I wish I could describe this feeling. It’s not exactly anxiety, as it is riddled with joy. It is not exactly joy, as it is saturated in fear. It is not exactly fear, as it is drenched in confidence. So what is it that I am feeling? I don’t know. But, goodness—what a feeling.

Those are the sentiments that I had posted at the start of last year’s inaugural TEDxBaghdad conference. I will never forget the overflow of emotions as the impossible was made possible – a “game changing TEDx” according to the founder of TEDxMIT. The success of last year’s event inspired me to continue in my line of work as a Director of Speakers at TEDxBaghdad. Despite the fact that I was a couple of continents away from Baghdad and immersed in an intense academic program at MIT. Nonetheless, with the experience gained, my speaker team started the second round up. With care and consideration, we met with locals and internationals over coffee, Skype, and email.

Within the last month and very coincidentally, three of our female speakers had to resign their talks. Consequently, our speaker line-up had become very female deficient. As Director of Speakers, I was put in the uncomfortable position of trying to figure out whether I can achieve the five month task of finding replacement speakers, discussing the content of each speaker’s talk, and organizing logistics in three weeks. Despite my delusional optimism, the task was not feasible on a logistical level alone.

Regardless of unforeseen circumstances, I think it is important to point out the caliber of the women that I had come across, working toward a better Baghdad, throughout my speaker search. The rebuilding of the country transcends lines of nationality, religion, sect, and – definitely – gender. On that note: keep shining, ladies. I look forward to seeing more of you on our stage next year.

Written by Layla Shaikley

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