Intersectional Feminist Organisations of The Arab World
The Arab world has produced some of the oldest feminist and anti-colonial movements in history. However, today it is, unfortunately, no surprise that 21st-century activism within the region is heavily monitored and scrutinised. Despite this, what should be celebrated is that there are still many individuals and organisations that have developed and thrived despite this environment of censorship. Below are some of the influential organisations, big and small, making some serious intersectional moves within the Arab world, disrupting the typical perceptions of modern day activism revealing the culture of communal care that is heavily present within the Middle East and North Africa:
BuSSy - Egypt
BuSSy is an intersectional performing arts project inspired by a performance from The Vagina Monologues that took place at the American University in Cairo. The purpose of the project is to provide and document voices of previously censored and untold stories about gender within different communities in Egypt. Initially created by two students to highlight the experiences of womanhood, it has expanded beyond these issues to incorporate stories from both men and women, exploring the complexity of gender issues from both perspectives.
Its ethos lies in the freedom of expression, and the project organizes storytelling workshops and performances where women and men step on stage to share stories about issues facing men and women in Egypt. This includes stories of harassment, rape, gender discrimination, honour killings, forced marriage, Female genital mutilation, motherhood, domestic violence, child abuse, mass sexual assaults and many others, from different communities and cities in the country.
Sondos Shabayek, Project Director at BuSSy, states that in order to make movements like the BuSSy project sustainable and impactful, a continuous and conscious effort towards practising self-care must be embraced.
“The monologue performances allow women to write for themselves instead of being written about.
Our stories reflect the reality that we, as young Egyptian women and men, are living with regards to social issues that are experienced by all members of society, irrespective of class and background.
We aim, through our performances, to reach the public directly, and expose the reality which society ignores, while also creating new opportunities for dialogue and awareness of many different important issues.”
L'Association Errahma des Handicapées Azilal - Morocco
L'Association Errahma des Handicapées Azilal (Errahma Association for the Disabled in Azilal) is a collective that provides an array of services for those with disabilities in the High Atlas Mountains region of Azilal in Morocco. Its fundamental goal is to safeguard the wellbeing of people with disabilities by securing access to basic services along with integrating them in the economic and social fabric of Morocco.
The organisation “offers disability screening services, medical services and supports those who need surgical interventions. Errahma’s strong participatory approach has been a crucial element in its success. To date, it has reached over 1,600 people.
It runs literacy classes and works to improve the conditions of local schools by equipping them with the facilities needed to help student mobility and access to lessons.
Errahma runs vocational training sessions for girls and women with disabilities and provides educational classes and speech therapy. The organisation also promotes collaboration between the various stakeholders, such as l'Entraide Nationale, that work on disability in the area and carries out advocacy activities to sensitise local communities.”
Chouf - Tunisia
Chouf also known as Chouf Minorities is a feminist organization that mobilizes the physical and sexual rights of women in Tunisia. Formed in 2012, its main objectives are rooted in the empowerment of women by building creative and positive representation and visibility, particularly those with non-normative sexualities. Chouf defines women as everyone who biologically, socially or politically self-identifies as a woman.
Tunisian queer activist and President of Chouf Khouluod Madhaoui says that the organisation aims to ‘break the image and label of “sexual minorities” given to us by civil society and the “criminal” one by the government. Most notably, the organisation calls for the decriminalisation of sex work, as it recognises it as a legitimate profession.
Chouf has hosted the Festival International D’Art Féministe De Tunis 2015, an international queer feminist art festival, which was organised and designed solely by LGBTQ+ women. The festival received 74 participants from 15 countries.
Apart from hosting feminist film festivals, Chouf offers self-defence, language and skills development workshops for sex workers. It also advocates for the gender of trans-sex workers’ to be officially changed, as this group currently faces arrests under both the homosexuality and sex work law.
alQaws - Palestine
alQaws for Sexual & Gender Diversity in Palestinian Society is a grassroots activist organisation in Palestine. The organisation focuses on building and protecting LGBTQ communities and promoting progressive ideas about the role of gender and sexual diversity in political activism, civil society institutions, media, and everyday life. The civil society organization was officially formed in November 2007 fully developed after 6 years as a local project in Jerusalem. The organisation notes this
“transition to an independent national Palestinian organization was the first step in creating a sustainable, visible, and truly impactfulPalestinian LGBTQ movement that represents a local discourse and uses strategies inspired by alQaws’ activists’ field experience and analysis.”
al-Qaws offers a range of support including individual (Support & Counseling), community (Community Building), and societal (Social and Cultural Change) levels.
The organisation gives space to Palestinian LGBTQ activists and allies for creative and dialogue-based activism, building coalitions and alliances with social and political movements, and inspiring responsible and engaged dialogue on the diversity of sexual and gender identities and practices.
Their Mission Statement:
“Our vision is to contribute to the building of a vibrant and just Palestinian society that celebrates diverse sexualities, sexual orientations, and genders.
Our Mission Statement: At individual, community, and societal levels, alQaws disrupts sexual and gender-based oppression, and challenges regulation of our sexualities and bodies, whether patriarchal, capitalist, or colonial. We work collaboratively to transform Palestinian society’s perspectives on gender and sexual diversity, homosexuality and LGBT issues, and to struggle for broader social justice.
Our locally-based programs support and advocate for diverse LGBTQ individuals and their families, create opportunities that inspire youth to become community leaders, open spaces for diverse communities at local and national levels, develop engaging and relevant educational materials to train civil society organizations, movements, and counseling professionals, and challenge social norms and common misperceptions with far-reaching innovative media initiatives.”
Article by Social Media & Content Manager Yaz Omran