“Women have the privilege of being canaries of the mind,” expressed Azar Nafisi, Executive Director at the Foreign Policy Institute at John Hopkins University. It is the spirit of this message, coupled with the knowledge that women are powerful change agents, that the “Beyond the Revolution: The Future of Women’s Rights and Democracy in the Middle East-North Africa” discussion was formed upon.
Yesterday afternoon, the Women’s Leadership Partnership united women from across the globe – and various sectors and disciplines – to share discourses on the state and status of women’s rights in the Middle East-North African regions. This dialogue was engaging and illuminating; the conversation was not simply expounding on the already widely known issues surrounding women – instead, it was a fluid and in-depth discussion about the progression of women’s rights and what equality translates to in different parts of the MENA region. Solutions, and practical means of achieving set goals in countries such as Egypt, Lebanon, Morocco, Turkey, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia, were explored. The event capitalized on the notion that a woman’s cause is just, without explanation and confirmation. In the fight for the attainment of equal rights, our cause is just.
The film, Because Our Cause Is Just, produced by the Women’s Learning Partnership was screened as the kick-off of the event. The film focused on the backlash the women’s rights movement has experienced post-Arab Spring. While watching the film I was moved by the passion these women showed through their activism and advocacy toward their womanhood. The documentary detailed the specific struggles faced by different countries in the MENA region. In each country you see how injustice and inequality unfold in specific areas, but the film itself leaves you with the understanding that women are joined in their pursuit. As Azar eloquently stated, “The struggle is not an exception.”
Following the film, expert panelists in partnership with WLP introduced themselves, and spoke their truth about the issues women faced in their region, and offered solutions on how to aid in their fight. The audience was charged to re-examine and rearrange our philosophies and ideologies regarding the functionality of the MENA region. We were instructed to pose a question mark not only to the world, but also to ourselves. In order for change from the West to be effective, and received with the best intentions for the people it serves, the Western consciousness must shift. We were told that Islam is as much of a victim as women, and not to easily believe that religion is the sole reason for women’s condition.
Women hold the power to alleviate themselves from where they are, and with or without men the revolution continues. Onward and upward. After all, as a panelist declared, “Women are the future of men. Women are the future of humanity.”