A video dialogue program for young women in the USA and Muslim countries
February 28th, 2007 at 7:56 pm
Posted by Zia in Sessions

Our 9th conversation dealt with crime and violence. We hit on a wide variety of topics; below are just a handful we discussed. I’m also planning to post some video clips from the session - the connection wasn’t quite as good as usual, however, making it a bit harder to understand the conversation on the video.

Defining and preventing violence.  We started out with a discussion about what defines violence. One US participant defined it as an act of aggression by one person against another. The two groups then got into a conversation about the prevalence of violence in our societies. One participant in Gabes said her younger brother played a lot of violent videogames; other participants asked about crimes in the US that had been tied to exposure to violence in the media. We discussed the importance of ensuring that children understand the difference between fiction and reality; we also talked about the need to instill values in children at an early age and to engage in an ongoing dialogue with them.
Domestic violence. We also discussed the issue of domestic violence. In Tunisia, the women explained that a man was forbidden to abuse his wife; he would go to jail if reported. The American participants said that many domestic violence incidents in the US were not reported; women often lived in fear of their husbands or boyfriends hurting them or leaving them. When asked if women in Tunisia reported domestic abuse, the participants in Gabes said women do indeed report these crimes.
Gangs. One of the Tunisian participants asked about how widespread gangs were in the US. One of the American participants responded that there was some gang activity in most of the major urban areas in the US; gangs had arisen in response to poverty and, in many cases, a lack of community. She explained that gangs provided people with a sort of surrogate family and support, often replacing what the gang members were unlikely to get at home.
Safety as a woman. Our final conversation was about safety as a woman: a participant in Gabes asked if it would be safe to walk around as a woman in the US. The response was that most women generally wouldn’t walk alone after dark, except in very busy areas. It might be safe, but she’d probably feel nervous regardless of the location. The Tunisian participants responded that it was similar in their country: women also wouldn’t walk around alone at night most anywhere there.

February 20th, 2007 at 1:37 pm
Posted by Zia in Uncategorized

Coming early next week: a write-up - and hopefully a few video clips - of last week’s session on crime and violence. Interesting discussion on the prevalence of gangs in the US to preventing crime to staying safe as a woman.

Our next session (topic: environmental issues) will be one week from Thursday. 

February 11th, 2007 at 3:27 pm
Posted by Zia in Sessions

Our 8th session was on addressing discrimination. There are five video clips from the session – below are some of the topics we discussed during the conversation. 

Discrimination in the US and Tunisia. We started out by talking about discrimination in the US vs. in Tunisia. The US participants said that while many people would say there was no discrimination in the US, it exists under the surface if not blatantly. One woman who came from the south said that she didn’t encounter much discrimination in New York, but in the south there were far fewer ethnic groups so discrimination was more obvious. In Tunisia, one of the women pointed out that discrimination was forbidden in Islam, so it was not widespread: they were taught to accept people from different backgrounds and to welcome everyone.   

Perceptions of minority groups. Part of our discussion revolved around perceptions of different minority groups. One of the US participants talked about public perceptions of black Americans: she said when she was in Japan, people had the idea they were all gangsters, rappers, comedians or thugs. When asked, she said she didn’t think there was greater discrimination by blacks against whites than vice versa; discrimination had more to do with the beliefs of the individual. One of the US participants also said she’d felt more discrimination as a woman than as a part of any ethnic group. 

Views of American and Arab women. We also spent quite a while discussing perceptions of American and Arab women. We heard from the participants in Tunisia that Americans tended to be surprised by the warmth and welcoming nature of the Tunisians – Americans who came to the country would often come in concerned for their safety, but leave with a strong appreciation for the generosity of the people. Similarly, the Tunisian participants stressed their encounters with American people had been very positive. While they said there was concern in the region over the actions of the US government, they welcomed Americans to their country and appreciated there were a variety of people and opinions in the US. Overall, the assessment was that dialogue was an important thing to overcome discrimination, and it was important for people to view others as individuals rather than as a part of any particular religious or ethnic group.  

February 10th, 2007 at 8:56 pm
Posted by Zia in Sessions

Finally, a couple of summaries from our last two sessions. First, our discussion on January 25th 

Equality in Tunisia and the US. The conversation started with the US participants asking about women’s issues in the Arab world, since they felt our perception probably was not the reality. The Tunisian women pointed out that in Tunisia, they enjoy far more rights than do women in many other other Arab countries: equality is ensured, and practices such as polygamy are not allowed. Several women hold high-level government positions in Tunisia; one of the participants also stated that most men preferred to have a wife who worked so she would be able to contribute to the financial status of the household. The women in the US pointed out that we have equality in the US, however, sometimes it felt more like rights were guaranteed on paper than in practice (see below).  

Rights in practice. In both the conversation on women’s issues and the following one on discrimination, we ended up discussing whether rights on paper (i.e. laws) translated into rights in practice. Women in both Tunisia and the US indicated they were very pleased with the legal rights that they enjoyed as women, but in practice, men and women still had different roles in society. There was debate whether gender roles were related to “nature or nurture”, a term introduced by one of the US participants. Later, the Tunisian participants talked about the younger generation being more open to equal roles, and the older generations being more traditional.   

Careers. Both groups discussed how women in similar jobs to men would often earn less; the participants also talked about the fact that women still remained the primary caretakers of the home and children, regardless of whether they worked. The US participants also mentioned that many women would stop working to raise children, then later would have difficulties re-entering the workforce. The two groups compared which careers remained “male-dominated”. In Tunisia, the participants talked about areas such as engineering and medicine still being mostly male, while in the US participants discussed the fact that most major businesses were still led by men, and that certain military roles tended to be comprised almost exclusively of men.

February 4th, 2007 at 9:02 pm
Posted by Zia in Sessions

I’ve created a videos section that includes video clips of our past three sessions. I hope to add a few more clips from these three conversations; I’ll also be updating with new videos after each upcoming session.  

February 2nd, 2007 at 12:08 pm
Posted by Zia in Sessions

I’m working a bit out of order and posting video clips from yesterday’s discussion before ones from last week, but I promise I’ll have videos from our women’s rights session soon.

For now, enjoy the clips from the conversation on addressing discrimination and misperceptions. Click on any of the links below (and wait for a minute or two while the video loads) to hear dialogue on the topics below.

Comparing Discrimination in the US and Tunisia

Are Laws a Practical Way to Prevent Discrimination?

Racism and Misperceptions in the US

Perceptions of Americans and Arabs I

Perceptions of Americans and Arabs II

February 1st, 2007 at 10:32 am
Posted by Zia in Sessions

After our initial conversations on personal topics, we moved on to broach broader subjects such as women’s rights (last week) and discrimination (this morning). As a result, the last two sessions have been quite different than our earlier ones. We’ve encountered some very different views during the course of our most recent discussions, but I think it’s been an incredible learning experience for everyone involved. Indeed, our conversation today could easily have continued for several hours - sometimes it’s a pity we can’t continue beyond our allotted time.

I’ll provide a write-up of the sessions, but I also hope to post some video clips from these two conversations since I think there have been some great insights from participants in both New York and in Gabes, as well as some very powerful dialogue.