Mvslim Spotlights: Malikah Gender Justice Summit

Malikah is a global grassroots organization that has reached over 20,000 women in 20+ cities over the last 10 years. Since the pandemic hit in early 2020, Malikah has utilized the new virtual landscape to provide international healing spaces, self-defense, bystander intervention training, and other programs to over 775 people.

Between the political landscape in the U.S. and people struggling to make it through the pandemic, Malikah acknowledges that community joy, organizing, and solidarity, are the most effective ways to create and advocate for the liberation of our marginalized communities. On October 24th, 2020, dozens of people from across the globe joined Malikah for their inaugural Gender Justice Summit.

The full day of workshops included self-defense, digital organizing, gender justice, enthusiastic consent, healing justice, organizing, economic justice, and anti-oppression training. The goal of the summit was to collectively vision for a more just future and cultivate joy through interactive workshops that provided concrete tools to empower us both collectively and in our individual lives. 

Rana Abdelhamid, Founder of Malikah, opened the summit by grounding everyone in the realities of gender-based violence. This framework around the status of women in the current day set the tone and context for the entirety of the summit.

One of the participants explained that they “loved how many of the workshops had important historical and political frameworks to connect them directly to the movement.” This intersectional understanding of feminism echoed through the rest of the workshops. 

Then DeeAnn Ramesh, an international educational development professional, blew away the participants with a grounding workshop about healing justice. While the summit attendees came from diverse backgrounds, most of them had some involvement or interest in movement work. DeeAnn discussed the importance of self care to a movement, sharing what healing justice can look like in action from collective visioning to individual processing. 

Areeba Kamal, who has built out Malikah’s economic justice curriculum over the past few years, shared her knowledge on financial literacy. With the COVID-19 financial crisis, it was more relevant than ever to share tips on finances with an intentional focus on the fact that BIPOC of marginalized genders may face a disproportionate financial burden. The beauty of Malikah’s financial literacy curriculum is that it shares concrete economic skills while framing the subject in a way that is not shaming and defines budgeting as “an exercise in maintaining your mental health and your financial wellness.”

In addition to year-round programs, Malikah offers an annual Gender Justice Organizing Summit. Last year, Malikah flew applicants from across the U.S to Middlebury college to equip them with the tools they needed to carry out campaigns specific to their communities. Maisha Imam, who participated in the 2019 organizing program and is currently working on her campaign in the DMV area, joined the summit to share more about the various types of organizing and how people can make tangible change in their communities.

Many organizers have changed their tactics during the pandemic. While rallies and protests are still very alive, many organizers have been replacing in person meeting actions with virtual means of communication. Sarah Elsunni, Malikah’s Marketing Director, joined the summit to share her secrets for engaging a virtual social media audience, and covered everything from boosting your followers, to creating viral educational posts. 

Next Hind Essayegh, Malikah’s Regional Director of the DMV area, guided folks through an energizing self defense session! Some attendees brought their younger siblings and families in for the session to practice self defense moves, practicing using their voice, and learning all about boundary setting. You can learn some self defense moves yourself by checking out the videos featured on malikah.org/self-defense

After the attendees learned about boundary setting, Deena Hadhoud, Malikah’s Community manager and a reproductive justice advocate, facilitated Malikah’s first workshop explicitly about consent. The workshop examined a variety of definitions of consent and dove into conversations about rape culture, why boundary setting can be uncomfortable, the importance of age appropriate k-12 comprehensive sex ed, and commitments to respecting our own and others’ boundaries. 

The summit was topped off with one of the most appreciated sessions: Anti-Racism in practice. Haleema Bharoocha, Program Director of Malikah’s South Asians For Black Lives program, dove into an always-relevant training about positionality, anti-oppression, and allyship.

Throughout the day, three different performers in the community brought joy to the event. Boshia Rae-Jean, whose aim is “to manifest a space for humanity to build social, communal, and global change through afrofuturism and with the classic art of hip-hop,” shared a powerful hip hop set. Angie Assal, a Lebanese-American multimedia artist based in NYC, graced us with a beautiful belly dancing performance halfway through the day.

Finally, Aysha Qamar, a writer, poet, advocate, and Malikah Chapter Lead based in the tri-state area shared some powerful original and hand-picked spoken word. While Malikah’s community is often engaged in serious conversation related to oppression, they also prioritize rooting the work they do in love, power, and joy. 

Overall, the response to the summit was very positive, and there is a clear need for those tools in the community. Some of the feedback included: “I loved how interactive the workshops were! Y’all did a great job at offering a variety of topics,” “I loved the content and being with people who understand the importance of gender justice,” “great speakers, learned so much, want this information to be shared to more people,” “Amazing job! I’m looking forward to tapping into more of the resources shared in the sessions and sharing with some like-minded friends. As well as staying tuned with Malikah and the great work you all continue to do!” 

If you’re interested in getting involved with the Malikah community, please visit their Facebook, Instagram @WeAreMalikah, and website, and subscribe for their monthly newsletters here.

Written by Mvslim

In the mixed society we live today, we went looking for the ideal platform for Muslims. And of course, we didn’t find it. So we made one ourselves.