‘The woman’s struggle belongs to each and every one of us’

Dublin Mosque event marks International Woman’s Day with visit from Sabina Higgins

 Sabina Higgins meets Hanan Amer at the Amal women’s association event celebrating International Women’s Day, at the Dublin Mosque, on Wednesday. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Sabina Higgins meets Hanan Amer at the Amal women’s association event celebrating International Women’s Day, at the Dublin Mosque, on Wednesday. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

 

“Strange day!” said Sabina Higgins as she squeezed her way into the entrance hall of the Dublin Mosque meeting rooms for the International Woman’s Day gathering organised by Amal, the Islamic community women’s association.

“Lots of things happening across the way,” she said to her enthusiastic welcoming party before adding: “Or not.”

The only refuge from Brexit, it seemed, was the Moroccan-style tent upstairs, past the Koranic inscription saying “God knows what is in your heart”, where the president’s wife sat on a makhada, a leather cushion, beside an ankle-high table.

Hanan Amer, founder of Amal, poured Ms Higgins some tea while the pair posed for photographs and Ms Amer presented her with a small basket of pink flowers.

“Ah!” exclaimed Ms Higgins, “they’re beautiful.”

Amal is about women supporting women, and is part of the community of activities around the Dublin Mosque on the South Circular Road. Ms Higgins has supported previous gatherings centring on International Woman’s Day and was keen to return this year.

Headscarves

About 60 women, many but not all wearing headscarves, and several fraternal delegates associated with long-established women’s campaigning organisations, among them Noeline Blackwell and Ailbhe Smyth, came to the gathering.

Subjects for discussion included Amal and what it does, housing and homelessness, Islamophobia and how to make communities safer, and promoting healthy eating.

More than anything, Amal is a safe place and forum where Muslim woman can meet and share stories, seek advice, swop news and commune in solidarity with each other. Amal also promotes women registering to vote.

“The woman’s struggle belongs to each and every one of us,” said Ryma Halfaoui in a welcoming address to Ms Higgins that included introductory remarks in Irish. The gathering was an occasion for celebrating and for networking, she suggested.

Coffee morning

A pivotal focus of Amal’s activities is the Wednesday morning coffee gathering at the mosque. “As simple as it sounds,” said organiser Niera Belacy, “its where everything starts.”

Making unscheduled and unscripted remarks, Ms Higgins spoke of the UN’s millennium goals and how they included women’s rights, including the right not to be subjected to FGM (female genital mutilation). She praised Amal and its organisers and wished them well.

Amal seeks to engage with a community of some 200 women. It had a board of volunteers, as well as a youth council. It recently received a grant of some €35,000 from the social innovation fund which it hopes to use partly to fund a full-time employee.