Commemorating International Women's Day
“To live in America has been my dream,” began Nidaa Haseeb, speaking at an event hosted by the Creative Alliance and the Baltimore Women’s Forum. She wore high heels and a fuchsia dress that she hadn’t donned since leaving Iraq in November of 1999. Nidaa went on to describe the country she left behind to an audience that had gathered on the eve of International Women’s Day.
“In the early 1990’s, women took over the workforce while men were at war with Iran.” Government appointments were halted; yet women filled the vacancies left by men who went to the front. Devaluation of the dinar soon followed, and Nidaa described the long lines for bread and other basics in a receding economy.
In response to the growing hardships, Nidaa became an activist for positive change in small yet significant ways. When a local school was understaffed, she says, “I took money out of my own pocket to pay the salary of an additional teacher.” She also organized local women to earn money through tailoring, baking bread, and selling flowers. She herself opened a boutique.
At the International Women’s Day event, the Creative Alliance screened six documentary films as a prelude to Nidaa and several other women speaking on stage. One film, “Mothers of Martyrs,” documented the stories of Nicaraguan mothers who lost children to civil war in the 1970s and 80s. In that war, children fought and died on the battlefield leaving an entire generation of widows and mothers behind to rebuild. These mothers united into an organization to remember their children, tell their stories, and care for each other.
Each film depicted challenges which served to highlight the uplifting message of the evening: International Women’s Day is a time to publicly recognize the women who have organized against violence and discrimination to improve the world for themselves and their children.
The other panelists for the evening were Elizabeth Alex from Casa de Maryland, Aida Pinto-Barquero from Mis Raices, Sawsan Al-Sayyab of the International Rescue Committee, and Ban Alani member of the Baltimore Women’s Forum.
Today Nidaa is fulfilling her dream as an accomplished artist, and member of the Baltimore Women’s Forum. She continues to be active in her new hometown, and recently contributed her talents to the New Roots Mural project at the IRC’s Baltimore Orientation Center in Highlandtown.
Other films screened for the evening were “Hands of Health”; “The Road Above”; “Bearing the Weight”; “The Fruit of Labor” and “Victory to Change”. They can all be viewed at http://csfilm.org/films/