The entire staff of Kvinna till Kvinna working in the MENA region gathered for our annual regional days. It’s not often we get an opportunity to meet – so our coordinators that sit in our headquarters in Stockholm, along with our regional manager, our head of communication, were there. And our field representatives and local staff in our field offices were all gathered.
This year we all travelled to our colleagues in Jordan, the first days in Amman, and then packing or bags yet again for a trip out south to the desert to an eco-friendly lodge. We arrived in the evening, after a bumpy road that turned some of our stomachs. The candles of Feynan lit up the darkness, welcoming us with its warmth. The white and yellow clay house with its small windows looked like a scene from A thousand and one night, a serene silence and sanctuary feeling that made us all think it was worth the hours of travel.
Curiously we followed our hosts to our rooms, where no electricity, net or internet connection made us surrender completely to the fact that for some days we would be completely cut off from the outer world. A perfect place to discuss our issues more in depth without distractions!
And boy was it a good place to be. ‘So where do we go next, the young women have benefited from the conference..’ and suddenly ‘Wait, is that a camel!’ Yes, it was. White camels walking by, brown camels, goats. And unfortunately cats, more precisely one cat. No, I am not afraid of cats at all.
The isolated lodge of Feynan is run by local Beduins, who care about their surrounding environment and the animal life. The very passionate manager told us that we would be served water in jars, last year thanks to this they had saved 10,000 plastic bottles. The night ended with a roof top gathering where we all gazed at the stars, looking up at the magical moon, Jupiter and its four moons through the eyes of a telescope. I myself saw a shooting star, shouted out loudly pointing at it, before anyone else saw, it vanished into the thin air. In my happiness I forgot to make a wish.
The next morning it was time to divide ourselves in groups to discuss our two thematic areas ‘Violence Against Women’ and ‘Young Women Peace Activism’. Our discussions are always passionate, both broad and detailed, and sometimes it’s hard to summarize our thoughts and ideas in one go. Country-level, how do we work with violence against women in Iraq? Israel and Palestine? What do our partners do in Lebanon on this? What is the next step regionally, and how are we best supporting the women?
Being at the end of our three year program working with young women in MENA we have a regional meeting coming up in 2014. The young women have just handed in studies they have done in their local communities. What are the young women’s voices saying? How do we best work with together with our communication department to bring their messages out, to Swedish audience, the world?
A long walk or the intense exercise form called Tabatha was the relaxation options before lunch. Standing on the roof top and doing push-ups and squats in the sun sure made us sweat. The all-vegetarian buffet gave us well-needed energy to start off the afternoon talking about advocacy. What do the partner organizations do to influence the decision-makers in their countries? What strategies are used, and how can we become better at supporting them?
And so even these intense and fruitful days had to come to an end. Bittersweet goodbyes as some colleauges will leave their positions after years at Kvinna till Kvinna, and hope and joy over the new colleauges that have just joined with great expectations and determination. See you again next year.