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Feminist Perspectives from the Gulf: Navigating Intersectionality

Featured Speakers: Zarqa Parvez (moderator), Dr. Haneen Ghabra, Dr. Mona Kareem, Shaikha Al-Hashem, Hasnaa Mokhtar, and Sana Quadri.


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?

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