Tag Archives: Palestine

TechWomen Community Cycle

Mai Temraz and Katy Dickinson at Cal State San Bernardino August 2016

The TechWomen mentoring program has been since 2010 a big part of my annual planning. 90 Emerging Leaders from 19 countries in Africa, Central Asia, and the Middle East will arrive in the San Francisco Bay Area in about ten days to start working at local STEM companies.  I am already working with the 6 ELs from Tunisia as one of their 3 Impact Advisors. Our Impact Advisory group has been meeting remotely every Friday – I look forward to meeting the Tunisia ladies in person soon.  The 2016 Emerging Leaders will be in the USA until mid-October, returning home after a visit to Washington DC.

I am also enjoying supporting one of my 2014 mentees, TechWomen Fellow and Fulbright Fellow Mai Temraz from Gaza, who will be starting her MBA at Cal State San Bernardino next month.  Several of us visited Mai and her family in Gaza City earlier this year.  The Temraz family is staying with us in San Jose while Mai goes through orientation at UC Davis.  Last weekend, my daughter Jessica, Mai, and I did a road trip to help find an apartment in San Bernardino and to see the Cal State campus.  In a few weeks, the Temraz family will move to Southern California.

TechWomen is more than an Initiative of the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, it has become a beloved community and extended family for many of its participants.

Walaa, Mai, and Yazan Temraz in San Jose, California, August 2016
Walaa, Mai, and Yazan Temraz in San Jose, California, August 2016

TechWomen Eileen Brewer, Erin Keeley, Aliya Janjua, Jessica Dickinson Goodman, Mai Temraz, Katy Dickinson in Gaza City February 2016
TechWomen Erin Keeley, Eileen Brewer, Mai Temraz, Jessica Dickinson Goodman, Katy Dickinson, and Aliya Janjua in Gaza City, February 2016

TechWomen Seham Al-Jaafreh, Mai Temraz, Katy Dickinson, San Bruno Park, California, October 2014
TechWomen Seham Al-JaafrehMai Temraz, and Katy Dickinson, San Bruno Park, California, October 2014

TechWomen in Tunisia with Impact Advisors in California August 2016
TechWomen in Tunisia, with Impact Advisors in California, August 2016

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Images Copyright 2014-2016 by Katy Dickinson

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TechWomen Alumnae Resources

Mai Temraz Gaza February 2016

The TechWomen Alumnae Resources web page is now available, presenting recommendations and references to materials helpful to technical women stuck in place because of politics or personal circumstances. So far, TechWomen Alumnae Resources topics include:

More topics are being developed.  This resource was created as a result of discussions on 12 February 2016 during the TechWomen Jordan Delegation’s Unconference at the Dead Sea.  The session I lead was called “Supporting TechWomen Fellows in Conflict Zones”. A group of nine TechWomen Fellows, Mentors, and supporters from the Middle East and USA started by discussing how to support TechWomen Fellows in conflict zones – especially Gaza, Yemen, and Libya – but we soon expanded our scope to consider those stuck at home because of severe family illness or other care taking responsibilities.  That is, these are ideas / resources / programs to benefit TechWomen Mentors and Fellows who are stuck in place.  This was not about getting them out but rather helping them remain professionally active where they are.  The five categories in which we felt that support could be offered / maintained and would be most helpful are:

  1. Entrepreneurship – training, startup feedback, recommendations to funding sources.
  2. Outsourcing – recommendations on finding / developing professional work that could be done where they are.
  3. Starting and managing local mentoring programs.
  4. Professional visibility and volunteerism:
  5. Recommendations and introductions:

The top photo shows my 2014 TechWomen mentee, Mai Temraz, with her Grace Hopper Conference bag and gifts in Gaza City, in February 2016.  We carried these gifts to her because she could attend the October 2015 GHC15 conference in-person to accept her award as 2015 Change Agent ABIE.  Being stuck in place is part of life in Gaza City.  Remarkable technical leaders like Mai are the inspiration for the TechWomen Alumnae Resources web page.

Image Copyright 2015 by Katy Dickinson

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Videos from Jordan, Zimbabwe, Kazakhstan TechWomen Delegations

Cathy Simpson Evelyn Zoubi TechWomen Delegation mansaf April 2016

The TechWomen Alumnae Council held a reunion for the Jordan, Zimbabwe, and Kazakhstan Delegations on 26 April 2016, hosted by AOL in San Mateo, California (in the Silicon Valley).  TechWomen Director Arezoo Riahi  reported that the three Delegations (of 37 Mentors from the US and almost 50 Fellow from 13 countries) together reached 1,925 girls and women.

John Plocher taped the inspiring personal and professional reports by IIE staff and Delegation members: the set of 11 videos is now available.  You can also watch the individual videos:

  1. Arezoo Riahi – opening, Delegations report, update on 2015 and 2016 TechWomen cohorts
  2. Audrey Simpson, Cindy Cooley, Cathy Simpson, Evelyn Zoubi – update on TechWomen Alumnae Council, and how to make Jordanian mansaf
  3. Katy Dickinson – Jordan, Palestine, Zimbabwe, and update on TechWomen Alumnae Resources
  4. Rekha Pai – Kazakhstan
  5. Rebecca Biswas – Kazakhstan
  6. Teresa Zhang – Kazakhstan
  7. Molly Pyle – Zimbabwe
  8. Sarasija Parthasarthy – Kazakhstan
  9. Shawne Van Deusen-Jeffries – Zimbabwe
  10. Zhilan Zweiger – Zimbabwe, Kenya
  11. Mary Karam McKey – “All Protocols Observed”

TechWomen Delegation event April 2016

Rebecca Biswas TechWomen Delegation event April 2016

TechWomen Delegation event April 2016

Images Copyright 2016 by Katy Dickinson

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Where We Stayed in Palestine

Hebron Palestine 2016

In February 2016 when traveling in Palestine, I had some hard priorities for where our group of TechWomen mentors stayed:

  1. Safety
  2. Cleanliness
  3. Wifi available
  4. Expense – affordability
  5. Charm, local style

Gaza City

In Gaza City, TechWomen Fellow Mai Temraz of Gaza SkyGeeks – MercyCorps kindly arranged for us to stay at the luxurious al-Mashtal Hotel (an ArcMed Hotel – on Salah Khalaf Street, in Gaza), on the beach in the north western area of the city. It was quiet and comfortable with ocean and city views. We could see the fishing boats going out in the morning (and clearly hear the morning Israeli rockets as well). The State of Qatar has its offices in this hotel.

Our group gave a series of presentations at the fancy Roots Hotel in Gaza City. Roots is located on the harbor and would have been more convenient for our meetings but all of the rooms were full for a big event when we were there. Roots has a very pleasant terrace cafe with good food and a waterfront view.

al-Mashtal Hotel, Gaza City, Palestine 2016

al-Mashtal Hotel view, Gaza City, Palestine 2016

Ramallah, Hebron, Bethlehem

Since we gave business and technical presentations in both Ramallah and Hebron, we decided to stay in Bethlehem, which is more or less between those two cities in the West Bank region.  Bethlehem is a mixed Christian and Muslim city and is close to Jerusalem, so it is easier to get out in case of trouble.  I posted more Bethlehem photos in my Three Border Walls blog post.  In Bethlehem, we were very graciously hosted by TechWomen Fellow Sandra Al-Arja, whose family owns several hotels.  We stayed in the Bethlehem Hotel (which is comfortable with lovely views over the city, near Manger Square) and also visited the Angel Hotel (which was full so we could not stay there).

Bethlehem Hotel key, Palestine 2016

Bethlehem Hotel view, Palestine 2016

Images Copyright 2016 by Katy Dickinson

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Three Border Walls

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Before I built a wall I’d ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offence.
Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,
That wants it down. …
He moves in darkness as it seems to me,
Not of woods only and the shade of trees.
He will not go behind his father’s saying,
And he likes having thought of it so well
He says again, “Good fences make good neighbours.”
– Robert Frost, 1914

After watching John Oliver’s 20 March 2016 comic-news analysis on the proposed Border Wall, I remembered the lines in “Mending Wall“, the first poem I read by the great American poet Robert Frost.  I have had experience with three border walls in recent years:

Israel-Palestine Wall – Bethlehem, 2016

Between the TechWomen Delegations to Jordan and Zimbabwe, last month a group of us visited Gaza and the West Bank in addition to more usual Israel-Palestine tourist locations such as Jerusalem and MasadaBethlehem is a mixed Muslim-Christian city in the West Bank, typified for me by Manger Square, which has the Church of the Nativity at one end and the Mosque of Omar at the other.  The wall runs through Bethlehem, in one case right around an existing home.

This wall is regularly a target location for violent confrontations between citizens and soldiers, one of which we regrettably observed from two blocks away, as we were preparing to leave the city.  The wall is also a ground for artistic and political communication: it is covered with paintings and graffiti, including some by famous artists like Banksy. In a Bethlehem shop, we saw a traditional olive wood nativity scene – with the addition of a barrier wall keeping out the three wise men.

Israel-Palestine Wall in Bethlehem 2016 . Israel-Palestine Wall in Bethlehem 2016

Israel-Palestine Wall in Bethlehem 2016

Berlin Wall Sections – Mountain View, California, 2010

Two graffitied sections of the 1961-1989 Berlin Wall lived in an office park near where I worked in Mountain View, California, for many years. I used to visit them sometimes during lunch, thinking of the people who died climbing the Berlin Wall trying to get to freedom.  In 2013, the sections were moved to the front of the public library.

The original sign in front of these sections said: “…Between November 9 and 12, 1989 the Wall was breached; not from without with bombs or bullets, but from within by the sound of freedom and the vision of a better life that had drifted over the Wall. The World must not forget that it was America’s resolve and its political and economic ideals that made this bloodless revolution and most significant historical event possible.”  I don’t know if that sign is still with the sections since they moved.

Berlin Wall Section, Mountain View, California, 2010 . Berlin Wall Section, Mountain View, California, 2010

California USA-Mexico Wall, 2008

In 2008, my husband and I flew with friends to Baja California to see the grey whales at Laguna San Ignacio. Coming home, we got fuel and checked out with Mexican customs in Mexicali, then flew 9 miles north across the US border to check in at Calexico. The Calexico general aviation airport is directly on the USA-Mexico border fence.  It was strange to see our two nations that are culturally and economically one family – with a line drawn between them.

California USA-Mexico Wall, 2008 . California USA-Mexico Wall, 2008

California USA-Mexico Wall, 2008

Photos Copyright by Katy Dickinson 2008-2016

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Understanding Gaza

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In the month since I was in Gaza City, I have been thinking through that journey. Living in East Palo Alto for 20 years and teaching in a prison are two experiences that have given me some perspective on Gaza. I lived in EPA when it was named the murder capital of America. (EPA was where I could afford a house as a single mother working in the Silicon Valley – lower house prices being one of its virtues.)  I recently started mentoring an EfM seminar at Elmwood Jail in Milpitas. Both EPA and jail can be dangerous and depressing places, but they can also be home and a ground for community support, growth, laughter, and love. When we visited Gaza, I saw devastation, poverty, and political anger but I was warmly welcomed by hundreds of locals who are building their lives and working to raise their community from the ruins.  Five of us went to Gaza together: Erin Keeley, Eileen Brewer, Aliya Janjua, my daughter Jessica Dickinson Goodman, and me.  It was the first visit by a group of executive technical women ever hosted by MercyCorps and Gaza Sky Geeks. Ours was also the first group visit by TechWomen mentors to our Palestinian mentees.

When I got back from three weeks in the Middle East and Africa, I briefly described Jordan, Israel – Palestine, and Zimbabwe to the men in my class at Elmwood. Trying to explain Gaza, I compared its twenty-year siege to lockdown, when inmates are immediately locked in their cells and all jail visitors must quickly leave because of an emergency situation.  While we were with the TechWomen Delegation in Jordan and during the two days we toured Israel before going to Gaza, we often heard deep surprise that we would be allowed in at all.  While we were in Gaza City, people on the street were very surprised to see us shopping and eating out.  We were told that many outsiders who visit Gaza drive through quickly, surrounded by guards.  We did follow MercyCorps’ rules to only go out during the day and early evening and always to be accompanied by a MercyCorps staff member but we were treated with hospitality and respect whereever we went.  Of course, I mostly was with my 2014 mentee Mai Temraz and her charming family!

Although Gaza is primarily Islamic, we visited the 50-bed Ahli Arab Hospital (supported by the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem) and the Church of Saint Porphyrius (Greek Orthodox) between giving presentations on mentoring, venture capital, design thinking, crowd funding and other professional topics.  One effect of the long siege of Gaza is that the small Ahli Arab Hospital treats tens of thousands of patients per year with a mortality rate for diseases such a breast cancer at about triple – partly because of a lack of local medical facilities and the difficulty in getting patients out of Gaza promptly for treatment elsewhere.

One of the most difficult conversations I had several times with professional women in Gaza was whether they should stay or go.  Gaza is blessed with many talented and educated people whom it needs to rebuild after each conflict ends.  However, those are the people who can most easily qualify for graduate school, jobs, and programs elsewhere – which may be the best choice for them and their immediate families. My prayers are with the people of Gaza every day.

 

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Images Copyright 2016 by Katy Dickinson

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TechWomen in Zimbabwe

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Catching up on my blogging with my adventures as a member of the TechWomen Delegation to Zimbabwe, 20-28 February 2016. This was my 8th Delegation trip since 2011, and 4th trip to the region of Sub-Saharan Africa. Zimbabwe was the third country of a three-week trip, after a week in Jordan and a week in Israel-Palestine. Each of these journeys has been fascinating and different from the others!

The Delegation stayed at the Meikles Hotel in Harare but made day trips to Mbare, Bindura, and Bulawayo among other locations nearer the capital. We visited girls in school as well as programs and universities focused on STEM, including: TechWomen Zimbabwe’s Pamusha Project (at Chitsere Primary School, Mbare), University of Zimbabwe, Zimbabwe Institute of Engineers, Harare Institute of Technology, Bindura University, African Regional Intellectual Property Organization, and the National University of Science and Technology (Bulawayo).

We had some opportunities to see Zimbabwe’s famed wildlife (zebras, giraffes, antelope, wildebeests, lions, leopards, baboons…) but that was not a big focus for our trip.  I was much more interested in the technical challenges and entrepreneurial accomplishments of a country which has at least 80% unemployment (for which the most common computing device is a cell phone) – and in their creative artworks. I found many chances to use the Notable Technical Women materials to present role models and career choices to the hundreds of friendly and fascinating women and girls with whom I spoke.

After the delegation ended, I had an opportunity to meet with some of the leaders of the Anglican Diocese of Harare and to shop for Shona stone sculptures, printed cloth, and reclaimed metal work art at the remarkable Newlands craft street market in Harare.

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Images Copyright 2016 by Katy Dickinson, photo at Pamusha Project by Molly Pyle

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