Simmons Leadership Blog

Live Blog: Signature Dialogue: The Other Side of War


Founder and former CEO of Women for Women International, Zainab Salbi has dedicated her life to empowering women in war-torn areas to become full and equal participants in their communities. In its 20 years, her organization has provided direct aid, rights education, job skills training, and small business development to more than 350,000 women from Afghanistan to South Sudan.An escapee from Saddam Hussein's Iraq, Salbi describes her own experience of oppression, the extraordinary lessons learned from working with war survivors, and her new priority to help women in the Middle East play larger roles in business, politics, and the media.

9:35 am - We welcome Zainab Salbi to the podium!
9:37am - Salbi describes the start of her life journey thinking about 'the other women' in areas of conflict who need help, because she felt she did not have a story.
9:39am - "When we stay silent we perpetuate the cycle of violence against women." - Salbi
9:41am - Salbi recounts the story of a woman brutalized in Congo: "That woman, homeless and illiterate in Eastern Congo said, 'If I could tell the enire world about my story I would to prevent it from happening to other women.'"
9:45am - "I had been hiding behind the story of the 'other women'....but how could I encourage other women to speak up if I remained silent?" - Salbi
9:48am - "I had a choice: I [could] stay in silence and kill myself from within...or I speak up and, in the speaking, become the willing actor who strips myself naked before the world. In the process I wrote my memoir....In the process, I changed my life. I had been the prison guard of my own fear." - Salbi
9:50am - "What was the most heart-touching experience is that other women stop and tell me their stories. When I opened up to share my story and showed vulnerability that opened the door for others to share with me." - Salbi
9:51am - Salbi talks about the pain of change and how we need to speak up in unison to "narrate a new story for women."
9:55am - "When we share our stories they become a candle in someone else's cave, and in the sharing of the story you become that candle." - Salbi
9:56am - "In the speaking of our stories we share our vunerability and that is the first step in leadership." - Salbi
10:00am - "Leadership takes humility." Salbi describes the women she meets through Women for Women and how she learns from them every day.
10:02am - "Peace is inside my heart. No one can give it to me, and no one can take it away" - Salbi quotes a war survivor who had endured 3 months of rape.
10:03am - Salbi tells the story of Bosnian refugee women requesting lipstick in their camps because "beauty is their resistance."
10:04am - "I came to realize the cause does not require the sacrifice of ourselves." - Salbi
10:05am - "It is the same exercise in courage to speak up to the nazis that are taking your friends as it is to speak up in that boardroom when there is injustice...We glorify historical events and people, but the truth is...we have to practice these things on a daily basis." - Salbi
10:07am - "I need to be what I advocate for." - Salbi
10:08am - "It is no more 'the other' and 'I' it is the 'we'. That is how simple it is to make change." - Salbi
10:15am - "Do you agree that love is revolutionary?" - Dean White
10:16am - "I believe in love above all...but love is not stupid. I think love is very clear. I think love is compassionate. I think love is generous. Love entails showing up....It's not air, it's actually tangible real things. Love entails acknowledging when I see something wrong. It's about the other person, not about me." - Salbi
10:17am - Dean White asks Salbi if anger is the opposite of love, or if love drives anger. Salbi describes how anger drove her for 20 years of working in war zones. She recommends ackowledging anger and using it as a positive emotion to drive change. 
10:20am - Dean White introduces the interconnection between war and violence toward women. Salbi mentions historical and modern day examples of rape and violence toward women during war. She describes the symbolism and public nature of this violence as "messages from one man to another."
10:24am - Salbi talks about realizing the importance of social media while traveling in the Arab world:  "It provides an outlet for expression that every indiidual can do... We are living in a shifting sand world where women are using social media[to tell their stories] in a way that's faster than governments can control it."
10:26am - "We have to be practical." Salbi discusses the importance of teaching economic self-reliance for women's independance. 
10:32am - "We can't talk about women's rights in  a vaccuum without [addressing] the realities." - Salbi talks about creating practical solutions and bringing training and jobs to women in crisis. When women bring in income, their status in the family and community improves.
10:35am - "We need to address the definition of masculinity. It's no longer working for men or women. Societal definitions of what a man is, and what a woman is, are no longer functioning for society." - Salbi talks about changing men's attitudes and lives, too, in order to transform society.
10:41am - In response to an audience question about what we can do for children, Salbi talks about violence against children happening all over the world, not just in war zones. So, what can we do to help children all over the world? Salbi ends by recounting a conversation with her father. When Salbi's father asked if he'd been a good parent, she responded: "You have given me the most important  thing in the world and that is love." 

Leave a comment