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Stories from 'abroad'

Najwa ( a nickname ) : “ I am 36 years old , i was born in Paris, France. Both my parents are Egyptian, I was born Egyptian, I officially became French when I was 18. I had to go to the “Prefecture”, I was asked if I wanted to change my name at that time, I still remember! I was asked if I wanted to have a “French” name! Of course I refused, I think I even laughed! My name was part of my identity! Since then I am officially French-Egyptian. So I grew up away from my country of origin. I rarely felt I was different from other children or teenagers. However, when I first went to school, I didn't speak French. Arabic was my first language,Teachers at that time asked my parents to stop talking to me in Arabic; I think they still regret it today…

I discovered how much I deeply loved Egypt, and Cairo. But at the same time, I didn't completely fit there! Egyptian people thought I was a tourist with my French accent, my clothes, and my attitude. Some kids insulted me once when I was smoking a cigarette in the street! I used to go out in the evening with my colleagues, or go to the Red Sea for week-ends. A taxi driver told me also once I shouldn't be out that late. And my family didn't really approve, but they could not say anything as my parents were fine with it. I never had this kind of problems in France. I had mixed feelings when I came back. I loved Egypt so much, but it was sometimes hard for me there, especially as a woman. I understood it would be difficult for me to live there, because of these cultural differences. I was often seen as a foreigner, but at the same time, as an Egyptian woman, there were things I was not expected to do. I think for the first time, I felt torn between my two identities …

My parents left Egypt almost 40 years ago, in 1974. They came to France just after they got married. My father got a scholarship to study in Paris. They found a job, they got two children, so they stayed. They did not actually plan to migrate for so long …

Lamia ( a nickname ) “ I am 36 years old, Kornet Chehwan , Lebanon , I left 5 years ago, came to Laval, Canada, on New Years Eve. It was the best decision I ever took. I miss my family sometimes, but I am happy and very busy with my new small family. If I was still there, I would for sure have the help I need sometimes, I will be able to go out alone with my husband, and they would take care of the kids.
I feel very welcomed in Canada, people are nice and friendly.I got married straight before I came then had kids, so my life changed a lot, because of my new situation not the place I live in. I had to deal with the snow , and I am fine … meeting and dealing with persons coming from very different backgrounds and countries, I feel I became more tolerant and have more knowledge about them. I have won becoming a more independent and responsible person.
None of my direct parents migrated , the grandmother of my mother lived in the U.S.A.; she left during the world war two , because of the difficulty of living in Lebanon.
I visit my parents in Lebanon once per two years , the biggest difficulty is the adaptation I have to make every time I go there because of the difference in the overall way of living. In Lebanon, i find a lack of respect for others shown everywhere: the way people drive, shout, speak, deal with others, becomes more and more ‘disturbing for me’ . being far, I also lost a lot of friends, because friendships also have to be ‘taken care of’ I also find it too slow when I have to make paper work there. Here all is by mail, billing, paying …

Hadi ( a nickname ) : ‘ i am 30 years old , i am from Jounieh, Lebanon. I left Lebanon 2 years ago to go to Saudi Arabia in November 2011. I was unemployed for a long period of time and I was desperate. Fortunately, I found a job in teaching with a British company and it has been very successful because it broadened my work experience and my horizons.
Being in Saudi Arabia, emigration was not easy. The whole scenery was different together with the customs and the tight laws of the country. I used to look for a Lebanese to find a link and belonging, but most of the time I used to get disappointed as those individuals were very remotely linked to their homeland. I was miserable, but with time I had my circle of friends and everything seemed brighter. I have learnt to be responsible and more self-confident.
I often dream of being in my own house, in the middle of nature with a nice garden. Maybe by migrating I will make my dream come true as I can save more money than I could ever have if I stayed in Lebanon.
I visit Lebanon between 3 to 4 times a year. I feel very happy whenever I am there but at the same time alienated as things are different and never the same. I often feel frustrated when I am in Saudi because I don't share the nice family events and gatherings, and also the weekends which are different. I also feel that Lebanon is becoming a more difficult place to live as everything is expensive and hard to get sometimes.
I never felt my flat being my home for almost a year and a half, but now I feel my home is where I spend most of my time and which gives me peace of mind. This, unfortunately, is my flat in KSA and Lebanon.

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