“Muslim Women Leaders: Stories of Struggle, Success and Faith”: a Panel at KARAMAH

On Wednesday November 17, 2011, KARAMAH hosted three accomplished Muslim women for a panel discussion on career struggles and success. The panel included Raheemah Abdulaleem, Zainab Alwani, and Jamiah Adams. The panel shared their own experiences and provided advice for Muslim women in academia and in the workplace. The event was the second of KARAMAH’s outreaching and networking events, which is an attempt to strengthen KARAMAH’s network of Muslim and non-Muslim men and women who are interested in promoting Muslim women’s rights and creating a just society where all human beings enjoy their God given right of dignity.

Ms. Abdulaleem provided participants with insight into success in education and the workplace through confident interactions and utilization of a workplace “sponsor”- a mentor who can, not only provide guidance, but also advocate for one’s career advancement. Ms. Abdulaleem, who studied at Yale and Harvard, advised the participants to never sell themselves short and singled that as one of the common mistakes women make.

Ms. Jamiah offered advice on seizing opportunities such as fellowships and taking advantage of negative experiences such as periods of unemployment. Over the course of her career, Ms. Jamiah implemented her knowledge of new media in endeavors such as documentary film making and political advocacy. Early in her career, when she faced unemployment, she took advantage of short term work assignments and scholarships to stay active and provided panel attendees with a list of such opportunities they could take advantage of.

Dr. Zainab Alwani, an Iraqi-American, detailed her struggles in trying to study in male dominated fields while also living abroad and ultimately immigrating to the United States where she had to restart her career. Dr. Alwani persevered over the course of her education and career to succeed in the male dominated field of Islamic jurisprudence. Having often lived abroad and separated from her family, and having faced political persecution and war in her native country Iraq, Dr. Alwani’s story inspired panel attendees to confront challenges with strength and determination.

These three women presented a live example of how religion can be a source of strength and a drive to make the best out of one’s self and one’s community. The attendees, both men and women, were inspired by these Muslim women leaders’ stories and were thankful to KARAMAH for providing an opportunity for the community to interact with women like these who set an example for young Muslim girls. Some of the attendees also asked if KARAMAH could provide workshops at local schools to further spread the messages heard from the panel.

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