The group worked to both promote gender equality as well as raise awareness and value the role of Arab immigrant women by increasing awareness of culture, breaking stereotypes, and encouraging dialogue.
Estimated girls & women affected
Estimated community members affected
A year ago, AWSA-Be was awarded a one-year grant to organize conferences, debates, and trainings to empower women, challenge negative stereotypes, and bridge cultural divides in Europe. Since then, we conducted trainings, held multiple events, seminars, workshops, and exhibits. These activities improved the status of women, and particularly those of Arab origin by reinforcing and promoting their rights and their active presence in their communities and the society at large as well as breaking taboos (particularly on sexuality, gender stereotypes, and sexism). The various educational and print tools we developed allowed for a wider diffusion of the message to reach a greater number of people. The group worked to both promote gender equality as well as raise awareness and value the role of Arab immigrant women by increasing awareness of culture, breaking stereotypes, and encouraging dialogue. This also strengthened civic participation as well as solidarity among these women. We were recognized as an official and permanent educational association in Belgium. This allows the us to benefit from a 5yr annual renewable grant to fund a full time educator, which will in turn, allow the us even greater focus on awareness raising and educational campaigns.
Fatma grew up in a traditional male-dominated household. She witnessed domestic violence and was forced to wear the hijab. She was married to a man who also became violent. She came to us 2 years ago and became empowered to confront her situation. She left her abusive husband and filed for sole custody of her child. Recently Fatma partnered with one of the facilitators from AWSA-BE to launch her business, a Jazz Club in Brussels, allowing her to support herself financially.
Risks and challenges
Funding was initially quite difficult for us but through various networking and partnerships we were able to secure the facilities needed for the various events. Bringing together HIV positive people from the community to participate in the HIV events was a not easy. People tend to shy away from such open dialogues. Despite these challenges, bringing together people from such varied, multicultural backgrounds with a common purpose was moving and empowering.
What we’ve learned
In hindsight we would have liked to delve deeper into specific projects such as the “Minorities and the Rights of Women” project to include a greater diversity of populations. We would have also liked to extend the healthcare training sessions to reach a larger number of people.
We've been asked to extend the “Women in the Café” project to other cities and towns in Belgium and would like to explore widening the scope of that project further.
The $24,850 grant contributed to the success of the project by co-financing the salary expenses of a Full-Time Project Coordinator, from November 2013 to June 2014 to oversee the Activities listed above.
Check out our website here! http://www.awsa.be/en/page
Challenging stereotypes, empowering women
Thanks to you we’ve been busy challenging negative stereotypes and empowering women. First, we launched a special event, “Women in the Café,” presented by Iraqi writer and poet Ali Bader with the theme “Female characters in contemporary Arab novels.” The discussion promoted the role of women in public, making Arabic literature more accessible, and encouraging gender diversity. We've also participated in various events where we presented our expertise on sexual harassment and woman’s movements in the Arab world. In parallel, we're busy developing content on the conditions of women in the Arab world and preparing for our 2014 activities.
Risks and challenges
The biggest challenge is in securing all the necessary resources for the many projects that we have planned.
AWSA did not answer this question as it was not part of the agreed-upon reporting requirements.
We’re looking forward to the many planned activities for 2014, including a conference on women and minorities in the Arab world, and hosting exhibitions and awareness workshops. We are continuing our efforts and activities that relate to sexual and reproductive health and rights. We have several events for youth planned on November as well as a conference entitled “Stories of Life & HIV: the HIV prevention actors” in early December 2013
A lecture on November 9, 2013 entitled “Women who have marked the revolutions in the Arab world” by Tunisian lawyer and human rights expert, Radhia Nasraoui, and Egyptian blogger Shahinaz Abdel Salem. - The opening on November 22nd of our new exhibition entitled “Women of the Arab worlds and revolutions” – the result of a competition that we launched a few months ago.
Arab women who have migrated to Europe often must cope with isolation due to cultural divides that prevent Arabs and Westerners from connecting.
Why we care: The media often exacerbates stereotypes that incorrectly define Arab women as submissive, and accepting of Islamic fundamentalism.
How we are solving this: Organizing conferences, debates, and trainings to empower women, challenge negative stereotypes, and bridge cultural divides.
In Europe, there is generally a lack of media coverage of people from the Arab world who are secular or resist the rise of religious fundamentalism, furthering harmful and false cultural stereotypes. Arab women who have migrated to Europe often must cope with isolation due to cultural divides that prevent Arabs and Westerners from congregating and developing harmonized multi-cultural communities. This isolation also prevents women from accessing information on their rights.
The Arab Women’s Solidarity Association in Belgium (AWSA-Be) was created in 2006 in Brussels to promote the rights of women of Arab origin in Europe and Arab states. AWSA-Be brings women and men of both cultures together in order to foster inter-cultural dialogue, shift sexist attitudes, and promote Arab women’s participation in civil society.
AWSA-Be aims to eradicate harmful stereotypes and better integrate Arab immigrant women by engaging more people in intercultural dialogue through organizing conferences, literary events, and art exhibitions. These public events will increase public awareness about the strength of Arab women. For example, a photo exhibit will feature portraits of Arab women activists who defy stereotypes by serving as leaders who advocate for secularism and reject fundamentalism. AWSA-Be will also organize a conference for over 300 people to open constructive dialogue on the challenges that Arab women face living in European society and the contribution that women are making throughout the Middle East and North Africa in advancing women’s rights. These discussions will educate Europeans about Arab women’s reality and allow participants to formulate strategies on how to transform negative stereotypes about women.
AWSA-Be will also collaborate with community leaders and professionals, local cafés, and schools to organize public debates and intercultural dialogue activities that broaden the public’s understanding of Arab culture and identity. By launching numerous intercultural dialogues with immigrant communities, students and youth, and the general public, AWSA-Be hopes to reach over 500 people and give them a clearer understanding of women’s rights and the complexities surrounding the challenges that Arab women face.