Editors Voice: Femmes Arabes or the challenges facing an ethnic magazine
Shortly after the attacks of September 11, Khadija Darid, a Canadian of Moroccan origin who has lived in Quebec for the past 18 years, decided to start a magazine for the Arab community in Canada, whose image had been quite tarnished. The first issue of the bimonthly Femmes Arabes was published in June 2002. Darid, the editor-in-chief and manager of the magazine, also sits on the board of the Quebec Magazines Publishers Association. Five years after its launch, APN spoke to her.
APN : How would you describe Femmes Arabes? KD :Femmes Arabes is the only magazine for Arab women in North America. It has a circulation of 5.000 copies. Our goal is to double that figure by 2008. There are two salaried employees and several volunteers and interns. Femmes Arabes is available by subscription only. It is an independent, bilingual magazine (Arabic and French) with the main objectives to promote and defend the interests and rights of Arabs in Quebec and to inform the Quebec society about the achievements, the values and the traditions of the Arab community. The magazine also aims at fighting against all forms of violence, discrimination, marginalisation or exclusion towards the Arab community, regardless of its religious denomination. APN : Why is the magazine published in two languages ? KD : To reach an increasing group of Arab women who do not speak French or English. Thanks to Femmes Arabes, they can access useful information. That said, a lot of men have subscribed as well, saying with a smile that it is to encourage the paper. About one third of our subscribers are men.
APN : After five years of existence, what are the biggest challenges of Femmes Arabes? KD : Our biggest issue is still selling ad space. We live off the subscriptions for 25%, ads for 25% and the organization of events like Trophées Femmes Arabes du Québec and Caftans Montréal where we get 50% of our revenues. Femmes Arabes is not on sale in newsstands because of the though competition in Quebec. There are two very old media groups holding the monopoly, Québecor and Transcontinental, and the American competition is fierce. They have the means to buy the best spots and dominate the newsstands. Our magazine always ended up in the back, behind the others, invisible. Furthermore, these giants can buy TV and radio ads, billboards, etc., to sustain their sales. Femmes Arabes didn't sell in the newsstands, since people couldn't see it and didn't even know it existed. So, on the other hand, our promotional events have given much more return in terms of visibility.
APN : How did you get the idea for Femmes Arabes ? KD : The idea came up after the depression of the Arab community following the events of September 11. Femmes Arabes wants to be a space for dialogue and exchange for women of Arab origin in Quebec. The idea was to offer them opportunities to participate fully in the social life of their new environment and to fight off the prejudices about Arab and Muslim cultures by demonstrating in the pages of Femmes Arabes the plurality and diversity of their components. APN : What is the role that Femmes Arabes has to play in the Quebec society? KD : Our magazine offers Arab immigrant women the opportunity to develop their strengths and adaptive capacities by networking with the main actors of their new home. For example, some articles are written with schools officials to better explain the school system in Quebec and better understand the stakes of the parental participation alongside young people. If I had to summarize our concept, I'd say it is a space for cross-boundaries and a cross-cultural, open to critical thinking, aiming for better understanding and above all answering the need of integration. Femmes Arabes is a space where labels and veiled words have no space.