Saturday, 24 March 2012

The Final Day in Photos

Esra'a, Hana and Natalie give their reflections on the week
Fatmeh courageously shares her story
Skills sharing: the Palestinian women learn to crochet
At the evening celebrations Hanin speaks about the differences between the lives of women in Britain and Palestine
The women demonstrate their dabkeh skills
Traditional Middle Eastern oud music 

Day Nine: Skills Sharing and International Women's Day Celebration

By Anna Amo (Bissan’s Buddy)

Saturday was the final full day for the Palestinian women in London and the last time we would be seeing them. The whole day was marked by a feeling of trying to get the most out of the little time left. The morning sessions was amazing, every girl present who had been involved in the week as a visitor or a buddy spoke about their experiences over the course of the week, things they had learnt, the way their thinking had changed as well as sharing their specific thoughts on the lives of Palestinian women in the context of the various themes they had been focusing on all week.

I was really moved by all of the presentations and I have tried to summarise some of the things people said and the issues they raised.

Dr Fadwa spoke about her experiences working with Cadfa and I loved to hear her talking about some of the first volunteers from Camden to visit the university in Abu Dis. The fact that she still remembered the names of the people who went out made me realise how strong the ties made on these trips can be.

Esra’a, Hanin and Decca gave a summary of a discussion that they had been having over the week about the similarities and differences between Palestinian and British Women. Esra’a argued that aside from the occupation, women themselves were extremely similar. She felt that in terms of lifestyle and aims in life the women from both countries were much the same. What she did feel was that the problems faced by Palestinian women stemmed from the occupation, disrupting their lives and making it harder for them to achieve their aims.

Hanin felt there were more differences between Palestinian and British women besides the occupation. She argued that culture was also a major factor. She described her experiences of being thought of as weaker and of her education being thought of as less necessary because of her gender. Hanin felt that the discrimination between men and women went beyond the circumstance of occupation and that the lack of infrastructure and facilities exacerbated this. Hanin asked how do British women get their strength when, she noted, so many live alone away from their families? She described how Palestinian women could find strength in facing the occupation.

Decca then went on to give us a British perspective. She reminded us that women are women wherever they are and that in all places they are struggling for equality. She drew attention to the fact that women are struggling for equality everywhere and in Britain the struggles may be different in nature but the fact of the struggle is familiar to all. Decca spoke instead about the double struggle that Palestinian women face both under occupation and within their society, trying to achieve recognition and be favoured equally with men. She ended by talking about the ways in which women, whatever they are struggling against, can come together to share methods and ways of fighting.

Many of the British women spoke of how, even though the Palestinians had been the visitors, it was the British women who were made to feel so welcome and invited into the lives and hearts of the Palestinian women. So much of the week was about sharing and it was felt the Palestinian women really opened themselves up to their new British friends, including them in their conversations, their traditions, their food, as well as their history and suffering. I definitely felt that the Palestinian women did a great job in not letting any of the British girls fall back on their comfortable tradition of distant politeness. Natalie said she felt that the weekend away in particular had felt like a really family-like time, perhaps because the women-only (and pyjama-attired) setting made everyone feel very relaxed.

Hanin spoke about what she had learnt about seeing our image in the eyes of others, she said she had learnt a lot over the course of the week about the gaps in the understanding of the people she had meant when it came to how they would see her from a far. She thought this was extremely useful as it allowed her to learn how she might need to present herself in the future to people in order to try to close the gap further. She said she even found this as a way to heal herself in a small way from the suffering of occupation.

Haya said the visit added to her as a Palestinian woman, that it motivated her to participate in more programmes like this one, and that she loved the art galleries that she visited in London that exhibited art by Palestinian women. She said that she had been surprised to find the suffering of Palestine represented in London in this way. She also talked about how difficult her life in Palestine had become since the building of the Separation Wall by Israel. She explained how her journey to school, once ten minutes, now took anything up from two hours as she had to travel through checkpoints. She said the latest development of having to pass through a terminal to get to her school meant that every trip was an extremely long, arduous and humiliating experience.

Nawal was the only Palestinian woman to admit to enjoying the British food and also spoke of her interest in the Islamic artefacts found at the British Museum. Nawal also had some difficult stories to tell about her personal suffering at the hands of the occupation. She explained the difficulties her sister had experienced when she tried to get to hospital to give birth and was held up for an hour. Nawal also told her own story about being extremely frustrated with soldiers at the checkpoint refusing to let her through to go to school and how she was arrested when she protested this and was handcuffed and taken to the police station for five hours until someone found out where she was.

Haya talked of how it wasn’t safe to stay out late as the soldiers can do anything - of how soldiers entered university dormitories to destroy property. Nawal felt that all social life in Palestine was affected as families were kept apart and given limited permission to see each other, if at all. Haya explained that Israel aimed to separate and so weaken Palestine further.

Fatmeh spoke about the plight of Palestinian prisoners detained by the Israelis. This was an extremely personal issue for her as two of her brothers have been subjected to long years in prison. She has not seen one of her brothers for the last decade as the Israeli’s claim they are not brother and sister and will not allow her to visit. One of Fatmeh’s sisters is also forbidden to visit as her name means “resistance”. A cousin of Fatmeh’s died in prison after 20 years but his body is still being held by the Israelis as he has not completed his sentence. Although Fatmeh spoke of her own suffering, including her nose being broken by the gun of an Israeli soldier on the night her brother was arrested, she made it clear that her story is one that is repeated over and over again for families in Palestine. Esra’a acknowledged that she has a cousin imprisoned under administrative detention and he has been held for four years, six months at a time without charges that keeps on recurring.

Samah, who comes from Jinin Camp, talked a little about her experience when Jenin was attacked in April 2002. Her family lost their home and two of her Uncles were killed. In comparison to her life in Palestine, Samah felt that it was amazing to see a different world, she said, “People here are alive.” She said she wanted to keep fighting to get a better future and continue life and become more self-confident.

Haya concluded the presentations by adding that she felt people in Palestine were both, “Fighting to live and living to fight.” She said she was happy to have come to the UK to tell everyone their stories and convey their strong personalities.

After the presentations everyone had lunch together and we had an opportunity for skills sharing and more talking. A lot of craft work went on with more knitting and embroidery and we talked a lot about the problems facing people and especially women in London and the rest of the UK and how some of the British women were using their skills to work on these issues or to protest about the problems.

The evening was a wonderful end to the week. Everybody gathered in the new Kentish Town Community Centre building. HAnin and Fatmeh moved everyone present with their powerful personal testaments to their lives, their hopes and suffering. There were fantastic performances from some very diverse musicians, there was even a tear or two when Dan Burne and Jo Mortimer performed “Beeswing”. We ended with dancing, more Dabka – Aisheh expertly leading the group - and lots of hugging in our final moments.

I really loved meeting the women from Palestine, and I am so happy to have had the chance to spend some time with them and listen to their stories.

Friday, 23 March 2012

Day Eight: Seeing the Sights

By Esra'a Shahin and Nadia Abu Raida

In the morning we came to the CADFA offices for 9am to work on our presentations until 12.30, when we took a bus to go to central London in order to start our tourist day. We got off the bus at Westminster, where we saw the houses of Parliament and Big Ben. It was amazing because there were a lot of cool things to look at and take pictures of. It was the first time that I saw where British Parliament is, and I had no idea that it was in the same building as Big Ben. After Big Ben we walked across Westminster Bridge and ate lunch, while we waited to get tickets to go to the London Eye. Then we went up in it and took pictures of places far away across London. From the London Eye we could see the Thames river, there were a lot of big tall buildings, including really old buildings like St Pauls.

We walked along South Bank and looked at all of the street performers. There were people painted different colours pretending to be statues, there were a group of men doing African dance and gymnastics and even some contortionism. There was a man and his daughter blowing giant soap bubbles and some bands playing music. After that we crossed the Thames again on a footbridge, and we went to see Trafalgar square. At the square there were a lot of people sitting around the big fountain and feeding the pigeons, and taking pictures of the statues. There were lots of statues in Trafalgar Square, including a really famous one of Nelson and old kings of England.

Then we went to Covent Garden, where there were more street performers, including a man swallowing a sword, and lots of antique stalls. We walked around the streets, got souvenirs to take home for our family and friends, and then headed to Southwark to meet Nandita to go to the Ambassadorial dinner. At the dinner, which was at a Turkish restaurant called Eve, we met a woman from the Palestinian Embassy called Haya and talked to her about our experiences in Palestine and in London. It was interesting to talk to her, because we talked about education and what we are studying, and I spoke to her about studying International Law and got some advice from her. We ate a lot and had a good time, and then Nandita and Ayesha took us back to our host homes.

Thursday, 22 March 2012

Day Seven: Puppets and Primark

By Safaa Usmani (Samah's buddy, purple group)

Esra'a, Fatmeh, Samah and Safaa prepare their animated film
The puppet workshop this morning was great! Really interesting to learn a new skill and it seemed to follow on well from the puppet workshops from the weekend. I think most the girls used similar stories for their 20 second animation. Things were kind of messed up when we lost half of our group to the school next door, so we couldn’t finish everything. Me and Fatmeh worked on shooting the scenes and putting the animation together on the computer. Samah helped a bit at the end. Everyone got a bit agitated near the end of the session because we weren’t given a break and everyone was so hungry!

After the workshop we all went together to Oxford Street, all of the guests and the buddies, whereby everyone spent 3 hours in Primark (I couldn’t believe it), whilst I sat in Pret a Manger to do some coursework.

In the evening Fatmeh, Samah and Nadia attended a meal with Scott from the Newham-Jenin group, which was a great success.

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Day Six: Visits to Schools and Camden Council

Today the women went in their different groups to visit schools and meet with Camden Councillors. Here are some reports of the day...

By Caitlin Proctor (Hanin's buddy, yellow group)

On Wednesday morning I met the girls at La Sainte Union School where Katy, their host dropped them off. We were met by Erica Malcomson, and showed around the school before heading to a year 7 PE lesson, where the girls taught a Dabkeh class. This was a fantastic morning which was enjoyed by everyone. The girls split the class into two, and taught them different Dabkeh steps to music which they had brought with them - they children really loved it! Towards the end of the session we brought all the children together into a big group dance. The teacher was extremely positive about this session and the girls left as the children were shouting ‘Please come back soon!’. Erica had prepared tea and cakes in the staff room during the break, which gave the girls the opportunity to meet and speak to a variety of teachers at the school.

We left the school around lunch time, and the girls headed off for a walk up Parliament Hill with another volunteer, at which point I sadly had to leave. I met up with them again at 8pm at KTCC on Greenwood place, where we ate all together and discussed how the trip was going so far, which was a positive and productive discussion.

By Safaa Usmani (Samah's buddy, purple group)

As the morning activity had been cancelled, me and my dad decided to act on an issue that had been raised at the meeting the night before- that women in Palestine don’t ride bikes. We took Samah and Fatmeh to the local square to teach them how to ride a bike. It turned out, however, that both of them already knew how! Lost in translation...

We then went to Tower Hamlets College for more question-and-answer style meetings. This was much more successful as the meeting had been well advertised and a particular ESOL class had prepared many interesting questions for Samah and Fatmeh. The students were also older and more sympathetic to the cause. I thought the questions were really interesting as well and I got myself involved in some stimulating discussions. The girls exchanged emails with many of the students and wanted to stay for longer to chat, but we had an impossibly tight schedule to keep to.

We were still half an hour late for Forest Gate Community School, so we missed the majority of a lesson we were supposed to speak in. However, the lesson had been pretty badly organised anyway, with nothing said as to what was expected of us. So the girls just gave their spiel. The students did have some surprisingly intelligent questions despite how young they were (13-14 yrs old). At the year 9 assembly, Samah said to me, “please don’t tell me it’s question and answer again.” It was.

When we finished at 2.30pm we went to Primark, which the girls had been looking forward to. From there I dropped them at the ice skating, which I hear they enjoyed, except Fatmeh fell over and bruised herself. It was lovely having two more quests, Isra’a and Nadia, staying with us, though difficult to get them all out the house in the morning!
The women prepare to skate

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Day Five: University and College Visits

Today the women went to universities and schools across London in their separate groups, where they met different lots of students, teachers and academics, gave presentations and even got people dancing! Here are some reports from the day...

By Caitlin Proctor (Hanin's buddy, yellow group)

On Tuesday morning Hanin, Saida and I had breakfast together at Katy’s house before heading to the Institute of Education. The girls worked on finalising their presentations for the day, before doing practice runs on me over coffee and cakes. We met with the rest of the group around half 11, and set up for the meeting at the IOE. The girls all gave excellent presentations, and there was some lively discussion around questions that people asked after the presentations. It would have been nice if there were more students in the audience- it was great that the people present were so engaged, but most of them were staff and I think the girls were a little disheartened not to have more student interest.

After lunch at the IOE, Hanin, Nadia, Hana and I were interviewed by Press TV at the IOE about the visit. Everyone really enjoyed this experience! Click here to watch the video. Our interview starts about ten minutes in.

After the interview we went to the British Museum - a visit which some of the girls really enjoyed and others found boring. After some more coffee and cake we took the girls to buy some souvenirs from shops around Bloomsbury. 
Saida and Hanin outside the Institute of Education
Our panel of speakers at the Institute of Education
Hanin and Caitlin being interviewed for Press TV
By Emily Danby (Saida's buddy, yellow group) 

In the evening, the girls headed to a vigil in support of Hana Shalabi, held outside of ULU, while I set up the evening event at SOAS. Even though the girls were tired from such a long day, they did a brilliant job at teaching the group some dabkeh. There was a great light-hearted atmosphere and everyone seemed genuinely interested in finding out more about the women's lives back in Abu Dis. It would have been great to attract a more diverse range of people- most were from Palestinian societies or had direct connections to the Middle East. Next time I'm involved in planning a student event, I'd like it to attract students from all backgrounds.

By Esra'a Shahin (Natalie's buddy, green group)

We woke up at 9am after spending the night at Annika’s house. We ate breakfast, which was bread chocolate spread and honey, then Fareeda came and took us to meet Hanna. Nadia was ill so Annika took her to the doctor and she didn’t come with us. We left the house at 10.30 and walked to the King’s Cross Station and waited there for Hanna. Then when she came we took a tour around St Pancras Station, then at 11.30 we reached the Institute of Education, where we met the Yellow team. Then Nadia came and after that we gave presentations about education in Palestine and refugees. Then we ate lunch provided by IoE- pizza- with the people who attended the presentation and had informal discussion of the presentations.

At 12.15 a woman came from a TV station and conducted interviews with Hanin, Nadia and their buddies, and the rest of us waited. After that we went to the British museum, looked around from 3.20 until 4.30, and then we rested in the gallery cafĂ© in the museum.  After that we when to the prisoner vigil at 5.30, which was organised to draw attention Hana’s Shalabi’s hunger strike, who is a Palestinian prisoner being held indefinitely in administrative detention without charge. She has been on hunger strike for 34 days, and we collected signatures for a petition that we will present to the European Union to pressure Israel to either formally charge her or release her. At the vigil we talked to the people who had come, and the people passing by, about Hana Shalabi and after that we had an amazing time talking to lots of amazing people. We left and went to SOAS and there we taught people dabkeh and ate Palestinian food and listened to Palestinian music, then we went back to our host’s house.

By Safaa Usmani (Samah's buddy, purple group)

I was really looking forward to visiting Stoke Newington School, as it is my old school. I told Samah and Fatmeh this, so they were asking me questions the night before about what the school looks like etc. Therefore, they went to SNS with some expectations- however, these expectations were greatly exceeded as the school had had a complete makeover! This was a great surprise for me as well. We were taken on a whirlwind tour of the school, visiting every department. Fatmeh and Samah were greatly impressed by the school’s facilities, especially the technology used, such as interactive whiteboards. It was interesting to hear the similarities and differences between this school and the girls’ experience of school. What surprised the students the most was the fact that there are usually 40-45 students in each class in Palestine, with only one teacher!

The girls really enjoyed visiting the school and thought it was beautiful. They did not, however, enjoy the walk between Stoke Newington and BSix College- I don’t think they’re used to walking far. BSix College wasn’t as much of a success- I don’t think the girls were very prepared for the Q and A session. They didn’t actually know what was expected of them at the college, but they managed to answer most questions asked. It would have been useful if we’d had an interpreter so that Fatmeh could express her opinion more.

In the late afternoon we went to New Look in Dalston, before the girls took part in a public talk at the local library. The turnout was good, with around 20 participants eager to hear Samah and Fatmeh’s stories. There was a good range of interest, including how the twinning of towns process works, what life was like specifically for women and, the most popular question of the week, how can we, in the UK, help Palestinians. By being aware of the situation was Samah’s most common answer.

Monday, 19 March 2012

Day Four: Seaside Adventures

By Emily Danby (Saida's buddy)

Monday- our time to leave the outdoor centre at Brockenhurst and venture out into the world! After everybody came together to clean and pack away, we all set off on a day trip to the seaside (almost) at Lymington. This would be a chance for the girls to see a traditional English town and get a taste of an England very different to that which they’ll be experiencing the rest of the week in London. For some of the women it was also the first time they had ever got to go to the sea, since it is so difficult for Palestinians to gain access to the coast in their home country!
The group at Lymington Harbor
After wandering the town and admiring the boats in the harbour, the British buddies decided it would be great if the Palestinians had a chance to taste a proper English cream tea- it seemed so fitting in this quaint little seaside town! But after quite a lot more wandering and settling down to our picnic, we decided the idea should go on the list of things to do later in the week. After lunch and a few games by the harbour we decided to make our way back through the town and visit the local museum, which had some interesting displays showing the sorts of industry and activities that local women have been involved in over the past few centuries. This sparked some interesting conversation, but some of the girls were more interested in doing some research of their own into the modern day interests of women in the town (i.e, they wanted to go shopping).

Cordu tries her hand at doing the washing the old-fashioned way
Esra'a at the museum
After exploring the high street clothes shops, we all went to get fish and chips and gathered on the cobbled steps to eat them- all very English! Then it was time to head back to the train station and go onward to London. After a surprisingly efficient meeting while waiting for the train, we boarded and I sat with Nawal on the journey back. I really enjoyed the opportunity to learn a little more about her life, and to practise my Arabic!

Group-meeting on the train
As soon as we arrived in London the rural calm of Brockenhurst seemed another world away. We were all very tired from our weekend’s activities and I made sure Hiya and Nawal were delivered safely home before heading home myself. It was a long and eventful day, and a great ending to a productive and enjoyable weekend.

Sunday, 18 March 2012

The Palestinian Day in Photos...

Nadia explains how the Palestinian territories are becoming increasingly isolated

Dr Fadwa demonstrates the difference between Jerusalemite and West Bank IDs

Making Palestinian-style stuffed peppers
Stuffed peppers stewing for lunch
Dr Fadwa unveils the maqloubeh

Learning Palestinian cross-stitch

Time for some nail art

Adding toppings to Dr Fadwa's sahlab, to be enjoyed by the campfire
Fatmeh makes music from a biscuit tin to accompany the girls' dancing

All dressed up for the dabkeh performance

Day Three: The Palestinian Day

By Cordu N'Diaye (Aisheh's buddy)

The day started off in a fairly lackadaisical manner, which was perfect. The night before a few of us stayed up late to watch ‘28 Days Later’; and if the fact that the movie finished at 4am wasn’t enough to render me exhausted at the 8 am wake up, then the mild concern that there were rabid zombies lurking in the shadows of every dark room (so that sleep evaded me for a while longer) had definitely performed that trick.

Sunday was ‘Palestinian Day’ at the camp so Dr Fadwah and a few of the girls got up early to make, what can only justifiably be described as a feast, complete with fresh hand mashed hummus, fried bread&cheese and baklavah.

After breakfast we gathered to listen to the presentations that our Palestinian friends had prepared and the events and stories of the following few hours were amongst the prominent of the whole trip. The topics that the girls spoke on ranged from ‘Education’ and ‘The Wall’ to ‘Checkpoints’ and ‘Refugees’ but the one constant evident in all of the presentations was the silent determination of these otherwise everyday women to fight for their country and their resilient desire for the simple right to just ‘be’.

Haya prepares her presentation 
Dr Fadwa demonstrates the difference between green and blue Palestinian ID cards

It would be unfair to say that women everywhere, especially those of ambition, don’t hold most of these characteristics true, but during that afternoon it became evident that it ran especially deep in these women and to me they represented what I imagined to be a much larger, stronger nationalistic sentiment among Palestinians.

The afternoon events that followed inspired another one of the most interesting parts of the visit. After the presentations had been given and the Q&A concluded, we did what was inevitably bound to happen when 20+ women confine themselves to a small space, we had makeovers. What really surprised me here was the versatility of our Palestinian friends’ attitudes and I felt slightly naive for expecting them to be as sombre playing dress up and painting henna as they were when they were telling us stories of being regularly detained, mocked and humiliated at Israeli checkpoints by military soldiers whilst on their way to University.
The evening ended in dabkeh, another campfire (with Dr Fadwah’s sahlab to quench the legendary campfire thirst) and a fantastic rendition of “London’s Burning” lead by Anna Amo.

Saturday, 17 March 2012

Day Two: The British Day

By Decca Muldowney (Samah's buddy)

This morning began at 8am, with people emerging slowly from bed. At 9 am the kitchen team produced a full English breakfast of eggs, tomatoes, mushrooms, veggie sausages, toast and tea. There were mixed reactions from the Palestinians- they seemed particularly divided over the baked beans. 

After clear-up we all sat down for an induction meeting, talking about our hopes, fears and expectations of the project. Many of our hopes were the same: to learn more about each other, about our different lives and political situations. We were worried about things like miscommunication and misunderstandings and things like cultural differences. The consensus in the group seemed to be that it is important to talk about differences rather than pretend they are not there. (Incidentally- this is something I believe is essential to any solidarity work: no two political situations are the same and our unity can be based on acknowledging the difference of our struggles. Strangely, I’ve found that it is often by discussing difference that similarities are found! This really came true today on the walk when we were talking with Esraa. She said that in Palestine it is always society- rather than law or religion- that determines how women are treated and expected to behave. I think this is true much of the time in Britain too.) 

After our induction me and Samah, my buddy, were on cooking duty. I am also acting as a buddy to Fatmeh, whose buddy isn’t here yet. We chopped lots of vegetables together for the butternut squash soup. It was really lovely as I was able to learn more about Samah and Fatmeh. They both have big families (by my standards as an only child!) and live in the towns where they were born. Although they are younger than me they are both already engaged. Both of them are planning to get married after finishing university. I told Samah about my boyfriend Noah, who I’ve been with for 2 ½ years. He comes from a Jewish family in the US. After travelling with me in Palestine last year he became really anti-Zionist and pro-Palestinian, I got the feeling that Samah hasn’t met many anti-Zionist Jews and I would really love to be able to introduce her to Noah. 

Then we all went on a walk into the forest and encountered a lot of mud and a very friendly New Forest pony. He licked our hands- but the Palestinians seemed quite frightened. That didn’t stop them all taking pictures with him! 

When we got back we put the finishing touches to lunch. Samah and Fatmeh helped me make bread roles from the dough- and they came out really beautifully! Everyone was starving and the mountain of bread rolls seemed to disappear very quickly. 

During the post-lunch lull, the Palestinian women told me all about the makeover they want to give me- Samah wants to pluck my eyebrows, something I have neve, ever done. But I think in the spirit of cultural exchange I’ll let her do it. 

Samah and Fatmeh then sat down to work on our story with a femal heroine. Fatmeh told an amazing story about her aunt which we decided to use. She also told me another story about her own mother, who has two sons in prison. One of Fatmeh’s brothers is in Israeli prison for 10 years, with 3 more years to go. Another brother was in prison for life, but was sent back in the Gild Shalit prisoner exchange. I told them that Shalit’s father had told the press that if he was a Palestinian fighting for freedom he would kidnap Israeli soldiers. They had heard nothing about it and were very surprised. 

We spent the afternoon making puppets and sets with Natalie and Esraa. It was really lovely working with them- my only worry is that sometimes things get lost in translation and I think they are too polite to say sometimes! 

We ate a delicious shepherd’s pie for dinner and then apple crumble. After dinner we put on our puppet plays, which were all very different and very beautiful. It was interesting to see the different ways people found to talk about the strength of women.

Day One (Friday 16th): Some First Impressions

by Decca Muldowney (Samah's buddy)

Day One (Friday 16th): Getting to Know One Another

Tile Barn Outdoor Centre, The New Forest.

by Emily Danby ( Saida's buddy)
I arrived at the hostel to hear the fire alarm going off and I met the whole group of excited and very friendly young women walking up the drive way. After settling in quickly, I went to help in the kitchen but everything seemed to be very calmly taken care of. The smell of sage filled the kitchen and I followed my nose to the large trays of fresh herbs brought all the way from Palestine to make authentic Palestinian tea. 

There was immediately a wonderfully cheerful and calm atmosphere amongst the women - helped by the fact that nearly everyone was wearing pyjamas - and as we shared dinner introductions came easily. I learnt about the girls' families and their studies. The Palestinians seemed to eat very modest portions of food and weren't too impressed by tesco's slieced bread, although extra sandwiches were still going down quickly.

After dinner, two of the British group made a campfire and we sat around taking it in turns to share songs. There seemed to be a lot of Palestinian songs that all the women knew - and some of them were very funny when they explained the meaning. Meanwhile, us Brits resorted quickly to Disney numbers to find something we all knew. Singing was followed by a hilarious bi-lingual game of Chinese Whispers, where one person chose a word in English or Arabic and we passed it around until it turned into nonsense or sometimes a whole other word in a whole other language. After a bit of dancing to Beyonce, we all made our way inside.

As the evening went on, it seemed like the British and Palestinian groups had become slightly divided, which they weren't at the beginning. I think this was natural, because the British "buddies" hadn't really had much chance to get to know each other and the Palestinians were all tired from travelling and probably not feeling much like speaking their second language. I don't think divisions will be a big problem for the rest of the week though because we have discussed the danger and I think everyone taking part in the week is so keen to get to know others from the other culture that they won't let it happen. 

Anyway, a good game of snakes and ladders ("sallam wa hay") brought us together again before bed time.

All in all, day one was a wonderful beginning to the week, which made me realise that this project is as much about making good friends with women we have a lot in common with as it is about finding out about Palestine, its problems and how we can provide support.  

Emily Danby (Saida's buddy)

The visit begins!

The Palestinian women arrived safely on Friday, and the visit has begun with a three day residential in the New Forest.

All participants will spend three days getting to know each other, share skills during 'Palestinian' and 'British' days- with fun activities, delicious food and cultural exchange!

The fun has just begun and we know this will be an illuminating, interesting and exciting trip!

More updates and photos to come!

Thursday, 15 March 2012

Hopes, Fears and Expectations for the Visit Ahead...

We're hoping ...

"To give a clear picture of Palestine in general and Palestinian women in particular." - Nadia Abu Raida
"To make our targets clear to everyone, and to make a difference - even if just  a small one - to people's thoughts, or even beliefs, about Palestine." - Bissan Shuaiby
"To share our experiences and skills and create new friendships here." - Hanin Abu-Khiram

Our fears are that ...

"There might be problems or misunderstanding between women in the group." - Nawal Shahen
"We'll be under a lot of pressure." - Nadia Abu Raida
"It will rain and be cold all the time!" - Nadia, Bissan, Saida, Isra'a
"We have no fears; we are brave women" - Haya Lahadi

We expect the results of the visit to be ...

"A good website with real stories, pictures and videos- information which you can’t find on other websites." - Nadia Abu Raida
"That we will learn a lot of things about British women, their culture and tradition." - Nawal Shaheen
"A good, yet stressful, trip that will bring a lot of benefit and be a new stage in my life." - Hanin Abu-Khiram

The British Participants!

As the young Palestinian women are on their flight to London we would like to introduce you to some the young women who will be their buddies and partners for the exchange of skills, in their own words!


"I'm a freelance photographer and a waitress in a sustainable restaurant.
I'm interested in hearing young women of a similar age tell their stories and talk of their experiences.
I studied photography and have a huge interest in the arts, specifically photography and film.
I'm interested in signing and folk music from around the world. Food and cooking is also a passion of mine."


"I'm working on a translation project from Swedish to English about two sisters in Palestine, based on the lives of two women working in Jerusalem and around the region.
I'm editor and writer for SOAS student magazine 'For'em' - I would love to document the exchange and write about it for 'For'em Magazine' and for 'London Student'."


"I just finished university last year where I was studying Arabic and French and now I'm working as a translator as well as volunteering for CADFA and for another charity which works with refugees. I am very interested in Palestinian culture and really want to improve my understanding of the region and its people before hopefully going there myself! In my spare time I like to swim, practise meditation and read and I am passionate about cooking!"


"I'm currently doing my MA in gender studies at the School of Oriental and African Studies.
I love travelling and dancing. I have lived for three years in India and one in Guinea-Bissau working for the Portuguese Development Agency. Living in Asia and Africa has been one of the most important enlightening experiences of my life, specially in terms of being able to listen to many different women's voices/ experiences."


"I'm currently doing my MA in Intelligence and International Security at King's College London with a particular focus on Palestine and the Middle East. I am from the United States but I am over here in London pursuing my MA. I took part in CADFA's A Look At Our Lives last year and I enjoyed meeting the students from Al-Quds University. My interests are sports and travelling. I am looking forward to meeting everyone."


"I'm studying Social Anthropology and Study of Religions at SOAS with a focus on the Middle East and Islam. I'm French but I mostly grew up in Manchester in the North of England and I am now living in London. I love travelling, reading and languages.

I'm new to CADFA and I can't wait to meet everyone from Palestine and the UK!"


"I'm studying human rights law masters at Birkbeck, my mother is originally Irish and my father Egyptian. I am so excited to meet all the women involved in this, from the UK and Palestine!
I love cooking, I do muay thai kickboxing (nearly at my 2nd belt) and I can't wait to learn dabke :)"


"I am 24 and have been living in Hackney for about a year, working for a community garden project in northeast london that works with refugees, asylum seekers, mental health service users. I am involved in working for Traveller rights in the UK, specifically resisting the racially motivated eviction of the Irish Traveller community at Dale Farm.

I have a strong interest in gender equality issues, and researched Islamic feminism for my dissertation. I have been interested in the Palestinian struggle particularly since I moved to the UK in 2005, when I was able to explore the issue outside of the pro-Israel "consensus" where I went to school in Ohio, leading to my participation in the Gaza Solidarity Cambridge University occupation of 2009."

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Appeal to everyone involved in the women's visit.

Is there any chance that you could make a monthly standing order, even a small one, to CADFA?

This is the way we can make sure that we can cover the costs of a visit like this and go on working hard with more exciting projects to promote human rights and respect for international humanitarian law in Palestine.

We have to cover thousands in match-funding costs for every project and cannot expect to find a major donor - We are however proud that co-operation by our friends is our main support. We urgently need to extend this - we are still behind on covering the women's visit costs at the time of writing this -and therefore ask you if you can play a part.

Many friends each contributing a little is what makes this work possible.

Please join CADFA and support our work by setting up a standing order to

CADFA, sort code 08-92-99, 6518 0334

Please also send us an email to say you have done this.

Please ask your family and friends if they will join us too.

PLEASE WILL YOU ALSO, DURING THE VISIT, make a collection for CADFA at every meeting and ask everyone who is interested in our work also to join us by making a standing order if possible.

Sunday, 4 March 2012

Palestinian woman on hunger strike against administrative detention


Outside ULU, Malet St WC1, Tuesday 20th March 6-7pm

Of course we hope that by the time this vigil happens, Hanaa Shalabi (currently on hunger strike) is eating again and free - this event is in her honour. We call for the freeing of all political prisoners, in particular those in prison without trial on administrative detention.

We will carry candles and tape our mouths (as well as give out leaflets so people know what this is for).

We hope you can come.

Public events during the visit


We hope you can come to some of these events...

On Tuesday 20th March in the evening, three events
On Thursday 22nd March in the evening,
  • NEWHAM, more details to follow
On Saturday 24th March

Sunday, 26 February 2012

Outline timetable

Friday 16th March - Palestinians arrive and all participants travel to residential centre

Saturday 17th March - Induction and then 'British day' - skills sharing organised by the British group

Sunday 18th March - 'Palestinian day' - organised by the Palestinian group

Monday 19th March - Visit to the sea and return to London

Tuesday 20th March - London visits in groups. Some to Camden universities and others in Hackney; information shortly on public events in the evening

Wednesday 21st March - London visits in groups. Some to Camden Council and community centres and others in Tower Hamlets and Newham; ice-skating in the evening

Thursday 22nd March - Animated film workshop; then time with buddies

Friday 23rd March - W0rkshop first thing then tourism day

Saturday 24th March - Presentations, skills-sharing and evening benefit

Sunday 25th March - Evaluation meeting and Palestinian visitors return.

Saturday, 25 February 2012

Book'n'bake sale

Many thanks for your efforts to all of you who

  • baked cakes
  • gave books
  • drove things round
  • set up and 'womanned' the stall
  • came and bought things

to make money for the women's visit.

Delicious cakes :)

The only thing you forgot was to take a photo for the blog. Want to draw us one??

Friday, 24 February 2012

Hiyam's planning visit Day 4

Today we went to explore the residential place in the New Forest - I think you're going to have a good time there. Also a pic of the River Thames in the evening.