Dalala Abdel Gani, a struggle story for women's rights and freedoms
Dalala Abdel Gani is of Palestinian origin, but she grew up in Kuwait and received her school education there. And then moved from one country to another. Where she traveled to Algeria to complete her university studies, and then to the United States. After that, she returned to Syria, where she worked as a school principal, and then to Sweden as an asylum seeker. Dalal worked for the Kuwaiti newspaper, Al-Rai Al-Aam as well. She has also a Master's degree in Philosophy with Social Psychology and is majoring in the Study of Convergence and Clash of Civilizations at the University of Växjö.
Dalala is multicultural by virtue of her movement between several countries, but she finally settled in Sweden. She was forced to leave her homeland and search for a safe country to contain her and her family and continue her struggle as a political and human rights activist.
- Palestinians in the West Bank were holding a Jordanian passport. This passport could have been confiscated if the passport holder was found to be politically active. So, I used to hold a Jordanian passport, but the passport was confiscated due to my political and human rights activity, and because I do not have a passport, I cannot be in any country. Therefore, I was forced to travel and search for a safe homeland. My journey was long and tiring because I was nine months pregnant and gave birth to my girl child." A week after my arrival in Sweden. Says Dalala.
How was the beginning in Sweden?
I completed SFI in four months, but the SFI is not all about Swedish. When I finished SFI, I thought that I had mastered the Swedish language, and when I grabbed a newspaper trying to read it, I did not understand anything and knew that the stage of learning the language had not yet begun. At that time there were a lot of difficulties, even dictionaries were not available in several languages. And there were not all the facilities and assistance that those coming to Sweden get today. So, I had a very difficult time learning Swedish because when you think in one language and want to write in another, it becomes difficult. But I learned the language by reading newspapers and books. While reading the newspapers, the newspapers at that period raised issues of honor. I was an activist for women's rights. When I was reading the topics raised, I had a desire to discuss and respond. I felt compelled to write about this issue. And here was the beginning with writing in the Swedish language. After five years in Sweden, I worked as an assistant teacher teaching Swedish to immigrants. I also founded an association that was called the "Arab Women's Association" and still exists today under the name "The Multicultural Women's Association". The name of the association was changed because its members are from various backgrounds and not only Arabs. Currently we have a meeting once a month, and we also carry out several activities including: Swimming activity for women every Saturday in the swimming pool in Växjö.
Dalala was awarded the Växjö Integration Award in 2009. She is currently a board member of the District Court, in addition to being a lecturer, translator and author. Her main lectures revolve around women, the convergence of the immigrant family with the Swedish society, honor killings, the identity of youth and the civilizational clash, its causes and factors. And many other issues, the most important of which are women's issues.
- I worked as a freelancer with "Växjöbladet" and wrote poetry and articles and gave numerous interviews on women's and honor issues. Regarding projects, we set up a cultural group called “Ambassadors of Culture '', went on tours to schools to give lectures, made theater performances on women’s issues, and cultural conflict. In addition, we had a radio program every Saturday on local radio for four years, where we discussed youth and integration issues. I also worked as a project manager with both the Diwan project and “Similar but We Are Different” in cooperation with the Arab Women’s Association and Save the Children. As well as, I have written several books in Swedish on the so-called culture of honor. Dalala says.
Dalala is a writer and poet, and has many books in Arabic and Swedish. She has published many books in Sweden and the Arab world, including those books are: we are similar but different, the shadow of the tango, the new country, The southerners of distant origins, and It depends on the rider, not on the horse, and this book is a study conducted through interviews with men and women. As well as other books with other authors.
- In 1998, there was a competition to write a short story about how time passes, and I wrote about my personal experience and won a prize that was money and lunch with the king. I also participated in another competition that was about “How to look at Sweden” in which I also won a prize. In addition, I have several books in Arabic and Swedish. Currently, the book "Shadow of the Tango" is being translated into English. I also finished a Swedish-language book called "Längtan" which has been submitted to many publishers, and I hope it will be published as soon as possible.Says Dalala.
You specialize in the clash of civilizations and cultures, Did Swedish culture shock you?
In fact, I was not shocked by the Swedish culture, because I lived in several countries. The first cultural shock was in Algeria when I went to study for a bachelor's degree in journalism. Algeria was greatly influenced by French culture at that time. So that came as a culture shock to me. But despite this culture shock, my personality was formed in Algeria.
Through your experience during 32 years in Sweden, in your opinion, how can the newcomer to Sweden overcome the challenges of the new country?
No one can overcome the challenges of a new society in a short time. Because there is a culture that will meet with other cultures, in addition to all the concepts and ideas that a person carries within him, he will collide with the new. In order to overcome these challenges, it is necessary to learn Swedish because it is the key to society.
How did you overcome that?
When I came to this country, I knew for sure that there was no way back. Therefore, I had to integrate into the country and learn everything related to it. In addition, I was active before and therefore wanted to be active in the new society. And in order to be active, I cannot wait at home, but must make an effort. As a mother responsible for four children and I want to succeed in my professional and social life and make a difference in life, it was like a battle.
What do you think of integration? Is there a real integration between different cultures and Swedish culture?
Integration is a process that cannot happen overnight. The bulk of this process depends on the individual's own effort in the new society. There are people who have quickly integrated into society and succeeded, there are people who take a long time, for example, there are people who have been living here in Sweden for a long time, but still need help with translation. But there are those who advanced quickly and managed to integrate into society. With regard to women, there are women who have succeeded and found their place in society despite the difficulties, but in a small percentage, especially women who came in the same period with me. We cannot deny that a large part of them are still taking lessons in the same place. Of course, there are many reasons for this, for example: the awareness of women on the one hand and their independence in the new society on the other. In addition, the responsibility for integration lies with Swedish society as well. Swedish society's laws, rules, and policies (particularly housing and employment policies) often make integration more difficult than it is. So the responsibility is mutual.