Gutsy is defined as showing courage, determination and spirit. I’m not sure I have any of these qualities when I walk into my first Gutsy Women Circle get-together in Abu Dhabi on a Tuesday evening. It’s a relatively new gathering for women in the capital, and I’m tentative and somewhat scared about the prospect of attending such a meeting.
What will I have to do? Will I have to speak in front of everyone? What if there’s an actual circle? What if I don’t answer the questions right? All of this is going through my mind as I walk into The Third Place Cafe in Khalidiya after work. I feel like I’m back in high school standing at the lectern about to present my poetry assignment to the rest of the class. I’m a few minutes late, and as I feared, everyone is sitting in a circle, and all eyes turn to me. Although I’m greeted warmly, I’m suddenly very self-conscious – I hate being the centre of attention.
But I’m pleased to see the group host Chérine Kurdi smiling back at me. She stands up and gives me a hug. I immediately feel a little more comfortable. As I nervously take a seat, I look around and think, gosh, what am I in for? Is this really for me?
It’s 6pm on a weeknight and about 20 women of different nationalities and ages are gathered here.
“I started Gutsy Women in March,” Kurdi tells me. “The intention was to have smart women share their experiences and stories, inspire and feel inspired in a trusting space where we could have bold discussions.”
These gatherings are the brainchild of the former high-flying businesswoman-turned-transformation expert. During the next 90 minutes, it’s obvious why she’s the perfect person to host such a meeting of female minds: she’s encouraging and inclusive, poses questions that force each of us to think about and evaluate our lives, and gently prompts interaction.
“The Gutsy Women Circle is a way of bringing back the wisdom … of gathering women through their wisdom, care and presence,” she adds.
With 80 per cent of the UAE’s population made up of expats, and considering the transient nature of the country, it becomes obvious as the evening goes on that all the women here are looking for connection, meaningful friendships and support.
“This group creates a space where we can remove our masks and talk about what we really want and the fears we face,” says one attendee, Alexandrine Yamine. “I joined to meet like-minded people, which luckily I have. I have been blessed to encounter women who are supporting me through my journey of trying to detox my life.”
The 26-year-old, who was raised in the UAE, admits she’s realised lately she has always felt the need to have a partner in her life, but knows now she needs to love herself first. And above all else, she wants to find people she can be herself around. “I feel really supported [at the meetings], which I lacked in the past. It’s really refreshing,” she says with a smile.
Tonight’s topic is transitions, and after getting a rundown about the rules of these evenings – everyone is right, keep it simple and concise, and remember that what is said here is confidential – Kurdi has us turn to the person next to us and ask them what they love doing most in their lives (outside of work). For me it’s travelling and going out for coffee, but after verbalising these two loves, I stumble and can’t come up with anything else. The women beside me are able to come up with a few more than me, and it’s then I realise I spend most of my time working, and not much time on hobbies or outside interests – reality check number one.