By Julia Wallace, DMAH Development Officer
Worship songs filled the room as women from around the Arab world sang praises to God during the opening session of the two-day workshop. Although these women represented five different countries, each came to the LSESD campus with a common passion: writing. From February 4-5, Dar Manhal al Hayat (DMAH) hosted a writing workshop as part of their ongoing A Voice for Arab Women project—a three-year project that seeks to elevate the stories of women throughout the Arab world.
“The purpose of this project is to elevate the voices of Arab women and change society’s perception of them,” shared Sawsan Tannoury, the Publishing Director of DMAH. “So much of the literature in the Arab world is written by men, so we want this project to serve as a platform for women to share their perspectives to the wider world. At the same time, we want to train women in how to become better writers and published authors.”
At the end of the project three books will be produced which present a compilation of stories from women throughout the Arab world on a variety of topics, including challenges faced by the Arab women, success stories, and things they wish Arab men knew.
In preparation for publishing, DMAH will host three writing workshops to give both novice and experienced female writers a chance to hone their skills and explore their passion.
“I loved the idea of enhancing my writing skills. I have many ideas that I would like to elaborate on—they are only bits and pieces, but I have not had the courage to actually start doing something about them. I felt that the starting point is attending this workshop,” said Heba Tawfic Lutfallah, an attendee from Egypt.
The February workshop included practical discussions on topics relevant to aspiring authors, led by current authors and people in the publishing field. Session discussions touched on topics such as “developing the idea for your book or article in an attractive way”, “common mistakes in Arabic writing,” “the publishing process: working with an editor”, and “how to grow and succeed as a writer.”
Each day also included time for women to practice writing and to receive feedback in a collaborative group setting.
“I learned lots of new things,” shared Nahal Isaac, a dentist and non-profit founder from Syria. “I learned that the most important thing is teamwork. I liked that idea a lot and I’ll be focusing on that in the future. The workshop also helped me feel responsible towards my ideas that haven’t been expressed, leading me to seriously consider letting out all that I want to say. This talent is a gift from the Lord, and I should use and develop it.”
Tannoury shared that the primary goal of this project is not just to impart technical skills and help women become better writers, although that is a goal. Rather, DMAH wants this project to emphasize the importance of women from a biblical view and share how God has endowed women with innate value and unique gifts. This is a goal that inspired many of the women to join this project and participate in the workshop.
“We are rooted in a society that is very tough on women. Our Arab societies often teach us wrong beliefs about ourselves,” shared Lutfallah. “It definitely varies from one country to another, but after speaking with many women from all around the world, I discovered Satan intends to shake women and intends to keep them away from God, and to perceive themselves in a wrong way. He wants the woman to underestimate herself and her value. All this inspires me to reach more women, especially Arab women, to help them view themselves the right way, to know that God created them beautiful, and that the injustice and suffering they are going through is not from God…I want them to have a strong relationship with God and to be the genuine, complete, and free selves that God created them to be.”