Sarah Avci

Sarah is a socially engaged activist and an expert on gender equality and ethnicity. Her field of expertise covers Islam and feminism, intra-family violence, and migration. In 2007 she went on an IVLP KARAMAH Leadership Exchange Course. The program provides the participants with training on the challenges Muslim women face today. Sarah uses the methodology of playback theatre for the empowerment of disadvantaged groups in society.

About Sarah “Sarah uses playback theatre for the empowerment of disadvantaged groups in society.”

Sarah is a socially engaged activist and an expert on gender equality and ethnicity. Her field of expertise covers Islam and feminism, intra-family violence, and migration. In 2007 Sarah went on an IVLP KARAMAH Leadership Exchange Course.

Through her grassroots NGO Palhik Mana, Sarah combines social work with artistic methods such as playback theatre. She spent some time in India on an internship on women’s rights as part of her CIMIC Intercultural Communication and International Management training.

Sarah uses the methodology of playback theatre for the empowerment of disadvantaged groups in society. Through this inter-cultural approach, she often ends up working with refugees. Playback theatre gets people out of their comfort zone by offering them opportunities to discover their hidden talents and creates an openness in everyday life.

In 2007 Sarah went to Washington for the IVLP KARAMAH Leadership Exchange Course. KARAMAH’s Law and Leadership Summer Program brings together a select group of Muslim women from around the world to learn from each other and from distinguished professors.

The program provides the participants with training on the challenges Muslim women face today and Muslim women’s understanding of Islamic law, leadership, and conflict resolution. Participants gain the skills and understanding needed to help them in leading movements that they are passionate about.

It was amazing to meet Muslim feminists from all over the world.

“My program was about the position of women in Islam. It was very interesting to deepen my understanding of Muslim feminism and to see how broad that is. You can read things about Islam and about the position of women in Islam, but to see it on the ground was an eyeopener.

“I think I was selected for this exchange because I work with migrant and underprivileged women in Brussels. Most of them are from a Muslim background. I’m also a Muslim. I was born and raised in Ghent, but my roots are in Turkey, and most of the women I work with are also Muslim.”

Thanks to Dr. Professor Aziza Al Hibri I got the chance to see where Muslim women stand in the world of today.

First of all, it was amazing to meet all those Muslim women – Muslim feminists – from all over the world. There was a large diversity of women: Muslim women with or without a headscarf from all kinds of nationalities, so that was very interesting for me to see.

We were six from Belgium, and there were Muslim women from America and an amazing diversity from all over. I was really surprised to see how diverse Muslims in America are, being from Europe and comparing it with the typical Muslim women groups we have here. It was amazing to see how different it was over there in America.

One day we can all overcome. We can all make this change!

Sarah likes to internalize her approach. She applies the feedback she receives in her personal life. It makes the experience so much richer. “This way I’m also working on myself. Overcoming all the restrictions we have in our daily life, in society, at work, sometimes in your own family …”

I work with people who never get the chance to focus on themselves. I want to open a small window of opportunity for them, so they can find their own path and spread their wings like a butterfly.

So my dream is that one day we can all overcome. We can all make this change!

Beware! We are not all the same.

Someone observing them from the outside might think they are all the same, but the people Sarah works with are a very diverse group. She sees it as her task to show the outside world that these women are not all the same. The only thing they share is maybe their religion, and even that is very different.

The way you practice your faith, what you believe in, is so diverse, but this doesn’t seem to matter. People on the outside think: “You’re Muslim so you’re all the same!” So this is my task, in a way, through all kinds of activities, to show the outside world: “Beware! We are not all the same.”

“My motto is that of my NGO Palhik Mana: “Change is an inside job!"”

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