History is full of extraordinary women, but their stories are seldomly told. In the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, as elsewhere, the influential names of political and social struggles that are talked about in school or media are overwhelmingly male. Nonetheless, there are also many women who accomplished outstanding achievements and made great sacrifices for their beliefs, often against high odds. In many cases, these women inspired others and made a long-lasting impact on their societies.
Therefore, over this year’s 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence, The Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES) Gender and Political Feminism MENA office set out to identify and tell the stories of some of these influential women who worked towards gender justice. With this anthology, FES shared their inspiring messages to show how manifold the roots of feminism and gender equality are in the MENA region.
Since we had to limit ourselves to sixteen stories only, some hard choices had to be made. Many more stories could and should be told of the women working and fighting for gender justice in the region. Therefore, the list of feminists that was shared during these 16 days do not represent an exclusive one and do not cover the whole lives of the women but focus on their contributions to gender justice within a specific historic, political and social context.
The women whose stories are told are diverse in many aspects: age, class, race, education, and upbringing. Some used their privileged position in society to drive change towards social justice, while others had to fight hard to create space for themselves in the first place. But they all have one thing in common: determination to change the lives of women and girls for the better, and with this they paved the way for women’s rights in the MENA region.
The campaign was prepared in collaboration with the gender focal points of all FES offices in the MENA region and was broadcasted on FES MENA’s social media pages (Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter). All illustrations of this campaign are done by Nour Flayhan.
The 16 Days of Activism Campaign, launched by the Center for Women’s Global Leadership (CWGL) and feminists from around the world at the first Women’s Global Leadership Institute in 1991, has been used worldwide to call for the elimination of gender-based violence (GBV). It is run annually between November 25th - International Day for Elimination of Violence against Women, and December 10th - Human Rights day.