We have been working in Follow the Women since 2002 and the experience showed us how important it is to try to help each of us, participants in Follow the Women, to exchange information, worries, beliefs, feelings…This is basic for our personal grownth, for enriching the experience, for achieving as much as posible from this unique opportunity of living the reality of the Middle East through the eyes of women (and some men also) like you, for sharing how important is the life of all of us living in Peace.
When in 2002 the “crazy idea” of women riding bikes in the Middle East that Detta Regan, founder and creator of Follow the Women, came up with during a dinner with some friends started to grow, she couldn´t even think that in 2007 we were going to be were we are, with more than 300 women involved, more than 30 countries involved, already two bike rides done, women giving conferences all over the World to raise awareness people about the real situation in the Middle East, and more and more women wanting to join.
Well, it is an impressive balance, we know, and something that needs to grow every single day, most of the World population want Peace, so we need to work together to get it. One of the participants of the bike ride 2005 said “the bicycle is a vehicle of peace -- you don´t use oil which nowadays is the demand for oil what contributes to wars”, and it is true, we are working for Peace and for women to make it.
Before we finish with this introduction, we would like to mention some points that can give you a clear idea of what this blog has been created for:
- Share information about the countries we are going to be visiting and about the concrete places where the route will go through. As an starting point the blog will include some historical references to the countries we will be hosted in during the 2007 bike ride. All the information related to history, culture, religion, women, biographies, etc, is not the opinion of Follow the Women, it has been taken from different web pages that are included in each chapter. We thought about including this information because be informed before going to a different country is a good way of showing respect to your hosters and a very good idea in order to understand a bit more about a different reality.
- We would really like to have as much information as posible about situation of women in all the countries involve. This is what we really need in order to create working networks among us and be able to develop projects together. And it is specially important to know about the situation of women in the Middle East, so all the comments, references, statistics, whatever you think that can be interesting for the rest of us to know, please, include it in this blog.
- We will include the last version of the route until now, but this can change, and you will be informed about all this changes through our web page: http://www.followthewomen.com/
- We have some recommendations for enjoying the experience as much as posible and what it is more important for us, to allow you to become active women after the cycle ride, reporting this experience and all the things you gain:
- Be flexible. This is a very big event and there will be things and changes happening all the time. It is due to the amazing job that our sponsors and supporters in the Middle East do in order to organise everything as well as possible, something that it is not easy at all, so we have to understand the big difficulties of organising such an event before panicking. It is very important to remember that whatever happens we need to be flexible.
- Be open and respectful. Lots of new things will be happening to us even before arriving to the airport, but specially after. We will be a group of people coming from very different countries, with very different backgrounds, very different ways of understanding life, of doing things, of cycling too, so we have to be patient, observe, listen and enjoy as much as posible forgetting about stereotypes and letting things happen while learning and enjoying as much as posible. What ever we see, we listen to or we live, we have to be open and respectful.
- Be ready to change. Yes, this is one of the most amazing things that have happened to all of us, we live very safely in our daily routine, and suddenly we meet people, we are welcome as we have never been welcome before, we go through amazing landscapes that we couldn´t even imagine that they exist and we realise that everything is very shocking. Try to be open and flexible again, and be amazed of how nice it can be to change.
- Do not forget that the Steering Committee of Follow the Women, the country coordinators, all the coordinators of different “faces of the project”: bike rental, web page updating, coordinators of activities in the Middle East, media supporters, NGO´s supporters, ordinary people supporting, sponsors, First Ladies, politicians, riders, have a common aim, work to get dialogue and Peace in the Middle East and improve the situation of women in the region; we can have different ways of arriving to the aim, but is the same aim, with the same spirit, the same willing, enthusiast, passion: we can do it together and we will.
Thanks to all of you for being there, without you this project could not be posible
Follow the Women – Women for Peace
From Concept to Reality, Pedalling for Peace.
The idea, inspired by visits to Palestine, youth Exchanges with Israel and Palestine and a meeting held in Amman, Jordan, has led to the organisation of a group of women to cycle across a number of countries in the Middle East. Why? To raise awareness of how the current situation within the Middle East affects the lives of women and children, and to raise support for a move towards peace and greater understanding.
The current situation in the Middle East is unstable; women and children are suffering daily. They are deprived of the normal day-to-day life which we all take for granted – going to school and work; doing the shopping; meeting up with friends; and caring for your family. Living in an area of conflict, the focus is on ‘staying alive’. Practical issues such as whether you have electricity and water, where your next meal will come from and whether your children will come home today or in fact whether they can go out, are combined with the psychological burden of constant fear. Fear of abuse, fear of the future!
Those less involved in decision making, are often the ones who are socially oppressed and suffer consequences of those decisions. Follow The Women will give women the opportunity to have a say, be in control and have a powerful and influential impact on those around them.
Hundreds of women all cycling at the same time is not the norm in the Middle East and will attract attention and people will take notice. This is what we are aiming for in order for to gain publicity, sponsorship and to capture the hearts and minds of as many people as possible. It will show commitment and support by women throughout both Europe and the Middle East, and educate a wide audience as to the situation facing all women living in an area of conflict.
Follow The Women is now an international movement comprised of approximately 300 ordinary women, from as many as 30 different countries, who support peace and an end to violence in the Middle East. There has never been a greater need for the women of the world to work together for a more peaceful present and future.
The aims of Follow The Women are to:
raise awareness of how the current situation in the Middle East affects the lives of women and children in the region,
show solidarity towards women in the region,
increase support networks between women all around the world,
fund a counseling center in Ramallah, Palestine for the victims living in that area of conflict,
bring an end to violence and suffering in the region.
In order to work towards achieving these aims, Follow the Women organized two cycle rides, and is currently preparing for the third ride to be held in April 2007.
In April 2004, the first ride was across Lebanon, Syria and Jordan. In September 2005, the second bicycle ride took place from Beirut to Damascus to Amman and finally into Ramallah, Palestine. In April 2007, cycling is planned to begin in Syria, then riding into Lebanon, Jordan and Palestine.
The Steering Committee of Follow the Women