Gender and Civil Society in the Middle East


Al-Ali, Nadje. 2003. “Gender and Civil Society in the Middle East.” International Feminist Journal of Politics 5 (2): 216–32.

Author: Nadje Al-Ali


This article explores the aims, activities and challenges of women's movements in the Middle East. It demonstrates the similarities among movements, which are related to both the historical emergence of women's movements, and in particular their close affiliation to nationalist struggles, as well as contemporary circumstances such as ambiguous government policies, repression of civil societies and prevailing authoritarian political cultures. This contribution also looks to the specific factors and conditions that shape women's movements in particular countries differently, thereby highlighting the great degree of heterogeneity among women's organizations in the Middle East. An analysis of the actual goals and activities of women's groups in various countries, such as Jordan, Egypt and Palestine reveals that women activists tend to get mobilized around issues related to modernization and development. Issues such as women's rights to education, work and political participation have traditionally been both the accepted demands of women activists as well as part of the discourses of male modernizers and reformers. However, the more sensitive issues of women's reproductive rights and violence against women, for example, have been taken up by only a few women's organizations in recent years. The relationship of women's organizations to the state is key to the analysis of women's movements in the region. Varying levels of dependence and autonomy can be detected not only in the comparison of one country with another but also within given country contexts.

Topics: Civil Society, Feminisms, Gender, Women, Gendered Power Relations, Gender Equality/Inequality, Governance, Nationalism, Rights, Women's Rights Regions: Africa, MENA, North Africa, Asia, Middle East Countries: Egypt, Jordan, Palestine / Occupied Palestinian Territories

Year: 2003

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