I was excited to attend my first CCMW event as a Program Executive, with my fellow team members Zain and Anika. We all got on the subway on the rainy morning, a start of a gloomy day which turned out to be a very inspiring afternoon. While most people are sleeping in on the weekends, many Muslim women and men gathered together at Novotel Hotel in Toronto to celebrate CCMW’s 31 years of Equity, Equality and Empowerment.
My first AHA moment of the day came when I met Alia Hogben, the Executive Director of CCMW. I was meeting her for the first time, but she greeted me as though I was a lost acquaintance. Her bright blue sari was complimentary to her glowing smile and shining personality. Later that day, I met many more inspirational women, most of whom were visiting from other parts of Canada. The elder women of the community were particularly inspirational for me. I specifically remember one of my fellow team members whispering in my ear, “Hamna we have to have that much energy when we are at that age, but we are so drained now, how do they do it!” I still want to know their secret!
The keynote note speaker, Professor Asma Barlas, especially caught my attention as she spoke about challenging violence against women from an Islamic perspective. Her presentation was complimented by Lynda Clarke, who spoke about Muslim women and the niqab, and Pamela Cross who advocated for health and justice for Canadian Muslim women. I have been a part of many discussions about Islam and gender within an academic environment at my university, but there was something particularly powerful about being in the presence of Muslim women, who despite facing challenges, continuously break negative stereotypes about Muslim femininity.
Midway through the afternoon we all enjoyed a very luxurious brunch, with seconds for desserts of course! I met almost everybody for the first time that day but we clicked like old buddies and enjoyed moments of laughter. The vibe in the room was very positive and cheerful. I specially enjoyed being there with my CCMW Toronto team –Sahar, Fathima, Amra and Amani. After lunch the “Women Who Inspire Awards 2013” were awarded to: Almas Jiwani, Erum Afsar, Fanta Ongoiba, Fatima Sajan, Jamelie Hassan and Mumtaz Ebrahim. We sat through some very emotional speeches, tears, overjoyed laughs and empowering words from these women.
Attending the CCMW annual luncheon was very refreshing for me, it really got me thinking about “making a difference.” I always wondered how significant does a “difference” really have to be? But, this conference made me realize that the difference is something to be judged by people whose lives you may be helping to improve. On the subway ride back, Anika, Zain and I, all feeling very pumped up after the event, talked about the things we want to do as conscious Canadian Muslim women, and jokingly told each other “you have to nominate me when the time is right!