This Dallas International Women’s Day event is definitely no place for MEAN GIRLS!

Although it’s one of many International Women’s Day events in the area, this one holds a special place in my heart. It’s led by a powerhouse of a woman, barely scratching the surface at 5′ tall, who has been a lifelong advocate for women.

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In Dallas of 1994, a grass roots organization was created by Christine Jarosz and other committed women to address the following needs of women who:

• Suffer from discrimination.
• Comprise 1/2 of the workforce.
• Comprise the majority of poor in the U.S.
• Lose jobs and children based on actual or perceived sexual identity.
• Are victims of hate crimes.
• Are often older with no adequate support systems and are additionally often neglected, ignored and sometimes victimized.
• Continue to be hired last and fired first.
• Whose needs are often still trivialized at least and unacknowledged at worst.

To further highlight the plight of women, Christine initiated Words of Women, an International ‘Herstory’ essay contest as a platform to chronicle the significant events in the lives of women. Writers from around the globe submit their entries chronicling the most influential woman of the lives.

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And that’s where I come in. I had seen the essay announcement on the internet some years back and felt it was an important opportunity to write about my own particular heroine, the first Muslim woman, Khadijah Bint Kuwailid, beloved wife of Muhammad, who lived over 1,400 hundred years ago. After 9/11, Islamaphobia was increasingly on the rise so I placed little hope in the acknowledgement of my essay much less in winning. To be on the safe side, I meticulously kept my essay to the 500 word minimum – no more, no less – in an effort not to give the judges a reason to disqualify me. (Such are the thoughts that grind about the scarved head of a Muslim woman!) I submitted my essay with a hope and a prayer and then left it in God’s hands.

One Sunday morning, much to my surprise, a call came in from Christine. “I loved your story,” she said. She admitted she was pleasantly surprised and felt this was a story that needed to be heard! Although they had already chosen a first place winner, Christine offered me a first and only Honorable Mention and asked that I attend their annual International Women Event to read my essay for the audience. I was thrilled and ran about the house proclaiming, “Khadijah won, Khadijah won!” I was thrilled and touched beyond words!

This began a long and loving involvement with Christine and IWD. I now proudly hold a position on the ‘Mother Board’ along with some of finest women I’ve had the pleasure to know! Christine’s expansive mind and heart realized that in bringing in yet another marginalized group of women, we were making a strong statement. Yes, there are other IWD events, and some in which our members and participants would not necessarily be welcome for the usual sad reasons of not fitting a specific profile. In another words, amongst the Mean Girls, we would not be welcome.

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A case in point. We invite Girl Scout troops to participate each year – empowering our young sisters to be assured that they have a welcome and necessary place in the world. One such troop of Hispanic girls had been turned away by a number of other organizations whose members ‘profile’ they just didn’t fit. Not so with our group. We were thrilled to include our young Latino friends and troop leader. I believe we benefited far more than they did.

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But that’s what I love about it. Our guests are greeted with colorful signs of ‘Hello Sisters’ in every language, beautifully designed and displayed by the Girl Scout troops that participate each year. This makes the statement that everyone is welcome and that the more international we are, the better! I am also pleased to say that the number of participating Muslim women continues to grow each year. We certainly can’t say that for the Mean Girl clubs!

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We welcome vendors, speakers, musicians and provide an outstanding international buffet at the charming Cultural Center at White Rock Lake. Typically the event takes place the first Saturday in March. On those fortunate balmy years, participants can enjoy the buffet from the beautiful balcony that overlooks the lake.

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So although you’re a bit late for 2016, we hope to see you in 2017!