Arguably, part of the contemporary feminists advocacy in the Gulf region is moving toward intersectional feminism given its emphasis on economic, political and social rights, and protections for local women, migrant women, and equal advocacy despite the tribal, economic, and religious differences. Thematically, these battles have included the right to pass on citizenship, economic empowerment and labor rights, freedom of travel and mobility, and protections against domestic violence and sexual harassment.
There also exists a variety of feminisms in the Gulf region, namely state feminism; grassroots feminism; and cyberfeminism. Throughout the past few years, several GCC states have launched intensive reform campaigns targeting gender inequality, commonly described as state feminism. On the other hand, grassroots feminism work represents the efforts of civil society activists working outside the state’s framework. Lastly, an extension of grassroots feminism in the Gulf region is digital or cyberfeminism, or the use of social media platforms to champion social change and combat injustice. The Kuwaiti #MeToo movement for instance reflects the cyberfeminist current in the Gulf region. Whether through grassroots feminism or cyberfeminism, women in GCC countries are in direct engagement and negotiation with reform campaigns in their respective countries. The reception of the State largely depends on the type of feminism and the gravity of its demands.
Faced with a reality in flux, how are feminists in the Gulf navigating the tension between the promise and the limitation of state reforms? Are top-down legal reforms enough to empower women in the region? What aspects of gender inequality do state reforms leave unaddressed and how are feminists in the Gulf responding to these challenges? What are the socio-cultural factors that are roadblocks to more inclusive legal reforms?
Featured Speakers: Zarqa Parvez (moderator), Dr. Haneen Ghabra, Dr. Mona Kareem, Shaikha Al-Hashem, Hasnaa Mokhtar, and Sana Quadri.
Zarqa Parvez (moderator)
Zarqa is a researcher, writer and a PhD candidate at Durham University and her research focus includes: National Identity, Women, State and Society in the Gulf Region and a former lecturer in Middle Eastern Studies, Hamad bin Khalifa University. Some of her past research projects include: ‘Women and the Status Quo in Saudi Arabia’ and others related to issues of public policy and identity. She has organized academic conferences and lead independent research projects related to the development of education and youth in Qatar. She is the founder of the Women’s Society and Development Club at Georgetown University in Qatar. She is a contributor to Middle East Monitor, where she regularly publishes academic opinion pieces on relevant political, social, and development issues in the Middle East. She obtained her BSc in international Affairs from the Georgetown University School of Foreign Service in Qatar, and her MSc in State, Society, and Development from the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies.
Dr. Haneen Ghabra
Assistant Professor, Kuwait University’s Department of Mass Communication
Dr. Haneen Ghabra is an Assistant Professor at Kuwait University and author of the book, Muslim Women and White Femininity: Reenactment and Resistance (2018). Her areas of interest include exploring hegemonic and racist narratives via text, images and bodies (in media and popular culture). Through an Intersectional Feminist Ethic she focuses on systemic privilege and oppression through class, gender, race and sexuality. Dr. Haneen’s methodological research is conducted through rhetorical criticism, ethnography and auto ethnography. She is very much invested in postcolonial critique and in methods of disrupting systems of white and masculine ideologies. She recently was the recipient for the Book of the Year Award, at the National Communication Association’s (NCA) International and Intercultural Division in 2019. She was also the recipient for the Outstanding Article of the Year Award, NCA’s Feminist Division in 2018 and has won top paper awards numerous times at various academic conferences. Her work has been published in Communication Inquiry, Text and Performance Quarterly and Communication and Critical/Cultural Studies. She is also the editor of Negotiating Identity & Transnationalism (2020). Dr. Ghabra also has eight years of work experience both in the government and private sector in Kuwait in Public relations and campaign planning. She earned her PhD from the University of Denver (2017) and specializes in Rhetoric and Cultural Studies with a focus on Third World Women and Intersectionality.
Dr. Mona Kareem
Mona Kareem is the author of three poetry collections. She is a 2021 NEA Grant-Fellow. Her most recent publication Femme Ghosts is a trilingual chapbook published by Publication Studio in Fall 2019. Her work has been translated into nine languages, and appear in Brooklyn Rail, Michigan Quarterly, Fence, Ambit, The Los Angeles Review of Books, Asymptote, Words Without Borders, Poetry International, PEN English, Modern Poetry in Translation, Two Lines, and Specimen. Kareem held fellowships and residencies with Princeton University, Poetry International, Arab-American National Museum, Norwich Center, and Forum Transregionale Studien. She has been a featured writer at festivals and conferences in Cairo, Istanbul, Berlin, Amsterdam, Brussels, Seoul, Copenhagen, and the United States.
Kareem holds a PhD in Comparative Literature from the State University of New York at Binghamton. Her research focuses on contemporary Arab feminist literature. She has taught at Princeton, University of Maryland College Park, SUNY Binghamton, Rutgers, and Bronx Community College. She was an affiliated research fellow at the Friedrich Schlegel Graduate School of Literary Studies at the Freie Universität of Berlin.
Kareem’s English translation of Ashraf Fayadh’s Instructions Within was nominated for the Best Translated Book Award in 2016 and was reprinted by English PEN in 2017. Her selected translations of Iraqi poet Ra’ad Abdulqadir was published by Ugly Duckling Presse in Spring 2021. Her Arabic translation of Octavia Butler’s Kindred was released by Takween publishing in Fall 2020.
Hasnaa Mokhtar is a writer, a Fulbright alumna, and a Ph.D. candidate at Clark University. After graduating in 2015 with a M.A. in International Development and Social Change, Hasnaa developed a passion for transdisciplinary approaches to addressing gender-based violence in Muslim communities. She is currently working on the dissertation of her doctorate, which focuses on decolonizing knowledge production of gender-based violence in the Arab Gulf. Her research, writings, and activism focus on amplifying the voices of Muslim women and tackling the injustices of gendered violence. Hasnaa is a storyteller at heart. In 2006, she worked as a journalist in Arab News, and later her articles appeared in several publications including Fortune, Yahoo, Bustle, Sekka Magazine, Saudi Gazette, and Muslim Girl. Previously, Hasnaa served as the executive director of the Center for Nonviolent Solutions in Worcester, MA. Hasnaa is passionate about life, personal growth, spirituality, and everything in between.
Shaikha Al-Hashem is a writer and researcher from Kuwait focusing on women, migrant workers and the political economy. Shaikha is also a PhD Candidate at The European Graduate School, in the Philosophy, Art and Critical Theory (PACT) Program. Her specialization is in women and gender studies.
Sana Quadri is a second generation Indian immigrant born and raised in Dubai. She is a recent graduate in Gulf studies from the University of Exeter in U.K. and has been a freelance writer & multimedia journalist for close to a decade. Currently she hosts & produces the podcast ‘Cafe Khaleej’ which platforms upcoming researchers & academics from/of the GCC region.