It is all about communication with Tanya Awad Ghorra. She works both as dialect coach for film and television, as well as trainer in non-violent communication. Her work is closely tied to inclusivity and diversity, that is not to mention her work to abolish the death penalty. We speak with Tanya about her fascinating work, inclusivity, and how she copes with the hardest part of her job.
Between your work as a dialect coach and your work in diversity and non-violent communication, what you do is quite diverse. Which do you prefer and why?
I definitely would choose nonviolent communication and conflict transformation, as this kind of work is deeply transformative and is an educational approach for all ages, classes and backgrounds. This kind of work does not only change persons, but societies on the long run. But dialect accent is also challenging and needs creativity in the approach depending on the person’s nationality and dialect. The outcome is always rewarding: seeing someone sounding like a local on TV is a small win to celebrate alone.
Have you seen more inclusivity taking place in the media in recent years? If so, to what do you attribute this?
Inclusivity is advancing in media, but not enough. Social Media pushed traditional ones to take diversity into consideration. But there is still a long way. I still don’t see people of color, veiled women, non-conformist presenters, special needs anchors, multicultural animators, aged women presenters… I see small attempts here and there to take credit. It is a long path, and we are still close to the starting point.
How can successful women join forces and inspire young girls to follow their dreams?
It is easy if we understand that successful women are not afraid to share their experience, they rise and hold the hands of other women so they can rise as well. Successful women have the urge to teach young girls how to be strong, to stand up for their rights, and to take their place in public space. We need each other to survive, and we definitely need to grow together instead of belittling one another.
Would you say your work in non-violent communication is something that is gravely needed here in the Middle East?
My daily experience says yes in capital letters. More and more each day I am asked to spread this culture. It is a need for everybody. We have a traditional acceptance to violence as a culture. But with all the violence surrounding us, people are starting to understand that this isn’t working, and we need something different if we want other outcomes.
You have traveled across the world, taking your work in non-violent communication to different countries. Was it differently received depending on the different countries you have visited?
In traditional societies, or in deeply religious ones, the first few minutes, sometimes hours, it is difficult to create a breach. They start by being very cautious, sometimes doubtful. But since what I teach speaks to their inner best self, their emotional intelligence, their true hidden nature, they quickly open up, and we end up on the same wavelength. I do not remember a session where participants did not ask for more, no matter the background.
Do you ever find any resistance to your promotion of non-violent communication? How do you react to that?
Resistance is weak, but it is sometimes there. Sometimes religious figures try to belittle the content by telling me the scriptures said this long before, some others try to tell me that violence is normal in our regions, some try to prove to me that this approach will never work… but as I said, usually this kind of resistance quickly disappears because I connect with the deep human in each of them.
Tell us about your work to abolish the death penalty. How was it received?
Abolishing the death penalty has been in the core of my work for years. I work on educating youth on the right to life. I have visited and interviewed all death row inmates in Roumieh, and I tell their stories to people during my training. The death penalty has been totally or partially abolished in over 150 countries. It has never inhibited crime, it is a vengeful act, nothing more. Crime will never be stopped by eliminating “the bad guy”. People in our region usually want to debate the subject. But luckily, debate away from emotions is always constructive. A friend of mine – who always supported the death penalty in our exchanges – asked me to stop talking about it because he is afraid of changing his mind, since he knows deep down that I am right. So, it is not easy work, but worth every single battle.
Does it get emotionally overwhelming at times to tell the stories of death row inmates?
It used to be. I used to be overwhelmed by stories I hear when people open up. Not only the death row inmates, but people who lived hell in wars, in prisons, in detention, in their own home with their spouses. I used to get insomnia; my heart would race. With experience, and deep assessment of my own needs and sanity, I learned to separate things. I still get overwhelmed, but I learned to live this moment, take what I need from it for the good of others too, and then practice my techniques of breaking the cycle. Sometimes just coming back home to my family is soothing, sometimes cooking, cleaning, writing, talking to friend… I do whatever it takes to overcome this feeling of empathy, so I can transform it into compassion, and compassion stands for: “love in action”.