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

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Here’s a press release from the State Department about an exciting new initiative for girls and sports across the world!


On June 6, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton will launch the Women’s World Cup Initiative: Empowering Women and Girls Through Sports, at the Department of State with members of the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team and youth soccer players from around the world.

This joint initiative by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and the Secretary’s Office of Global Women’s Issues harnesses the power of sports and international exchanges as a means to empower women and girls worldwide.

The event will take place at approximately 9:30 a.m. in the Benjamin Franklin Room at the Department of State. The event will be streamed live on and open to credentialed members of the media. Press access times will be forthcoming in the public schedule.

The Women’s World Cup initiative includes:

– Sports Visitor Program
Through the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs’ SportsUnited Office, 18 teenaged female soccer players and their coaches from Bolivia, Germany, Malaysia, Pakistan, the Palestinian Territories and South Africa will travel to the United States May 31-June 9 through the Sports Visitors Program for a 10-day exchange. During this time, the young athletes will travel to New York City and Washington, D.C., where they will meet with the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team and play soccer with local teams. The delegation will also meet with local community organizations that provide sports opportunities for youth with disabilities and mentorships through a soccer and literacy initiative.

– Sports Envoy Programs
Partnering with U.S. Soccer, former Women’s National Team players Briana Scurry and Amanda Cromwell traveled in May as Sports Envoys to Germany to lead soccer clinics and engage young audiences in Berlin, Dresden, Wolfsburg, Sinsheim and Frankfurt. Additional Sports Envoys will travel to Brazil this summer.

– Women’s Sports Management
The Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs’ International Visitor Leadership Program will lead a parallel 10-day international exchange program for five sports management professionals. With an emphasis on the administration of women’s and girls’ soccer programs, the program will allow the visitors to exchange ideas and best practices in the management of sports and recreational programs with their American counterparts. They will examine how athletic programs for women and girls promote leadership, teamwork, respect, self awareness and life skills, and how sports and recreation programs can make a positive impact on at-risk and underserved youth.

Visit for more information.

Department of State
Office of Press Relations
(202) 647-2492

Department of State
Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs
Talley Sergent



Check out the blog Saudi Women Driving for some of the latest stories from the Kingdom featuring the work of women’s activists!

AIC’s North Africa Bureau director Dalia Ziada brought this fascinating quiz to our attention.  Think you know a lot about violence against women? UN Women and the United Campaign want you to test your knowledge here!

By Lynn, originally published on Bekhsoos March 9th 2011.

Inspired by the march to “Take Back the Night” for International Women’s Day in Beirut, Lebanon. Dedicated to my good friend Zee who’s always pushing me to write myself into words.

Take back the night because the morning after, at 25, you still have to argue with your mother who’s pleading that your father is unable to accept the fact that you’re coming home so late.

Take back the night because after marching for hours under heavy rain, chanting and screaming your feminist slogans, soaked in your clothes, you would rather stick to your friends instead of coming home to find all your clothes thrown on your bed and the floor. panties and bras included.

Take back the night because when you wake up at 8 AM the next day, your working mom, who should have been at work by 7:30 AM, is still home cleaning and cooking, while your unemployed father is out -not- finding a job again.

Take back the night because when your brother is out every night till 4 AM, it’s never really an issue, but when you are, you get text messages, phone calls, guilt trips, and your clothes thrown on your bed and the floor. panties and bras included.

Take back the night because your body has its own memories and stories to be told, because your body is confined to a norm, reduced to a role, shaved, plucked, trimmed, waxed, whitened, straightened and starved because women are women, because your body should be limited in its expressions, because your body’s desires are pathologized, and yet your body is still socially-eroticized for “the right kinds of men” over and over and over again, because your body has been bullied in changing rooms, restricted to a shared bedroom, a kitchen, and a bathroom, sexually assaulted in your very own neighborhood, verbally abused in broad daylight.

Take back the night because so many little girls grow up learning that all of this is normal.

Take back the night because tampons in your backpack automatically mean you’re promiscuous, slutty, and (hetero)sexually-active.

Take back the night because even though your brother, since the age of 16, has been collecting dozens of empty packs of condoms next to his bed, your discrete tampons are the ones that will make headline news at home when you’re 23, and your sexuality will continue to be an issue for years to follow.

Take back the night because even though your mother is this small home’s sole breadwinner, your father gets to keep her ATM card in his wallet.

Take back the night because you try to convince yourself that this is okay, that she has her own secrets as well and that it balances itself out in the end. Except that you know too well that your mother builds her secrets for self-protection. And from what?

Take back the night because that ATM card reminds you of that recurrent scene from your childhood in the old navy Honda outside of the bank. From the back of the car, you watch your mother in the passenger seat handing over her paycheck, one hundred Lebanese Lira stacked over another, to your father. It feels fucked up. You wonder what thoughts travel across her body at that very moment.

Take back the night because even though you graduated from that university and have the coolest job in the world, you still can’t afford to move out of your parents’ home and build a decent life for yourself.

Take back the night because even if you could afford moving out, your parents will still try to disown you and threaten you and tell you they would rather see you spend 5 years abroad getting a phD, 1 500 000 L.L. plane ticket away, instead of being a 2 000 LL service-ride away.

Take back the night because your very own drive, your feminism, or whatever you call it, explodes from within.

Take back the night because no matter who you are, your body, your mind, and your heart experience unspeakable forms of violence every single day.

Take back the night because the night is yours too.


By Arwa Aburawa

Originally published on Green Prophet, March 16, 2011


Green Prophet reporter Arwa speaks to Rafi’a Abdul Hamid, a woman from the deserts of Jordan who has been trained as a solar engineer to help bring clean electricity to her poor village

For many living in the harsh and desolate deserts of south Jordan, life without electricity is the norm. Either the infrastructure which provides electricity doesn’t reach them or they simply don’t have the money to afford it. However, all that looks set to change as two women bring to light the advantages of solar energy.

Two Jordanian Bedouin women have recently returned from a six-month course at a unique college in India where they were trained as solar engineers. The two women, who are illiterate and have never been employed, were carefully selected by the elders in the village to attend the course at Barefoot college in India which helps poor rural communities become more sustainable.

“We’ve been taught about solar energy and solar panels and how to generate light,” explains Rafi’a Abdul Hamid, a mother of four who lives in a tent in the deserts of south Jordan. “Hopefully when we return we will be able to teach others and use everything we’ve learnt here in India to improve our village.”

Building Sustainable Bedouin Communities

Many of the Bedouin communities in Jordan which previously lived off their herds, are now highly dependent on government handouts. They usually make up the poorest sector of society and have a very low standard of living. As such the government sees this project as a strategic way to encourage these poor villages to generate their own energy and also become more self-sufficient.

Raouf Dabbas, the senior advisor to the Ministry of Environment in Jordan told Green Prophet: “Providing this green technology to the rural community, whilst it will not have a major impact on reducing climate change, it will have a profound impact on the socio-economic position of the bedouins and it will help improve their standard of living.”

The project is also seen as a stepping stone towards Jordan’s rather ambitious plans to source 20% of its energy mix from sustainable sources by 2020. “This is certainly one step in that direction,” adds Dabbas. “Jordan currently imports 98% of its oil and energy from the outside and at a time when crude oil prices are unstable, Jordan must actively look for sustainable forms of energy.”

Realising the Potential of Renewable Energy

As such, this project is not only about training women to help bring solar power to poor and remote villages but its also about demonstrating that renewable energy can improve people’s daily lives and also cut back emissions. Sponsers are required to help pay for the initial equipment setup but after that it the project will be able to sustain itself through the revenues it generates though excess electricity.

Barefoot college launched the solar power course for women in 2005 and already more than 150 grandmothers from 28 countries have been trained. Over 10,000 homes in 100 villages have been solar electrified which has saved 1.5 million litres of kerosene from polluting the atmosphere. With so much success already you can’t help but feel confident that change is also on the way for the sleepy bedouin villages of south Jordan.

As Rafi’a insists, “I have no doubt that we are going to achieve a lot- I’m hoping that my life and that of my village will change forever.”

:: Image via Barefoot College. The College trains poor, rural women to become Barefoot Solar Engineers who solar electrify their own communities. Barefoot Solar Engineers from 32 countries have been trained by the College since 2004.


A special lunch briefing with Dalia Ziada, AIC’s Egypt Office Director

Rayburn Office Building – B-340

Monday, March 14th, 2011 at 12:00PM

Please join the American Islamic Congress on Monday, March 14, 2011 for an afternoon featuring Dalia Ziada, the director of the American Islamic Congress’ office in Cairo and a prominent human rights blogger and activist in the Middle East. Ms. Ziada will be speaking on Capitol Hill to provide a firsthand report on the uprising that has shaken Egypt. Having just launched a public debate series on civic challenges facing the new Egypt, Ziada will offer policy makers insight on popular attitudes and identify new opportunities for strengthening liberal democratic culture in the Middle East.

Ziada – recently published in the Washington Post and quoted on the front page of the New York Times – runs grassroots civil rights programming in Egypt, including the groundbreaking Cairo Human Rights Film Festival. Ms. Ziada was also active on the ground during the protests that took place last month in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, distributing an Arabic comic book featuring Martin Luther King, Jr., encouraging non-violent resistance. Ziada is just one the many voices in the Middle East encouraging organic change and full democracy and will provide great, firsthand insight into the issues that Egypt and the Middle East face as the public tries to create functioning, democratic government.

Ziada has recently gained recognition by international media outlets for her brave political activism and women’s right advocacy .The Daily Beast has recognized her as one of the world’s ‘bravest bloggers’ and she was recently awarded the Anna Lindh Euro-Med Award by the Prince of Monaco. Ziada is visiting the US as a presenter at the Women in the World Summit alongside Madeleine Albright, Ashley Judd, and Hillary Clinton.

Lunch will be served. To reserve your space, please call 202-595-3160 or email

The American Islamic Congress is a civil rights organization promoting tolerance and the exchange of ideas among Muslims and between other peoples. With offices in Washington, Boston, Baghdad, Basra, and Cairo, the organization mobilizes Muslims “passionate about moderation” to advocate for free expression, nonviolence, and women’s equality. See http://www.aicongress.orgfor more information.