Ordinary Women on Extraordinary Journeys
About Muslimah Stories Project
The year of 2020 was a special year for the Coalition of Muslim Women of KW (CMW). It was the year of our tenth anniversary.
Knowing that our strength lay in the passions and talents of the women who had built the organization, we decided to celebrate our milestone year by paying tribute to the gifts of a cross-section of women.
About the Organization
CMW was formed in 2010 by a handful of determined women who initially came together to formulate a response to Bill 94. In the process, they started to feel the importance of proactively addressing stereotypes and misconceptions about Muslim women. Removing barriers for Muslim women, they felt, meant a full social and economic integration.
These founding members came from diverse cultural and racial backgrounds, and varied walks of life. With little formal leadership experience or hands-on community connections, the founding members laid foundations for a strong organization while fully immersed in the design and implementation of exciting projects. They were joined by a large number of other Muslim women who, despite all of their personal struggles as newcomer women of colour, passionately engaged in community building tasks to make our community more welcoming and inclusive for all.
About the Stories
These are the stories of joy and pain, of loss and recovery, of loneliness and powerful belonging. What does it feel like to move from country to country, fleeing war and social turmoil, or in pursuit of better opportunities for your families? How does it feel to look back one last time, leave aging mothers and fathers and beloved siblings behind? How can the women who tell these stories find the words they want to say, when language learning and the simple fact of their clothing choices can provoke insult, scorn, or even injury? How does it feel to become frozen into a snapshot that others simply stare at?
The turnings, twists, and fresh discoveries on these pages are the surprising accounts of women who consider themselves ordinary. For the reader, though, a deeper story will emerge. Each of these women’s lives shared one life-transforming event in common. The historical meeting that drew together some of these women in response to the bill also prompted them to establish and nurture a unique community organization. It blossomed rapidly into a remarkable incubator of resilience, one that continued to draw more women into it, year after year. Each woman strived to build up her identity, social courage, and leadership skills in a nurturing, welcoming place, one that set out to teach by simple example. Ten years later, in the year of the pandemic, each has told her story to a fellow sojourner who walks with her to write down the story.
These are stories of working together with hope to build up community. Instead of fear, the women’s stories celebrate courage; instead of social isolation, the women’s accounts speak eloquently of relationship and risk. Together, they narrate personal accounts of transformation that say to the broader community:
Here we are. This place in Ontario is our home. We will continue to take good care of our home with our hands, hearts, and heads.
A Note of Thanks
We are grateful to Kitchener-Waterloo Community Foundation and the City of Waterloo for their financial support of the Muslimah Stories Project. Our sincere thanks also goes to Family and Children’s Services of Waterloo Region for their steady support of the project.
Heartfelt thanks to our mentors for their lively creative support and gentle guidance of both the writers and the goals of the overall project. They offered individual mentorship experiences for the writers who assembled the stories on these pages.
Finally, thank you to all of the dedicated writers! We send out a special thanks to Zehra Nawab for her artwork and Lubna Naqvi for development of the website and promotional graphics. Last but not least, thank you to our story-tellers themselves. Their rich narratives represent only a small sample of the hundreds of women who have built and strengthened CMW over the years.
We trust that these stories will help our readers to get to know Muslim women more completely. Join us in appreciating the diversity and complexity of these women’s experiences. Let’s celebrate their achievements and recognize together their contribution to our society.