A Region in Transition
Women for Justice believes that the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region is undergoing transition. This transition is not only political, and is not limited to the waves of political protest and change that peaked in 2010-11 and again in 2018-19; rather, we can actually trace broad, long-term dynamics on multiple levels, including in the social and cultural realms. The peoples of the region, who have been feeling each other’s pulses and are influenced by one another, are effecting major changes with regard to how they see their relationship to governments; women’s agency, rights, and roles in society; diversity and minority rights; and rights and freedoms in general; and more. These changes are not necessarily traditional or ideological but are rather innovative in nature. Such apolitical and post-ideological changes are also accompanied by political uprisings that erupt from time to time across the region, most notably in the first and second waves of the Arab Spring. Across multiple levels, old paradigms and regimes are strong and are resisting change, but they are also collapsing nonetheless. New paradigms are emerging, and we regard it as our role in the Women for Justice Foundation, as well as our partners and allies, to support their rise and consolidation
Women’s Agency and Roles
In Women for Justice, we do see women’s roles in the private and public spheres as closely intertwined and overlapping rather than separate from one another. Suppression of women and their voices in any of these two interlinked realms directly sends shock waves through the other. Women resistance and assertiveness as agents of change is often reflected at the private and public levels. No barrier can effectively or neatly divide the two spheres. Against this backdrop, we oppose authorities’ attempts to crack down on people’s private lives or restrict citizens’ roles in the public sphere. That said, we support and urge for governments’ protection of vulnerable groups in private and public settings.
As a Canadian non-profit organization concerned with diaspora communities from the MENA region in Canada—and in North America in general—Women for Justice acknowledges Indigenous Peoples as the traditional owners of the lands and places we operate in. We recognize First Nations, Metis, and Inuit Peoples, and we honour their continuing connection to the land.
Some of the aspects affecting the MENA region today have roots that may be traced to colonization. Women for Justice believes that diaspora communities from MENA in North America have a lot to learn from Indigenous Peoples and their experience with and resistance to colonization.
Women as Peacebuilders
Although women are on the frontliners as peacebuilders, they are not being recognized. Women peacebuilders do not have the same status as human rights defenders. They deserve more attention from the international community, and above all they deserve more protection and support. WJF seeks to raise awareness of the importance of peacebuilding and the importance of women as mediators, and as active workers in the humanitarian realm.
Islamic Feminism ( Shaqa’eq)
No doubt having a feminist movement based on Islamic teachings responds to many Muslim women’s ambitions is of utmost importance. This is especially true after accumulation of relevant research work done by academics from across the world to generate alternative knowledge.
And despite the rising movement, there are still gaps that need to be addressed and networks that need to be established; in order to build on that momentum that increases steadily.
However, most of these efforts are still confined to conferences and academic conventions, which in turn prevents the spread of these concepts to the majority. Here, some organizations started to work in fields of producing and disseminating new knowledge through relevant programs like discussion boards, workshops, training imams, among others. Nevertheless, this trend needs more endorsement to be more influential on the ground.
In this regard, several programs have been implemented in Muslim majority countries, adopting Islamic feminism approach, whose results had encouraged funding agencies to continue their support for these programs and those who implement them. Now, it’s time for establishing regional and international entities that are capable of working on several levels, curating wider influence and partnering with stakeholders and funding agencies.
Looking into Muslims minorities in several countries, it is obvious that women’s challenges there are no different than their counterparts in Muslim majority countries; which further encourages using the same approach for Muslim women everywhere.