One of the organisations I volunteer with, Dorm Room Diplomacy, has started a new programme this semester: Foundations. Unlike the regular 10-week sessions I facilitate, the "Foundations" sessions are just three weeks long and topically focused, rather than longer-term relational sessions during which a variety of topics are discussed per group choice.
This semester, I'm helping to run the Foundations Session on gender issues. I have eight undergraduate students from across America, Palestine, Afghanistan, Turkey...
Last week during our first chat, we addressed the basic definitions of sex and gender, the social construction of gender, and a historical overview of feminism globally.
Today, I invited my AMENDS buddy Nihal Saad Zaghloul, an epic gender activist from Egypt who began the Imprint Movement, working against sexual harassment on the streets in Cairo. More recently, Nihal has launched a campaign to create gender studies curriculum and knowledge written in Arabic. Her work was recently featured in a great article (written in English!) - http://communitytimes.me/one-woman-seeks/.
The group had a great time with Nihal, chatting about strategies for countering sexism and harassment, the political and religious climate in Egypt, and Western views on women in the Muslim world. Really great issues were raised and grappled with. At the end of the session, I think our major consensus was: "I LOVE THESE PEOPLE!"
The internet has dehumanised a lot of things we do. But it's also provided an incredibly powerful platform for serious relationship-building and knowledge sharing.