist, I have a firm commitment to supporting women and in my professional life, ran a centre for women with alcohol issues for many years. In addition, I had trained and worked as a Gestalt therapist and had an interest in women’s mental health. In 2012 I had trained and qualified as a TESOL English teacher and was keen to try out my new skills.
I was born in Egypt and grew up in France, Japan, Portugal and Ethiopia so I have a great respect for people from other countries.
Not knowing much about women from the Middle East, I was intrigued by the idea of Halaleh Taheri’s nascent Middle Eastern Women’s Society and Organisation, especially as she told me that her priority was a new pilot project offering a befriending network and counselling to Middle Eastern women who were suffering from depression, domestic abuse and other mental health problems.
When I met Halaleh, she was working without an office in a large building in Holloway Road, North London. Immediately I was impressed by her determination, humour and zeal. She seemed completely committed to helping women from the Middle East and was in the process of the arduous talk of applying for funding from various sources. At that time, she needed someone who could help by teaching individual women English. I was more than happy to do that.
Over the years, I have got to know Halaleh well and am proud to call her my friend. She has worked and continues to work tirelessly for the benefit of Middle Eastern women so when she asked me to be Chair of MEWSO, I was honoured to accept the role.
"Courage calls to courage everywhere"
Millicent Fawcett - pioneering feminist, intellectual and union leader
From their foundations in 1866, the various, and often locally-administered movements for women’s suffrage, were brought together under the single National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies (NUWSS) in 1897, by Millicent Fawcett.
Millicent Fawcett was a pioneering feminist, intellectual and union leader.
Unlike later suffragettes, who believed in a more militant and confrontational approach to women’s suffrage, the NUWSS was a peaceful, non-combative organisation. Millicent Fawcett was always clear in the distinction that she was a suffragist, not a suffragette.
Parliament Square statue
24 April 2018 saw the unveiling of a bronze statue of Millicent Fawcett opposite to the Houses of Parliament. The statue was created by artist Gillian Wearing and represents the first statue of a woman in Parliament Square, joining statues of eleven men, including Nelson Mandela and Sir Winston Churchill.
Caned for Love
Earlier this year the Barisan Nasional and its major party, the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), who had dominated Malaysian politics for over 60 years since the country won independence from Britain in 1957, were defeated in a historic democratic general election. This peaceful transition of power was a leap forward for Malaysia as it finally entered onto the stage as a functioning democratic and apparently progressive country.
However two Muslim women, aged 22 and 32, were recently convicted of attempting to have lesbian sex in a car and were shockingly each caned six times in the Sharia High Court in the state of Terengganu. Unbelievable, according to local news outlets, 100 people turned up to view the public caning of the two women. Under the Malaysian legal system, Muslim citizens are subject both to secular criminal and civil law and to sharia laws governing religious adherence, while the sizable Buddhist, Christian and Hindu minorities have no obligation to obey Islamic law. The caning of the two women follows reports of a series of attacks on LGBT people and their rights in Malaysia since new Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad took power in May. For example last month, the government ordered the removal of portraits of two LGBT activists from an art exhibition in Penang state.
It is a grave breach of human rights that two consenting adults should be banned from sexual acts let alone publicly punished and tortured. It seems that despite recent political achievements, Malaysia has regressed on human rights and in particular women’s rights.
Location: Westminster and Islington Languages: Arabic, Farsi, Dari, Kurdish and English
By appointment only
10 Free Sessions
Start Date: Every Monday Time: 10:00am-12:00pm Location: Derry House, Church Street, Westminster
Refreshments and childcare provided
Advice and Guidance
One-to-one sessions by appointment
Available Monday - Friday 10am-4pm
Location: Durham Road Resource Centre, Finsbury Park Languages: Farsi, Kurdish, Arabic and English
One-to-one sessions by appointment
Available Wednesday 10am-4pm Location: Church Street Neighbourhood Centre, Cherwell House, Penfold Street NW8 8PT
Languages: Farsi and English
Every Tuesday Time: 10:00am-1:00pm Location: Wood Green Library, Haringey Languages: English, Farsi and Kurdish Activities: Social club with a variety of activities specified by service users
Every Saturday Time: 10:00am-1:00pm Location:Durham Road Resource Centre, Finsbury Park Languages: English, Farsi, Kurdish and Arabic Activities: Social club with a variety of activities specified by service users
Time: 10:00am-1:00pm Location:Edmonton Green Shopping Centre, Enfield Languages: English, Farsi, Kurdish and Arabic Activities: Social club with a variety of activities specified by service users
Celebrating Votes for Women Events
Wednesday 17th October - Church Street, Westminster
Tuesday 13th November - Wood Green, Haringey
Saturday 8th December - Finsbury Park, Islington
Wednesday 12th December - Church Street, Westminster
The workshops will present the history of the women’s suffrage movement through a presentation by our Director (Halaleh Taheri), a short film and we will invite leading female members of the local BAMER community to do a speech. Each workshop will end with a discussion, refreshments and an art class where participants can create their own suffrage sash with a slogan for their own personal cause.
All our services are free however you must book to secure a place.
Booking and further information contact:
We also offer weekly befriending and one-to-one English Language sessions with a volunteer. If you would like support learning English or just want a friendly person to chat to please contact us.
Did you see us in the paper?! For those that missed us, MEWSo featured in Friday 31st August addition of the Westminster Extra advertising our services to BAMER women in Westminster.
For the anniversary celebrations of Kate Oboussier and Sodabeh Gashtasebi reaching 1 year of employment at MEWSo we went out and watched 'The Jungle', a theatre produection currently showing in London. The play is about the plite of displaced people in what was formly known as 'The Jungle', an unoffical refugee camp in Calasis, France.
If you haven't been you must go and see this play! It was extremely emotional, thought provoking and, at times, distressing. Despite the play showcasing the sufferings of these displaced people and ending with the butal demolition of the 'The Jungle', as in realitiy, I thought that the play was sewn through with the theme of hope. In the current world landscape of the rise of popularist parties that spew with anti migrant retoric and the diversion of people by borders and culture, this play shines through as a beacon of hope that different communities can live in harmony with each other.
In the play 'The Jungle' is split into different areas representing different countries. Yet within their council of representatives from each country they are tolerant and work together in the face of extreme difficulties and hardships. There are clearly lessons to be learnt from the resilience and strength of migrant communities, which shouldn't be overlooked by host countries.
Even though 'The Jungle' was an excellent play and captured the lives of migrants within 'The Jungle', there was a distinctive lack of female representation. All the main actors playing the roles of migrants, apart from one, were men and showcased only male struggles and challenges as a migrant. For this reason I am, to some extent, disappointed with this progressive play and would liked to have seen a mixture of male and female representations. Yet again ethnic minority women's voices are not being heard.
Review by Kate Oboussier
I object Ian Hislop's search for dissent at the British Mesuem
Review by Liemya Abugharsa
MEWSo receives a limited number of free exhibition tickets from the British Muesum for client, volunteers and staff. This article was written by Liemya Abugharsa (volunteer at MEWSo) who attended the exhibition.
I went to the British Museum to see Ian Hislop´s search for dissent: I object Exhibition. I was interested in the objects presented and I was curious to see history from someone else’s perspective. In this exhibit, the Private Eye Editor Ian Hislop selected from history of a range of exciting objects that people used as a symbol to protest against authority in order to enable change. This collection gives an idea of what it has meant to be subversive at specific moments in time in different places and in different societies. Near to the national league for opposing women's suffrage Badge, UK, 1910-18, one penny coin was displayed; this penny was defaced anonymously between 1913 and 1914 at the Militant Suffragette campaign in Britain aimed at achieving the right to vote for women. Women were awarded the partial vote in 1918 eventually winning the same right as men in 1928.
Above Picture: Pussyhat, USA, 2017
On 21 January 2017 protests were held worldwide in support of women's rights. Many of the women marches wore hand-knitted hats with pointed ends which, when worn, looked like cats ears. Pussyhats unified the marching millions and reclaimed a misogynistic term for female genitalia. The newly elected President, Donald Trump, had used this word in a recently leaked recording when boasting about assaulting women.
Suicide among women on the rise in Iran
Suicide among women in Iran claimed another four lives last week.
More than 3,300 women committed suicide in Iran last year. The shocking new figures on suicides in Iran was revealed for the first time by one of the deputies of Iran’s Ministry of Sports and Youth. In light of the Iranian regime’s lack of transparency and the government agencies’ failure to accurately register the data, this figure must be considered only part of the existing reality. On women’s suicides, he said, “In the whole country, the rate of attempted suicide in women was about two thirds, and one third in men.”
Accordingly, the rate of suicide among women was 3,300 cases in the period of only one year, which amounts to 9 women per day.
Increasing pressure and restrictions on women in Iran and numerous obstacles for women’s employment and social activities have led to widespread depression and despair among women and culminated in a high rate of suicide among women. Women's suicide rates in Iran are the highest in the Middle East.
Afghan born writer, Khaled Hosseini, who is most famous for writing 'Kite Runner' and 'A Thousand Splendid Suns' releases his next book 'Sea Prayer'. First published on the Guardian website as an animated story, Hosseini’s heartbreaking response to the death of three-year-old Syrian refugee Alan Kurdi, who drowned while attempting to reach Greece in 2015, is just as eloquent as an illustrated book. Dan Williams’s watercolours are a haunting companion to the contemplative and poetic story of a father fleeing Syria with his son. Though considerably shorter than The Kite Runner, A Thousand Splendid Suns or And the Mountains Echoed, it opens up as many powerful emotions about family, survival and childhood.
Award-winning novelist Khaled Hosseini commemorates the second anniversary of the death of the three-year-old Syrian refugee with an illustrated story animated in a virtual reality film. The night before a potentially fatal journey, a father reflects with his son on their life in Syria before the war – and on their unknown future.
Films to Watch
The Breadwinner directed by Nora Twomey
The Oscar nominated animated film 'The Breadwinner', directed by Nora Twomey, tells a powerful story of an 11 year old girl named Parvana growing up under the Taliban in Afghanistan in 2001. When her father is wrongfully arrested, Parvana disguises herself as a boy in order to support her family.
Operating out of a small room in an unknown country, a new internet radio station (called Nsawya FM - Feminist FM) broadcasts a programme aimed at campaigning for greater women's rights in Saudi Arabia. Nsawya FM broadcasts a weekly programme for the "voice of the silent majority".
Listen here and on their twitter account here (Arabic only).
2 October - International Day of Non-Violence
The International Day of Non-Violence is marked on 2 October, the birthday of Mahatma Gandhi, leader of the Indian independence movement and pioneer of the philosophy and strategy of non-violence.
10 October - World Mental Health Day
World Mental Health Day is observed every year, with the overall objective of raising awareness of mental health issues around the world and mobilizing efforts in support of mental health.
11 October - International Day of the Girl Child
The day aims to highlight and address the needs and challenges girls face, while promoting girls' empowerment and the fulfilment of their human rights.
15 October - International Day of Rural Women
The crucial role that women and girls play in ensuring the sustainability of rural households and communities, improving rural livelihoods and overall wellbeing, has been increasingly recognised.
17 October - International Day for the Eradication of Poverty
17 October presents an opportunity to acknowledge the effort and struggle of people living in poverty, a chance for them to make their concerns heard, and a moment to recognise that poor people are the first ones to fight against poverty.
16 November - International Day of Tolerance
Tolerance must be more than indifference and the passive acceptance of others. Tolerance must be seen as an act of liberation, whereby the differences of others are accepted as the same as our own. This means respecting the great diversity of humanity on the basis of human rights. It means reaching out to others across new bridges of dialogue. This means standing up to all forms of racism, hatred and discrimination, because discrimination against one is discrimination against all.
25 November - International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women
Violence against women and girls is one of the most widespread, persistent and devastating human rights violations in our world today.
As of March 2018 MEWSo will be sending our mewsletter every two months in order to create better material in each newsletter sent. If you require more up to date information on our services please visit our website or contact Kate Oboussier at email@example.com.
If you would like to write an article, share a personal experience, give feedback on a MEWSo service or advertise your organisation in next month's Mewsletter
Please contact: Kate Oboussier