Welcome to Your Life-Changing Discomfort Zone

Manal Kelig, founder of TEDxCairoWomen, on how talking outside the box is a must–and why it made the first round of dialogue a smashing success.

You need to shock people, to have them challenge themselves and get them thinking.

The fashion designer in niqab [Dana Al-Taji] was totally out of the box for a lot of people, because they were not expecting a woman who’s totally covered to interact with the audience. She began speaking from the wings, before coming onstage, because we wanted people to listen to her before seeing her, so that judgment wouldn’t happen.

So we had people raving about her talk and others saying, “why are we listening to this, it’s so different from how we think.”

I said, ‘this is about inclusion and listening to one another, not stereotyping. You’re not coming to your comfort zone here, you’re coming to challenge your minds.’ We have to listen to one other.

Dina [Galal], our special needs speaker, got people crying because she was talking about survival, aspiration, making use of all that you have even if people tell you that you don’t have a place. People did not expect her to be so confident and accomplished, and it humbled a lot of them.

Other talks made people question themselves. A friend of mine decided to quit a job she didn’t like. Sometimes it takes a few words from people you don’t know to face things you hide inside yourself.

For more info – Manal’s info on TEDxCW page

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Jennifer MacKenzie

Poet, writer and teacher Jennifer MacKenzie grew up on Bloomcrest Dr. in Bloomfield Hills, MI, which inspired her to wonder about places with patterns other than floral. Following her education at Wesleyan University's College of Letters and the University of Iowa's Writers Workshop, she followed a zig-zag course that included a pilgrimage across the top of Spain and a long sojourn in Syria in pursuit of the language of Muhammad al-Maghout and Moudthaffar al-Nawwab. While in Damascus she completed the books of poems "Distant City" and "My Not-My Soldier" (forthcoming from Fence Books) and edited the magazine Syria Today. Her poems and essays can be found in numerous journals including the Kenyon Review online, Guernica, Quarterly West, and Lungfull. She currently lives in New York.

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