By Deema Kaedbey
It was an all-women feminist space that Sawt Al Niswa invited us to. A three day writers’ retreat in which we explored issues like what it meant to be a feminist writing in the Arab world, our relationship to our language, our favorite writers and texts. But mostly it was a retreat that offered us a chance to write and share our writings with the feminists around us.
On Friday evening, we officially launched the sessions with introductions. And we could instantly feel that this was a remarkable group of women— these women were very intelligent, and they upheld great feminist values and a passion for writing.
Most informative part of Day One for me? That we got to read May Zyadeh and to talk about her texts. And I also loved listening to the feminists talk about their relationship to writing.
Day two started early on Saturday. With our morning coffee we debated what makes a feminist and what makes a feminist text. And the intense discussions continued all day. We wrote and talked about the significance of our writing in our activism. We delved into our position as “post-colonial” agents and our need to reinvent our language and to create something that reflects our lives and the way we speak. We argued amiably, we shared personal stories and theories, and we loved it. And then it was time to really write: articles, poems, personal stories. And write we did. And after we peer reviewed them, we rewrote again and met to discuss this writing process together.
By Sunday we were very tired, but still very excited about the day. And we had a reason to be excited: a trained journalist was going to give us sessions about factual writing. And each one of us was going to research and produce a draft of a factual essay by the end of the day. Doing that was a big achievement for us, because it was a challenging process but also because we got to learn a lot. But perhaps the biggest achievement of that day for so many of us was that in our “Loving Our Language” session, we got to talk about our relationship with the Arabic language, and to produce little love poems. In Arabic. For those of us who have only written in English, writing these poems was a chance for us to laugh at ourselves but it also gave us a real sense of accomplishment.
And as happy as we were to finally go home, it was also sad to leave the safe space that we had created together this weekend. It was an inspiring experience for me to meet these wonderful women, these dedicated feminists and very talented future writers. And so I’m happy to report to all Sawt’s readers: our first writers’ retreat was a brilliant success. We hope you can join us in upcoming retreats and workshops.