#TBT: Women with Women, Period.

THIS IS MY MOOD EVERY DAY. EMPHASIS ON PERIOD. NO IFS, ANDS OR BUTS ABOUT IT.

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But it is especially my mood today. Women need to stand with women, regardless. on a symbolic theoretical level and on a case-by-case, singular level. this post was inspired in part by #internationalwomensday, but i'm writing mostly because of a magical event last night that I had the pleasure of organizing along with four other sister soldiers.

But this is a #TBT post, so let's backtrack a bit. 

UP UNTIL RECENTLY, WHEN MY STORYTELLING ENCOURAGED OTHER WOMEN TO SHARE THEIR STORIES WITH ME, I THOUGHT I WAS THE ONLY ONE:

The only one feeling insecure, like I didn't belong, like I was a disappointment, like I was unattractive, like i was too much for some and not enough for others, like i was being pushed and pulled in so many directions that my persona wasn't even my own anymore. the list could really go on. It turns out, I am not the only one. i am far from the only one. it turns out,

I AM JUST LIKE MY SISTERS-in more ways than not.

Now this seems like I'm about to talk about how affirmed I felt knowing that I wasn't alone in my misery. And while there is solace in knowing you're not alone, my misery doesn't love company. even at my most miserable, i never wished my pain on another person. having company in my misery does not make me feel even a tinge better, it makes me feel worse, and i really hope your misery doesn't love company either. for me, realizing that so many other women and girls shared my brokenness lit a figurative fire under my ass. It made me feel a sense of urgency around my personal self love journey,

because me learning to love myself was no longer just about myself. 

today, I want to be like my mother, who always channeled the best, most courageous and whole version of herself in raising me; i always thought she was so strong, smart and fearless, but my mother was fighting internal and external battles every day to be this way for me. my mother is a warrior who went to war to be the woman she is today. i am extremely blessed to have access to someone who is so committed to self betterment, independence and god. and, like the strong female mentors i have been blessed with, I want to lead by example. 

but I must first be an example worth following.

I WANT TO SERVE AS A SYMBOL OF SELF LOVE AND SISTERHOOD; I WANT TO BE THE WOMAN I NEEDED AT 8, 18, THE WOMAN I NEEDED JUST YESTERDAY. I WANT TO BE SURROUNDED WITH LIKEMINDED WOMEN WHO CAN PUSH ME TO BE AN EXAMPLE WORTHY OF EMULATING.

And so, with this exact vision in mind, Women With Women, Period was born. And in our partnership with Wempower, we were able to make something magical happen last night.

 HUGE huge huge shoutout to  for the love of sugar detroit  for accomodating us in their space. truly felt like home supporting a business owned by another dearborn woman.

HUGE huge huge shoutout to for the love of sugar detroit for accomodating us in their space. truly felt like home supporting a business owned by another dearborn woman.

Last night, Wempower and Women With Women, Period, two Dearborn-based, women-led groups collaborated to host the first of our SHAI series at For the Love of Sugar Detroit (also owned by a Dearborn woman).

SHAI stands for Sisters Having Authentic Interactions, and this acronym speaks directly to our joint-mission with these spaces:

we want to get metro-Detroit women together in intimate, informal spaces that foster self love, sisterhood and skillbuilding. 

We hoped that our first event would set the stage for a successful future for these coffee chats, but it surpassed each of our wildest dreams (and i'm a wild dreamer). we closed the rsvp form at 20 people, hoping that 15 would show up. on a snowy michigan evening, every. single. seat. was filled. and i've never felt warmer in the winter. We all walked out feeling extremely grateful, emotional, happy, affirmed, and all those other words that make you feel all cuddly and fuzzy inside.

this chat was truly the beginning of something groundbreaking for OUR COMMUNITY.

Here are the 5 things I learned from my stunning sisters last night:

1- SOMETIMES, LESS IS MORE

Last night was so many things. So much healing was able to happen in such little time because there was automatically such openness and understanding in our space before the chat even started. Thinking back to the conversation, this was no coincidence. We were able to get so deep because we already see ourselves in one another. and although my misery does not love company, i am able to unpack my brokenness with such ease when i see a reflection of myself in my sisters. i think we all saw reflections of ourselves in the testimonials we shared last night. This level of understanding has been the single most empowering thing for me in forming bonds with women in my community: they just get me. Even if we don't know each other personally, there are so many things I will never have to explain, and i want to make other women feel the same way. That they can simply breathe easier in the presence of their sisters, whether they are ready to share their stories or not.

 
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2- WHO ELSE WILL GO TO WAR FOR US, IF NOT OUR SISTER SOLDIERS?

i come from a lineage of women who have been to war and back; and, most of the time, they are going to war on behalf of one of their sisters. and honestly, nobody in the world is prepared to defeat a woman defending her own. So who else? Who else is going to be able to support us, comfort us, hold us accountable, protect us, empower us the way our sisters can? i have no shortage of men in my life who have been soldiers for me, and I am so blessed for that. but nobody will be able to fight for me like another woman can. women are survivors; they know what we're up against; they've seen the battlefield. women are warriors who are uniquely equipped to help us heal from the wounds of our past and shield us from future attacks. we need our sister soldiers beside us, and we need to be sister soldiers for other women too. and honestly, we can never have enough warriors by our side, especially when it comes to empowering the next generation of young women. i truly believe that this level of sisterhood starts with conversations like last night's coffee-chat. 

3- WE DON'T KNOW WHAT WE DON'T KNOW

Every single candid conversation I have with another woman humbles me. Just when I think I'm humble enough, BooM. Yesterday was yet another humbling experience. We don't know what we don't know. when the woman who seems invincible tells you about her mental health issues; when the girl who seems intimidating tells you about her social anxiety, we realize, yet again, that We can never know what is under the armor that we have been forced to carry. and this is more of the reason for us to suspend our judgment and act from a place of love. We have learned to walk strong and tall in our wounds, but that doesn't mean that we don't break down several times along our journey. I want to be able to be vulnerable and defenseless in front of my sisters, and yesterday night taught me that so many women are in need of this sense of relief. in only one hour, women shared testimonials about body image, mental health, depression, societal and family pressure, sexism, sisterhood, suicide, therapy, addiction. we don't know what we don't know, so why don't we start trying to learn?

4- EVERY [ARAB MUSLIM] GIRL HAS A SECRET

We all do. I think most women have secrets, but I KNOW that every Arab Muslim woman has a secret. Why? Our stories are simply not ours to tell. how silencing must that be? to have to rip out pages of your book and hide them, to be made to feel ashamed of the same moments that have built us into our resilient selves? don't get me wrong, There is so much beauty in our culture, and I adore that we are so connected to our families. i wouldn't trade being an arab muslim woman for anything. But all arab muslim women deal with cultural taboos that can be daunting, suffocating and toxic. Yesterday was another reminder of something I have been wanting to write about for a while: the oppression that comes out of not being able to take full ownership of your narrative, for fear of who your story may "shame" in the process. we are constantly modifying our stories depending on who we are around, we are afraid that if someone ever read our book in its entirety, they would leave, or worse, would shame us publicly. i am ready to collaborate with my sisters to create more spaces where all pages of our stories are welcome and celebrated.

5- EMPOWERED WOMEN EMPOWER WOMEN

i love this quote. sometimes people use it as a means to throw shade at women who don't empower women, and i don't like this irresponsible use of a profound message. i have no shade to throw, and nothing but love and sympathy for women who are still in their process of healing. you'll never hear me shade a woman for not feeling whole enough to pour into others. i love this quote because, when i read it, it urges me instead to use my unique gifts and purpose to pour into my sisters, especially the wounded ones. when i see a woman who does not love herself (and thereby, literally does not have the capacity to act from a place of love towards others), all i want to do is pour into her. this quote is about urgency and duty, not shame. and this is what we laid the foundation for last night: a group of empowered women feeling urgency around empowering other women.


 
 period.

period.

A little behind the scenes action

 
 
 nadeen, mika, zahna, doonia and i each sharing our love and joy after last night's coffee chat.

nadeen, mika, zahna, doonia and i each sharing our love and joy after last night's coffee chat.

 

if i could speak on behalf of the other women in attendance last night, i would say that the testimonials shared, overall engagement/attendance and impact of this informal space highlighted our dire need for spaces like these. and i know i can speak on behalf of the other organizers (mostly because we are still in our group-chat raving about how blessed we feel and how much we love each other), when i say that this is truly only the beginning. we are so excited to work hand in hand with other empowered women in transforming the experiences of women and girls in dearborn and metro-detroit at large.

and lastly, i am thrilled to be able to give back to a community that has given me everything. i want dearborn girls and women to be proud to call themselves products of dearborn, to take back ownership of our experiences and identity. it will be my pleasure to continue giving us something to be proud of. 

WANT TO BE A SHAI GIRL? SAY NO MORE! #ITSOKTOBESHAI

FOLLOW WOMENWITHWOMEN & WEMPOWER ON IG TO KEEP UP WITH OUR BI-WEEKLY COFFEE CHAT SCHEDULE.

only love,

ri