Very early in the planning stages, I read about the murder of a woman in Pakistan by the Taliban (which I blogged about here: http://scribblinggypsy.blogspot.com/2009/01/dancing-girl-killed-in-pakistan-by.html) for the simple reason that she was a dancer.
I couldn't believe it. It was something that didn't seem possible in this day and age. But the reality is, we're lucky in this country to be able to dance and express ourselves openly. There are many women around the world who cannot, and I thought it was important during an event that celebrates belly dancing and a book about belly dancing, to also do something for women who don't have the same luxury.
After searching for an organization that helped women in these troubled areas, I discovered Women for Women International. Its mission is to help women survivors of war rebuild their lives, and it operates in Iraq, Afghanistan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and parts of Africa. The organization is dedicated to improving women's lives in a lasting way. Here's how it's described on the group's Web site:
"We begin by working with women who may have lost everything in conflict and often have nowhere else to turn. Participation in our one-year program launches women on a journey from victim to survivor to active citizen. We identify services to support graduates of the program as they continue to strive for greater social, economic and political participation in their communities.
"As each woman engages in a multi-phase process of recovery and rehabilitation, she opens a window of opportunity presented by the end of conflict to help improve the rights, freedoms and status of women in her country. As women who go through our program assume leadership positions in their villages, actively participate in the reconstruction of their communities, build civil society, start businesses, train other women and serve as role models, they become active citizens who can help to establish lasting peace and stability."
It's a meaningful message of self-empowerment, and it's women reaching out to and helping other women. These are themes that were very important to me as I wrote THE BELLY DANCER, and I can't think of a more appropriate way to honor the art and history of belly dance than to support this noble cause.
That's why I'm feeling very fortunate today. Not only do I enjoy the freedom to dance and live my life the way I want, but our event helped raise money for the organization, thanks to the help of so many individuals who donated either drawing prizes or cash, or both. I was thrilled and honored to be able to mail off those proceeds today.
If you'd like to learn more about Women for Women International, you can do so here. And please consider making a donation. There are women in this world whose lives may depend on it.