By Sarah Namazie
On the 2nd of March 2019, Beyond the Hijab held a writing workshop for an upcoming blog series specifically written by divorcees, many of whom were also single mothers.
The session started with enthusiasm and laughter from the workshop participants as they went around introducing themselves and what they would like to take away from writing and sharing their story. Answers ranged from learning how to write and the benefits of it, such as seeking to understand their experiences better, for this to be therapeutic, to share and relate to others and to articulate ideas properly etc.
Diana Rahim, the editor of Beyond the Hijab, then asked participants to share their experiences as single mothers. They talked about the problems and issues they faced such as judgment from family, social workers, ex-partners and their families, the justice system and even their religion — all of which they had a lot to say about.
Once it was established that there was an abundant possibility of topics, they were asked to find their personal formative experience or a prominent issue they had faced to serve as a starting point for their writing. It was easier for some than others, with there being some being more experienced in writing than others. Regardless, there were plenty of engaging ideas circulating in the room and each participant brought a new experience to the table.
The importance of getting their story out was emphasized heavily. With their experiences of facing a double prejudice – being a racial minority and a single-Muslim mother, they are often defined by their circumstances. One of the participants mentioned that “as a Muslim woman, you don’t ask for a divorce,” reflecting the internal struggle and rigid expectations of a married Muslim woman. Another participant mentioned that she sometimes wondered if she was “enough for her child” as a single parent. One of them questioned why a single-parent family is stigmatised as an inherently broken family. Amidst the difficulty of sharing their raw and honest personal experiences, however, there also came rich support and encouragement from the group.
Evidently, there are unique conditions and issues faced by single mothers. Hopefully, this blog series will be successful in bringing awareness to the realities of these women. The session concluded on a good note, with all attendees agreeing to hold a second session where they could delve into writing properly.
Look out for the stories written by these writers set to come out soon!