It’s been ages since I wrote. My new blogability is characterized by creative spurts followed by long silences… amateur!
In a nutshell: life has been, er, nuts.
A few weeks ago I’m racing through Beirut airport trying to read emails while zipping to passport control. And there’s an email that catches me off-guard:
Dear Lina… I’m excited to share that you will be included among the 100 Most Influential People in Gender Policy in 2018 in Apolitical’s inaugural annual list alongside people such as Amina Mohammed, Malala Yousafzai, Margot Wallström and Justin Trudeau.
I forward it to Myriam, my go-to source for all things wise and sane.
I ask: Is this spam? [As in: Does the widow of a deceased Nigerian general want to transfer $7 million to my bank account?!]
Myriam… was this YOUR idea?!
OK. How did this happen?! What do I do with it?!
I’m on this list with some of my massive feminist superheroes, equality champions, and human rights rockstars… EEP! And one of only two Arab women.
Before I know what’s what… BOOM! A flood of love and congrats and stuff. [Good thing brown people don’t blush!]
I was totally overwhelmed. And felt exceedingly honored. And grateful.
Here’s the thing: For every single person on that list, there are 100 more who could have been there, people who fight tirelessly for equality, for rights, for peace, for justice, for dignity.
People whose names we don’t know. People who deserve to be celebrated. People who aren’t in this to be celebrated. People who have no idea they are doing anything worth celebrating anyway, because they could not imagine NOT doing this.
That doesn’t mean we should not celebrate! In fact, go out there and make a list – of human rights advocates, of gender equality ass-kickers, of anyone and everyone doing worthwhile work for a global cause. Celebrate yourselves and each other! Let’s keep making lists – from the “North” and “South” and the Arab region and everywhere – because it shows the world that fighting for equality is important and deserves to be recognized.
[Make a list of evil-obstacles-to-equality too. Name and shame. Call them all out – and get them all out!]
For me, this as a collective award. It’s not about honoring the individual as much as it is about recognizing the importance of fighting for this cause. None of this stuff happens in a vacuum. We are not individuals, we are a MOVEMENT. A movement comprised of people who move towards a shared goal: EQUALITY.
For me, this is an honor for all of us at the Institute for Women’s Studies in the Arab World, a tiny but tireless team of feisty feminist fighters. A team I’m honored to be a part of. That is a cause worth celebrating!
Right now here’s where the fight is:
Economic empowerment: Arab women are an underutilized economic force, but concentrated in feminized sectors or – dangerously – in informal labor.
Political participation: Not much for women in Lebanon’s recent parliamentary election. A long road ahead.
Ongoing insecurity: Iraq, Yemen, Syria, Palestine. And what happens to women and girls in conflict…
An array of human rights abuses: What happens to female migrant domestic workers in this region is horrific – and criminal.
Denial of the full range of sexual and reproductive health and rights: We are very far from deciding about our own bodies and sexualities, despite the undeniable truth that #SheDecides!
All forms of gender-based violence: Sexual harassment (MeToo, UsToo, ArabWomenToo, yes yes yes). Child marriage. Intimate partner violence. Honor killing. Do I need to go on?!
We’re fighting. There’s progress. And regress. Most days we feel like an accordion, expanding or shrinking (to a less-than-pleasant soundtrack). There is no possibility of peace, stability, prosperity, sustainable development, or anything even remotely meaningful in our region without the full engagement of women. Not negotiable.
Achieving equality for women is the greatest human rights challenge of our time – I’m in it for life. And in the Arab region, our challenge is colossal. We do NOT have it easy.
That’s why this special little Institute is so critical – it fuses academic and activist approaches to build a foundation for equality and human rights. Right now we’ve got global momentum combined with strong grassroots movements, all speaking to the universality of our cause. And lists like the Gender 100 and everything else. This all speaks to the same message: Our issue is important. Our cause is RIGHT.
And – our time is NOW!
Look around you and you’ll see 100, 1000, 1 million people fighting for this. But that’s not enough. We have to be impossible to ignore. We have to be the majority. And then we won’t need lists – because we’d be EVERYBODY.
That’s it. Simple.