How long have you been working with the TEDxCoventGardenWomen conference? Can you tell us about your journey, and how you got involved with TEDx?
I’ve been curating TEDxCoventGardenWomen events since 2013, but my journey with TED started in 2008, when I first stumbled on a talk by Benjamin Zandler- ‘The transformative power of classical music’. I remember watching the talk and feeling overwhelmed with emotions, as I was transported to a short - but very intense - journey of self-discovery. This talk, and the many talks that I’ve watched since then, made me continuously think of ways to improve myself and to inspire the people around me. Because of TED, I decided to quit my job, move countries, and find my passion - which I think was somehow buried as I was busy ‘fitting into a plan’. The speakers’ words unleashed all the passion I had in me, and made me realize how keen I was to live a purposeful and meaningful life. Since then, I gradually became a women’s rights activist determined to amplify silenced voices.
My journey was also (and still is) heavily shaped by the guidance of the many inspiring fellow organizers I’ve met all along the way. In 2013, after coming back from TEDActive in Palm Spring where I spent a week being immersed with passionate and creative TEDsters from all around the world, I decided to apply for our first TEDxCoventGardenWomen license. My vision was to create a safe, accessible and community-centric event driven by values. My definition of success is knowing attendees have left the conference with different mindsets and fresh perspectives. Only by shifting perspectives can we expect change to happen.
What can we expect from the upcoming TEDx event on November 4th? What are you especially excited about?
We have an incredible line-up of inspiring women and men from diverse backgrounds and interests, who have spent months preparing for their talks to deliver ground-breaking ideas that could shape tomorrow’slandscape and rewire our minds. For instance, some of the ideas featured will address the intersections of technology with social progress, with law and justice, and with sexuality. Furthermore, critical questions about feminism will be raised: is it about equality? How does it affect fatherhood? What can an 11 years old teach us about it? and many more ideas and solutions to complex problems. There’s something uniquely beautiful about bringing together like-minded, passionate individuals, who want to be part of something bigger than themselves. I’m mostly looking forward to the audience’s reaction to the talks, as typically they would leave the day with a renewed sense of purpose.
This year’s theme is ‘Bridges’, encouraging people to see from different perspectives and reach new heights. What challenges have you had to overcome when working with TEDx and how did you overcome them?
One of the challenges is keeping the events fresh and innovative year over year- and ensuring the ideas we feature are relevant to our community. To overcome this, the team and I immerse ourselves within our community throughout the year and actively listen to identify what matters most. In that sense, my curation is very much community-driven. It is about bringing what we all believe in, what we do and how we think into alignment so that we leverage our full potential and facilitate change.
You have become a part of so many women’s lives through this process, and have created a family with TEDxCGW. What have been your favourite, and most inspiring moments?
The most inspiring moments are seeing people’s eyes sparkle during the event, and hearing feedback about how much impact we’ve had on individual lives. After months and months of preparation, there’s nothing more rewarding than witnessing a vision materializing into something so meaningful and personal- and how we - as a team - were successful in planting seeds in our audience’s hearts, eliciting smiles, sparking connections, and making our community a better place to be!
What advice would you give to people wanting to do a TED or TEDx talk?
To start with, and put very simply, speakers should have a clear and focused idea to share- and clearly one they’re passionate about. I always encourage speakers to push boundaries, and to have the courage to provoke the audience. I admire speakers who are on stage to give, and not take. Such speakers give value, teach and inspire. They stimulate their audience and create sparks of inspirations. It’s a priceless gift that can transform lives.
You also book male speakers, talking about their views and their stories. How important is it to have a male perspective and what more do you think men can do to help achieve equality?
When talking about equality, gender matters - it’s not just a women’s issue. To reach gender equality, there needs to be respect for diversity. So not only is it imperative to engage men in the conversation about equality, but it is equally important to amplify the voices of varied identity groups - beyond the male-female binary. I believe in equality for all, not for some. I want to challenge systemic discrimination against all people, irrespective of sex, sexual orientation or gender identity. It is for this reason, I’m keen on curating an all-inclusive, accessible platform, that reflects the diversity and complexities of lived experiences.
You have the emerging labs segment of the event, showcasing inspiring young voices. How important is education in tackling inequality and making life better for women around the world? And does it need to start early?
There’s no ‘early’ time to start challenging unequal power relationships, and only through education can we empower the next generation with the awareness and knowledge of their rights. Through education, we can inspire them to be the change they want to see in the world.
What is your favourite TED talk?
It’s hard to single out a particular talk as a favourite, given so many talks have marked me in many ways and for various reasons. But there are definitely a few that have stood out. For example, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s talk on ‘The Danger of a Single Story’ is a huge inspiration for me and reminds me that individual lives contain heterogeneous compilation of stories. Also, Andrew Solomon’s talk ‘Love, No Matter what’ about how we view ‘illness’ and identity is sincerely provoking. It’s a powerful lesson on how much our love for our children can teach us about humanity and our culture.
What would you say to a woman who wanted to change the world and didn’t know where to start?
Don’t underestimate the power of small acts. Small actions build on each other. Embrace failure, and see it as feedback and as a force moving forward. Personally, willing to make mistakes has increased my confidence far above my fears and self-doubts. And finally, remain true to yourself, in everything you do. Authenticity generates higher levels of empowerment, ingenuity and compassion - a great place to be when wanting to change the world!
If you had one wish, what would it be?
Given I was born and raised in the Middle East, I have lived through wars and social injustice - so it’s only natural for me to wish for social justice, especially with regards to women’s rights.