Tuesday, February 22

Egypt: 48 B.C.

As I attempt to relax with a book at the end of a wild day here in the Middle East, I read the following passage from "Cleopatra: A Life," by Stacy Schiff, winner of the Pulitzer Prize:

Throughout the Mediterranean a 'strange madness' hung in the air, ripe with omens and portents and extravagant rumors. The mood was one of nervous exasperation. It was possible to be anxious and elated, empowered and afraid, all in the course of a single afternoon. Some rumors even proved to be true.

Transformative Change

Today our Middle East North African (MENA) policy advocates group had the honor of hearing from Professors Fatima Sadiki and Moha Ennaji about how the family law of Morocco has been reformed to be more supportive of women and children. It was a wonderful example of how transformative change looks from a distance as if it occurred in an instant--but in reality has taken the work of many people over a long period of time. The transformative nature of the changes in Moroccan family law seemed unfathomable to some of the participants from other countries in the region. It was a dramatic reminder that all incremental change does not lead to transformation--but all transformations are the result of many incremental steps--often taken place out of view--that are focused on a united intention. This is what Malcolm Gladwell meant by "the tipping point." The butterfly didn't appear out of nowhere, the Berlin Wall didn't fall by accident, and the current changes in family law of Morocco began in 1946.

Teachable Moments

Today I introduced the notion of Teachable Moments to the women activists and policy leaders who are in this session from throughout the Middle East and North Africa. They immediately understood and embraced the idea and are using it to pursue goals not thought possible in the past. Never has the concept of Teachable Moments held more meaning for me than it does today as I hear these courageous women applying the idea to a realm of possibilities unfolding throughout the region. It's a great reminder that we all need to be looking for and seizing teaching moments when they appear-- personally, organizationally, and globally.

Monday, February 21

FB Revolutions

Today participants are learning about using social media for successful advocacy campaigns. What a brilliant tool to empower women change agents throughout the Middle East and Northern Africa. The issues they are addressing affect women, families, and the quality of life for all people in their region. What an exciting initiative to experience firsthand!

Sunday, February 20

How Do You Explain this Egyptian Vingette?

It's midnight. I'm jet lagged. I have practiced every technique I know to still my mind. Yet sleep eludes me. They women activists from Egypt shared extraordinary stories and observations about their fresh victories, and I can't stop reliving the feelings they evoked in me with their determination, vision, courage, creativity, and wisdom.

Any woman who has walked any street anywhere in Egypt at anytime knows the prevalence of public sexual harassment there. The women leaders who were in the thick of the revolution shared with us that there was not a single case of sexual harrassment among the throngs of protesters out on the streets together day and night. Women were leading from the front--even at 2 in the morning.

And they reported that not a one of them had experienced harassment or witnessed a single incidence of harassment from the thousands of testosterone-pumped male protesters surrounding them. Several said it was the first time they felt truly proud to be Egyptian. Their stories were simple, powerful, non-ego centered, and evidence that they will be unable to ever go back to their previous culturally-defined roles. As one said, "I found myself walking differently as a result of January 25. I don't think I'll ever walk that way again."

witnessing history in the making

Today I met with 50+ women activist leaders and policy advocates from 11 countries in the Middle East and Northern Africa (MENA) region. Although my role was to "teach" them about leadership, change, and effective team-building, they gave me more than I could have ever given them. To hear their personal stories, to experience their courage, and to help them connect with one another was a gift I will never forget. Thanks to Vital Voices, the sponsoring organization and brainchild of Hillary Clinton, for the opportunity to witness history as it unfolds in this region and to be able to make my own personal contribution by supporting these women. The brave leaders from Egypt confirmed that they achieved what even they thought was impossible a few weeks ago. I hope others find the same inspiration I do in knowing that the impossible CAN and DOES happen.

Tuesday, February 1

St. Brede's Day

Today is St. Brede's Day, celebrated for a few thousand years in Ireland. Traditionally, the day symbolizes sweeping out the old and welcoming in the fresh energy of spring.

Decluttering is always good--for organizations as well as individuals. Take one small part of your work, your home, or your life and remove the clutter. Once you start, you'll discover that not nearly as much as you thought is actually essential. Clean and reorganize the essence you have retained. You will find it calming, and be opened to new possibilities.