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Drafting a New Story: Women's Rights in the Middle East

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Perhaps the best piece of advice I read about writing on the Internet was from a blogger who, when asked why blogs matter, wrote “the Internet is made of people.  People matter.”  This statement seems pretty fitting for a blog striving to highlight on women’s rights in the Middle East and Muslim World.  In these countries, where patriarchy still reigns supreme, women have gradually been making their voices matter through the global microphone that is the Internet. With many countries in the Muslim world still feeling the growing pains of nation building, women’s rights often take a back seat to other issues.  Political coherence, infrastructure, violence—these are among the issues that policymakers often address before coming back to the issue of women’s rights.  Stories about the triumphs and challenges women face remain muted, overshadowed by these “big ticket” issues such as violence, political instability, or news about the stock market.  We hope to bring women—half the world’s population—back to the forefront: any discussion of human rights must include women’s rights.

With the encouragement of prominent female political leaders—including our own Secretary of State Hilary Clinton and female leaders in Muslim communities, women’s issues have come back into the spotlight.  NGOs now focus on empowering girls and women within their communities.  Laws have been passed banning and punishing violent practices, such as FGM or honor killings, setting off transformations to what are thought to be “normal” practices in the Muslim world.  We believe that tackling gender inequality and gender-based violence is an integral part to the development of civil society throughout the Muslim world.  Activists, politicians, and scholars often note that a country’s record on women’s rights gives insight on its over all perspective on human rights.

With this in mind, AIC hopes to highlight and analyze political developments, news reports, and media focusing on women in order to expose the challenges and successes of the women’s movement in the Muslim world.  What can this tell us about women in the Muslim world? Keeping regular tabs on what the various news outlets have to offer on women’s rights activists and reformers, we can see what kinds of problems grab the attention of media, government, or the women themselves. We can see what kinds of solutions or mediations have been put on the table by reformers, and which ones have been shot down by society, or proven to be otherwise ineffective. Overall, we can highlight the trends taking place in the Muslim world—for better or for worse—at the regional and national levels.

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