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Community Development in Context With Arab Society

Community development work is a long term process which depends upon those group of people whom we refer to as ‘community members’ since they reside in the same geographical location. Therefore, community development cannot be defined without addressing and acknowledging the levels at which the community members participate. This indicates social workers are unable to comply with the strategies of empowerment unless there is social network support to understand and resolve barriers at the community and neighborhood levels. Development work can best be defined with those structural and post structural limits that social workers emboss in a forum in which the political as well as personal interests of every individual are identified in collaboration with the explored potential of the community members (J & Tesoriero, 2006, p. 264). This includes sharing their problems, visions, and approaches, while escorting community to a unified solution pertaining to health and physical education (Evans et al, 2004, p. 19). The foremost aim of social workers is to bring a stable environment to infrastructure, not influenced by rapid development, but limited to accept the challenge of survival in a steady state. It is the role of the social worker to bring optimistic change to the community and simplify the issues of class, gender, and race but the onus does not lie alone on the shoulders of the social workers. It is the responsibility of the community members to welcome that change, because any dominance on behalf of the members obstructs in the way of setting the foundation for community based development. Moreover, community must be built with a psychological sense that enhances relationships and minimizes disagreements.

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The Saudi Cancer Society after recognising that breast cancer is prevalent among the Arab women today, has started working along with US to minimize the network of this threat among women. First, this change has some consequences among which the one most evident is the fact that Saudi people (tribes and sects) dislike all kinds of Western collaboration. Secondly, such a change has not occurred overnight, because in the Muslim culture and tradition, women unlike the Western women are not allowed to show any part of their body openly. They dress well and are bound to obey Muslim rules which many cultures perceive as ‘male-dominated society’. In such a spectrum to convince the majority of Arab women to assess their health is a difficult task. Contemporary government after realising the ways in which breast cancer determines the fate of the Arab women, has decided to highlight breast cancer awareness in order to save millions of lives in the Kingdom through the course for the cure. The society indirectly intends to ‘undo’ or ‘reshape’ the notion that what the Kingdom means by tradition is not unreflective acceptance, but a sense of critical continuity referred by Islamic and health ministry that tools alone are not sufficient in bringing change. What matters are the circumstances under which community make decisions to implement these tools. Thus, in an ‘inflexible’ environment, Saudi ministries, gynecologists, deans, and lecturers at various medicinal colleges and universities are making efforts to address health issues in which rules do not allow and expect from women to take their critical health condition for granted. Despite being in a male dominated society, women are permitted to undergo through surgeries if they feel their health is at risk. This gives us a murky picture of Saudi Health Society because there exists a demarcation about Saudi norms, rules, and exceptions. It can be argued that what has characterised Saudis to keep all types of sociological theorising is an intellectual creation of contemporary ‘global’ social formations, without which the Kingdom could not have entered the ‘risk-free’ world. There is no doubt that much development work has been able to bring positive change in the traditional Saudis, but to what extent the social and health workers are working to relieve the feminists from health risks, is unpredictable. Such an uncertainty rests on the shoulders of the male stream Arab society that shapes social policy so as to express its critical ambivalence or opposition towards unequal social arrangements in the public sphere. This might work in formal politics where global feminists criticizes Arab social thought by not only adding gender inequality into the equation, but also drawing attention to the taken for granted divide between these spheres of the family, domestic relations and daily life. After acknowledging that breast cancer does not distinguish between national or international boundaries (Cancersociety, 2009a), Saudi legislation has initiated efforts to put an end to it. Kenny (2006, p. 21) suggests that one of the ways to cope up with the male dominated society is through challenging men’s power and institutions.

Cancer treatment and awareness is not the only solution. What we need to understand is to literate various sects of the Arab society in such a manner that they unconsciously get involved in health education. Creating awareness among them at the utmost is essential by showing them various other faces of this disease which apart from the breast cancer include lung, throat, and colorectal cancer. In this regard, there is a need to educate them by working on a community level and make them to envision the real causes behind cancer. The barrier to understand the disease lies with the Arab society, where legislators think health education and medical awareness is the only solution to condemn various types of cancers. In this regard, privilege has been given to put a restriction upon tobacco products, sheesha, and water-pipe smoking. Initiated in 2007 from World’s No Tobacco Day, Middle East has no doubt set an agenda to increase awareness on a global platform to spread dangers of tobacco use (Cancersociety, 2009b). However, it would be better to say that governments’ regulation on tobacco products is simply an effort towards campaigning in the Middle East against flavored sheesha or water-pipe smoking which lure Arab youth, women and families, even young men and women have been seen smoking on college campuses which is alarming. In this context, there is a need to focus on the significance of health educational programs and training sessions to develop and provide physicians with information about well-known health effects of smoking as well as several less-known consequences, such as pulmonary disease, premature wrinkling of the skin, the benefits of quitting, ways of dealing with withdrawal, and procedures for making individual assessments of patients. Cancer control and early cancer detection is the aim of Arab government and in order to achieve this, well-planned community health promotion interventions is the foremost. Education about behavioral risk factors and heart disease and the desire to educate communities to reduce these, together with links with existing nongovernmental and community organisations, are the cornerstone of many Arab community-based health promotion programs. What the health educators need to know are the potential cultural and religious reasons for the variances in understanding cancer incidence and mortality and also the psychological and social impacts of the disease on men and women, their family, and community life. Just as how technical and technology driven machinery serves as the source of interaction between doctor and patient, Kingdom acknowledges how high-tech advancements require clear symptoms description, concerns, and fears needed by conventional forms of medical curriculum.

The significance of principle reveals and highlights those efforts that are conducted as actions that ‘change the world’. It would be better to say in this regard that changing the world is easier than ‘changing the Arabs’. Such change does not refer towards a particular positive or negative community level. In fact, such change is implemented at the grass root level not only to change the circumstances or the events of the community members, but to modify the approach to provide them with a better and positive vision and to ensure that the change is in interest of the own community or group. It is through principle that the impact of our actions and reactions is analysed in context with the benefits and consequences afterwards. For example, principle of sustainability suggests that growth should be limited, and unsustainable, so as to establish the notion of ‘small is beautiful’ and ‘steady state’ (J & Tesoriero, 2006, p. 259). Similarly, it is the principle that limits and draws boundaries to reinforce dominant oppressive structures and if we look closer to the culture of Arabs, it is evident that they possess and exercise a dominating phenomenon. Either gender wise or politically, Saudi Arabia is so far the best example of dominance, which negates and underestimate the significance of principle. Principle defines that community development should be done in a manner in which the human impact of political as well as personal well being is balanced. Another example is that of feminist issues. Feminism in a structural perspective determines the oppressed women, but to a level in which such oppression becomes part of a culture relates to other form of structural disadvantage which in Arab culture is not considered a real disadvantage to women.

Principle is important in health education because it determines the issues of different health problems persisting among different communities. The dilemma is that health concerns are not given as much privilege as they ought to be and such a scenario seeks a balanced controversy between patriarchal relations and power relations that generally sustains within modern Islamic societies. However societies, that like to be sustained with their culture and do not accept any change overnight, are difficult to transform or reshape, because such societies are already focused at the corporate nature of the social and the human nature. Feminist health movement has undergone through universal implications which today has become one of the commonplaces of analysis, but in the process its origin is not always fairly attributed or welcomed by Saudi community members. Principle, if properly implemented can bring change, but at a slower pace. Since change has to start at initial level, we must address the school of thought of various rural and urban sects, and even that at local level. For example, in order to convince those sects who do not believe in mammography, we must reach their psyche first. Arabs believe a particular observance of the Islamic dress code which is followed by a growing number of educated ‘modern’ women. It is observed throughout the Middle East that women have chosen an alternate ‘scarf’ or ‘veil’ to cover their heads, but on occasion one sees a woman in veil wearing a skirt and no stockings. Such a combination clearly defeats the purpose of the veil. Similarly, it is through the ‘globalised culture’ that Saudi trend is adopting the ‘smoking’ or ‘sheesha’ tradition. Principle of sustainability can be applied in this stance by convincing men and women about valuing their local culture and by suggesting them means to remain aloof from such ‘cultural globalisation’. This does not necessarily mean a pessimistic approach, but suggest them ways to feel closer to the global platform, and retaining their cultural values at the same time. Health wise, practices that do not disrupt their culture or religion should be adopted like mammography, which serves as an indicator to assess the risk of cancer in women. However, to convince the Arab women upon mammographic screening for breast cancer is not an easy task (Bendelow et al, 2002, p. 247).

The concept of health and principle among young Arab women cannot be understood easily due to the reason that women are supposed not to view their body as social construction of language, visual images and binary oppositions, which obstructs in the way to conform to the norms of femininity. Arab culture does not allow young women to experience their body out of their culture which is one of the reasons why they hesitate in undertaking medical examinations and are less oriented towards physical health as compared to men. Arab women do not consider their bodies as social constructive projects, so they never feel the need for physical examination.

Community development possess the potential to identify the dominating conservative solutions that often ignore the fundamental local values of Arab society. The consequences of bringing health and educational change includes local resistance at various levels. That has been the main reason for why millions of people every year in the Kingdom remains devoid of getting benefit from the health plan revolution. Saudi Arabia is fortunate to confront only a burden of having to deal with chronic ill-health diseases, poverty and malnutrition has never been an issue. However, the challenging issues to the society is the health and bodily experience in context with the physical education, which must be presented to the Arabs so as to provide them with a unique coherent sense of self. This would turn the society in a unique combination in which self would become a project. Thus, work would be required in order to maintain a ‘self’ coherent and rational structure.

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Thus, the practical solution is to address the national problems of the society and this is only possible when at a local level, religious clerics agree to work along with community workers. It is only through the contribution of Muslim ulemas that such problems are resolved, because many Saudi groups believe in ‘fatwas’ from ‘local ulemas’. The identifiable barriers are the cultural and religious norms of the Arab society, which are considered to be adamant in the Middle East. Such ‘inflexibility’ is often witnessed on a national basis, and is not seen among other cultures. For example, Saudis are bound to hear to their clerics and they rely on them to solve their personal and political problems (known as fatwa). Therefore, this hindrance that they only listen to their clerics can be turned into opportunity or strategy to make addressable links among their sects who does not take into account even government or legislative actions. Clerics, in this stance must address their health issues through promoting an optimistic school of thought and highlight the significance that real ‘Islam’ is not just a norm, but a complete solution that escorts the society towards human welfare for all. This will help them to realize that they are no longer ‘exceptional’ to be dealt aloof of the global society. Muslim scholars in this case must ensure the Arabs that various empowerment strategies, like giving confidence to the disadvantaged group to make a socially just society, community recycling, or health education is what makes disadvantaged society regain their confidence.

Muslim clerics must demonstrate the society that protection of human rights in community work is more significant than the promotion, which means basic human rights conventions need to be safeguarded that includes freedom of expression, speech, and so on. The advantage is that basic human declaration of community development need to be fulfilled and does not lag behind, the right to acquire a particular standard of living and education. However, the greatest challenge to deal with, is in the name of human rights, building a culture that enables the oppressed groups of the society to be heard. Another barrier is the notion that contemporary Muslim world perceives the West to be their greatest enemy, and since they are strictly abide by their religion, they believe that non-Muslim world can never be their well-wishers. In this scenario, there is no use of spreading community work on behalf of the Western society, because even if Saudi government would appreciate the external efforts, the local society would condemn it.

The solution remains with the Muslim ulemas who must take the responsibility to preach and convince various sects of Arab community through Quran and Sunnah that the role of disadvantaged and women in Islamic society is central to create a society, therefore, health issues must not be avoided. These issues has been a central component that cover the debates over modernisation and progress which is still not taken into account by Saudi government today. While the socioeconomic and community work change that has taken place as a consequence of modernisation and programs for development must be resumed at a local level where local ulemas must be appointed to literate Arabs regarding women and the family. The development must shape and reshape Arab mentality by reference to internal as well as external factors including the consequences of unnecessary cultural policies implemented by various legislations adopted by governments regarding personal status law that affects womens’ lives.

With structural demographic and social problems, which are far more challenging than external threats, the political challenges of its ‘royal’ family and sectarian problems, it must continue to accept the social change. What already exists in Saudi society is the psychological sense of community that is developed due to religious norms, and values that are tied to the local settings, in which there is no room for external dependencies or interference. But what is missing is the notion of a supportive ‘diversified’ community that represents similarity in way of thinking about health, education, and gender. Such an approach must be combined with additional factors in which community work along with ‘ulemas’ role redefine ‘Islamic’ strategies to strengthen inner resources of the Saudis by instilling hope, confidence and enthusiasm. There is no information about the true size of Kingdom’s comprehensive census. By ‘adding’ diversity to the development projects, Saudi Arab can lay down the foundation of tourism, which to this date has not been promoted due to gender oppression.

Community development work is a lengthy approach of catering the local skilled and unskilled, cultural values, to provide community building activities with a better understanding of their cultural roots and human rights. Local values hold their originality but they must not remain aloof from the global trends. This work investigates the lived, embodied experiences of gender in context with health and physical education so as to help them in creating a physical identity. In order to make them aware of their health issues, there is a need to awake local trends among the people regarding physical education and gender oppression. With a male dominant social structure, regulative principles or government agencies promoting health promotion strategies are not essential to tackle a society based on cultural values (Al-Krenaw & Graham, 2000). How we can modify the society is through giving them a vision with the help of those, whom they rely the utmost. Since they are sticked to their religion and culture, it would be easier to transform such society through religious ulemas or clerics, who would ensure them that going through health channel would not disrupt their religion, because religion is based on human nature and truth. Such a trust would psychologically help them to create a modern world, based on ideas and knowledge generated particularly in the health and education fields.


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  2. Bendelow Gillian, Carpenter Mick, Vautier Caroline & Williams Simon. 2002. Gender, Health, and Healing: The Public / Private Divide. Routledge. London.
  3. CancerSociety, 2009a.
  4. CancerSociety, 2009b.
  5. Evans John, Davies Brian & Wright Jan, 2004. Body Knowledge and Control: Studies in the Sociology of Physical Education and Health. Routledge. London.
  6. J, Ife. and Tesoriero, F., 2006. Community Development: Community-based alternatives in an age of globalisation. 3rd Edition. Pearson Education Frenchs Forest.
  7. Kenny, S. 2006. Developing Communities for the Future: Community Development in Australia. 3rd Edition. Nelson ITP South Melbourne.

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