Rainbow Capitalism & the Harmful Contradiction of Corporate PRIDE Gestures

There have been great strides in supporting the LGBT community in the workplace and through society that deserve a light shed upon them. For example, in 2017, as part of Fortune 500, nondiscrimination policies had been developed for sexual orientation in 91% of the companies and for gender identity in 83% of the companies within the list. This represents the positive impact that companies have adapted toward LGBT inclusivity whether through practices or policies. However, rainbow/pink capitalism and pinkwashing through workforces and corporations have created an empty ‘acceptance’ for the LGTB community. The incorporation of pinkwashing, the LGBT movement, sexual diversity, and gender into the corporate world has created a fake image of advocacy for the rights and well-being of the community. Entering June, which globally is ‘Pride Month’ – the month of LGBT acceptance, integration, and visibility – corporations take it upon themselves to vaguely support the community by adapting it as a marketing opportunity. It is much easier to place a rainbow flag background on any logo than to develop new strategies and frameworks to fit the cause.

For example, Adidas had a special section of its site called the “pride pack” selling rainbow merchandise to honor Pride Month. However, it was one of the major sponsors for the 2018 World Cup in Russia – a nation with anti-LGBT laws and practices which made it unsafe for athletes and fans. This should make consumers and the general public question what these brands and corporations are exactly supporting and where the profits are going. Are companies truly in support of the acceptance, integration, and visibility of the LGBT community?

These empty gestures undermine the intentions of Pride Month and continue to be an essence of barriers the LGBT community faces. However, there are ways that companies, regardless of whether through the month of June or throughout the year, can ‘put their money where their mouth is’ and show consumers and the public their genuine pride and support for the LGBT community. Essentially it is crucial that corporations engage with the LGBT community through the initiation of policy frameworks. These frameworks are intended on outlining the company’s positions and behavior expectations targeting mainly employment. This may be adapted through the use of gender-neutral language in corporate policy (singular they/them pronouns when discussing a hypothetical employee rather than saying he or him/her). This also includes issues such as dress codes and guidelines that are not gender-specific. Instead of offering dress code guidelines specific to only men or only women, the gender-neutral guideline may state that employees are expected to wear appropriate business attire. Policy framework transformation also includes implementing LGBT inclusive policies such as health benefits and healthcare coverage that is more inclusive or such as nondiscrimination policies that protect LGBT people. Whether policy developments or corporate initiatives, there needs to be the space to evolve with the needs of the corporation, society and the employees. Hence, the concept of continuous development is necessary to consider when discussing policy transformation and general corporate initiatives.

Through monitoring and evaluation within any corporation or organization, incorporating the LGBT community and LGBT diversity is essential for LGBT inclusion as well as for corporate development. Therefore, by incorporating LGBT diversity metrics into senior management performance measures and implementing performance measures, companies/organizations can continue to improve their workplace performances. Internal modifications, as part of the responsibilities of corporations to increase LGBT inclusivity and inclusivity practices, create a safe space for employees and customers or consumers. 

In some (if not around half) U.S. states, state law does not explicitly prohibit employment discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. This means that being out as an LGBT individual at work in those states may be grounds for dismissal. Yet, through continuous practices such as diversity training throughout the company (review discrimination/harassment policies, harmful language, etc), fostering inclusive leadership teams, and engaging employees who identify look over diversity and inclusion training materials, a safe workplace environment is consequently developed, with the support of legal or policy changes. The Arab Institute for Women would not be considered as successful support for the LGBT community if it had not been applying such practices into its planning and framework. Supportive organizations, institutes, or corporations function on the basis of addressing the issues of rights, representation, and justice. Having panel discussions and speaking series throughout the years represented by leadership, members, and experts within the field of gender, vulnerable groups, well-being, and the LGBT community has led the Aiw’s practices to be recognized as successful toward awareness of the LGBT community and marginalized groups in the MENA region. This direct representation implemented into an educational scope has led to transparent acts of genuine support far away from pinkwashing capitalism.

Particularly, through merchandise and marketing, a beneficial practice includes having individuals who identify as LGBT involved with planning events or merchandise for pride and taking their input in the planning process. The goal is not to use pride as a path to benefit a business’s financial goal, but rather to emphasize the goal of celebrating Pride Month and continuously showcase the amount of support throughout the entire year. Through such practices, it is important to also address intersectionality in advertising. Hence, including more members of the LGBT community than just white, cisgender, affluent gay men as it is mainly portrayed. Having the LGBT community in the plan designing incorporates hiring LGBT photographers, writers, designers, etc., to highlight the essence of Pride Month and being queer, going beyond the rainbow representation through engaging other symbols, and using wide scopes of coverage and voices to educate and change perspective. Pride month is the perfect timing for brands and corporations to use their platforms and scopes to create a change. But change within the corporate scope also includes an emphasis on where corporate money is put. 

Those advertising pride merchandise and making a profit out of them is simply an empty message when they support other corporations, individuals, or group entities that are anti-LGBT. Great harm os caused when the money given or donated ends up being used against the community in manners that continuously harms their acceptance, integration, visibility, and attainability to rights. 

So ultimate transparency as to where corporate money is taken, allows the consumers and the public to judge for themselves. But transparency also falls into partners of a corporation. The Arab Institute for Women has long-term partners such as HELEM and Mosaic who are civil society groups that not only focus on the rights of all marginalized and vulnerable groups but specifically members of the LGBT community. These partnerships share identified values and lead the path to breaking barriers specifically for women, vulnerable and marginalized groups, and the LGBT community. The values of any corporation or institute are meant to be in line with investors and partners. Hence, if the Arab Institute for Women did not follow its values and those of partners, it would not be capable of continuing its bi-annual journal al-Raida. The research the institute does emphasizes the importance of LGBT inclusivity and integration in areas aside from simply brands and advertising. Al-Raida’s consists of a full published issue and various articles published throughout the years that target LGBT issues within a major scope of interest. Hence, showcasing integration, engagement, and visibility through research, the institute’s public image, and the benefit of the LGBT community. The Institute serves as an example when considering best practices to apply in order to engage the LGBT community in a corporation. However, it is still very important to consider the ground on which the AiW stands – Lebanon. Within the legal limitations within the country, the institute still uses its platforms, the partnership, and funding of embassies and organizations to continuously have LGBT voices heard, have LGBT members through the work itself, and have a safe space (virtual or physical) that sees and embraces the LGBT community.

Following the engagement, it is crucial for corporations to be capable of staying informed on LGBT issues because ultimate support does not end when June ends nor when profits might not appear as desired. This may be implemented through gaining input and updates from internal human resources staff, LGBT organizations, business networks, employee resource groups, media, internal corporate/public/internal affairs staff, and consumers. The general shift in focus from using Pride and LGBT inclusion for only capitalistic benefits may be considered within short-term advancements, however, the true business and social advancements include concrete and efficient developments as those mentioned earlier. There is not merely one department or one individual within a company to create a change, but rather requires the entire entity of the company to be involved. It has never been a one-person job. But the essence of social influence is possible through this integration. It may not only be about what to do and what not to do as a corporate, but rather as consumers, where do we go from here? Do we remain blind to the rhetoric joke capitalism has made onto Pride Month through pinkwashing? Or do we start to educate ourselves and others on the limited change taking place? Is there any change that takes place through June and the rest of the year from corporate?

The Pandemic Inside the Pandemic – How We Move Forward for Women in the Arab Region

We are in the middle of a second pandemic, a hidden pandemic. Like COVID-19, this pandemic is dire, global, and ongoing. Violence against women is the pandemic resulting from the pandemic. For many women, “stay at home” is a message that brings great risk. The tendency to “other” instances of gender-based violence was never logical, especially now. COVID-19 is a global pandemic, meaning that women everywhere are affected, some worse than others. Many women who are experiencing the worst of the COVID-19 crisis are located in the Arab world.

In the Arab region, women already experience much violence in the status quo. The prevalence of gender-based violence in the Arab world is at a high 37%, the most common forms of violence being emotional abuse, physical violence, and denial of resources. Nearly 4 out of 5 women experience emotional abuse, and more than half are subjected to physical violence and denial of resources. More than one fifth of women experience family violence in Yemen, Morocco, Egypt, Sudan, and Algeria, although it is largely underreported.

Worse, women often cannot escape because of social norms and a lack of legal protection. One reason women cannot escape violence is that women fear judgement for leaving their husbands because societies in the Arab world largely do not tolerate women living alone. One third of people in North Africa believe that women providing for families financially is not acceptable which means that women are often not able to make their own money to provide for themselves or for their families, and they are often reliant on a partner for financial support. Another reason that women often cannot escape violence is the fear of leaving their children with an abusive father or family member. Many domestic violence shelters do not allow children, and now, during the COVID-19 pandemic, there is an even more limited capacity at shelters. As of 2019, only 6 Arab countries have laws that protect against violence against women. However, these laws are not truly effective according to human rights watch.

Seeking services and support in the form of shelter and safety from a partner is difficult under normal circumstances and even more difficult in times of insecurity, including natural disasters, war, or disease. Women in the Arab world are already vulnerable to violence, and any crisis, especially the COVID-19 pandemic, worsens the situation drastically.

For the past 18 months, the restrictions due to the COVID-19 crisis have negatively impacted women’s lives. Early statistics in a range of countries show that lockdown has increased reports of intimate partner violence. And reported cases will always underestimate reality.

The pandemic has caused an increase in domestic violence, fewer legal resources and support for women, and reduced access to health and humanitarian services. Since the beginning of lockdown, women have also experienced decreased independence, exacerbated gendered access to technology, and an increase in unpaid and domestic work. Finally, women are disproportionately more vulnerable to exploitation and disease, especially women refugees and migrant workers.

For many women and girls, the message to “stay at home” is risky and being quarantined safely is a luxury. During the first month of lockdown, reported cases of violence against women rose by 100% in Lebanon, and reported domestic violence cases rose by 33% in Jordan. 62% of Syrian refugees and Jordanian women also said felt an increased risk of physical or psychological violence.

Lockdown and curfew have forced women to spend more time with abusive partners. 

Travel restrictions have prevented men from leaving the house for work, and women are not able to leave the house to communicate with others, making it easier for abusers to isolate them from friends and loved ones. Abusers may also restrict women’s access to news or other sources of information, preventing them from knowing about or accessing vital services. 

Increased financial stress may also cause men to take out the pressure on women. Women who were already experiencing violence before lockdown are the most vulnerable, as they experienced a 73% increased rate of violence during lockdown. However, even women who did not experience violence before lockdown have experienced a 12% rate of violence.

Not only has violence increased but ways to escape and condemn violence have decreased. Financial resources for women are now going toward combating the coronavirus. Police and justice systems have also deprioritized domestic violence to enforce lockdown and health measures, causing 57% of women to feel less safe in their communities and 44% of women to feel less safe in their homes.

In Lebanon, sexual harassment and blackmail has increased by a shocking 184%. Also, female genital cutting in Somalia rose by 31% during the first months of lockdown

Female genital cutting has increased because the economic downturn has caused cutters to search for more business. Men would go door to door asking to perform genital cutting on household girls.

Health, police, justice, and social services programs have been negatively impacted. During lockdown, courts were unable to receive new cases, and procedures for legal redress, custody, and alimony cases were put on hold. There has also been an increase in informal or traditional justice mechanisms, which includes community mediation or dispute resolution through family members or traditional leaders. These methods often end up returning women to the cycle of violence.

Not only have legal services been impacted but humanitarian services as well. Over 62.5 million people in the Arab region are in need of humanitarian assistance right now. Women’s access to reproductive health care and assistance for survivors have been interrupted. This is because, like legal resources, health systems and social services have been diverted to coronavirus response. In some cases, women’s shelters, safe spaces, and other sites have been converted to COVID-19 response centers. Restrictions on movement during lockdown have also made it difficult for women to meet pregnancy, labor, and postpartum needs.

Women are also disproportionately more vulnerable to exploitation and disease. While unpaid work for women has increased, paid work has decreased. Women have been engaging in insecure labor due to financial insecurity, causing them to be prone to trade sex for food rent, or supplies. A large proportion of women in the Arab world work in manufacturing and service industries, which also happened to be two of the most negatively impacted industries during the pandemic. Many women have lost their jobs and have been disproportionately affected by the economic downturn.

In quarantine centers, officials have been taking advantage of their new power by sexually and financially exploiting women. Quarantine spaces are also characterized by poor lighting, over-crowding, and lack of sex-segregated hygiene, all of which puts women at risk for violence.

Furthermore, over 74 million people in the Arab world still lack access to handwashing facilities. Because women are mainly responsible for collecting water, this means that women have to congregate at public sources to collect water, increasing their risk of exposure to the virus. This issue is especially dire for women refugees in Iraq, Palestine, and Lebanon whose only access to sanitation is in camps where water shortages are common.

A feminist, gender-informed response is the only way forward

Women in the Arab world have suffered disproportionately from the pandemic. We must not only repair the harm that has been inflicted on women but change the deep inequalities that led to such disproportionate suffering in the first place. We need to hold governments accountable and develop a feminist response to the virus.

Response to violence against women must be integrated into COVID-19 relief policies. COVID-19 and violence against women go hand-in-hand. Any crisis results in an increase in violence against women, so any legislation regarding COVID-19 must also address women’s issues. Women frontline responders, women leaders, women-led organizations, and youth rights groups should all be part of the design and implementation of COVID relief measures.

It is important to adapt stay-at-home policies to women’s needs and ensure that violence against women prevention is designated essential during any crisis. National and sub-national legislation is needed to ensure the continuity of GBV response services during quarantine, including implementing policies to ensure that a budget is always available for emergency response to violence.

Because many women are trapped at home, it has been hard to call for help without drawing attention. Technology-based solutions are important in adopting more inconspicuous help-signaling methods for women. Smartphone apps should include panic buttons that link directly to the location of support services and should also provide a confidential chat option or remote psychological counseling for support. Technology is also essential for secure data and evidence collection. Regular data collection on violence against women trends will help guide accurate prosecution, emergency response, and evidence-based policy that prioritizes women’s needs and reduces adverse effects in the future.

It is important to ensure that women and girls can continue distance-learning during the pandemic and future contexts of insecurity. Also, because women are largely responsible for keeping their families healthy and managing resources, information on proper pandemic response should be circulated in relevant languages, with a focus on reaching women and children.

Implementing alternative housing options and shelters that allow children will help women feel safer and more confident in escaping an abusive situation. Shelters should be prepared to accept women and their children. Domestic violence shelters should also increase their preparedness for crises by incorporating protocols and measures to protect women from pandemics.

It is also important that social organizations and governments organize campaigns directed at bystander engagement and awareness. This can be implemented by distributing posters in commercial and public spaces such as grocery stores, pharmacies, and elevators. Television, radio, internet, and social media are also helpful ways to distribute effective information about helplines and call on bystanders to recognize and speak out against domestic violence.

Arab governments should implement legal protections for female health workers to protect them from increased exposure to the virus as well as vulnerability to sexual harassment and violence. Social protection measures, including health insurance, unemployment benefits, emergency financial aid, and tax exemption measures, should be expanded to ensure support for women fleeing violence.

COVID-19 demands a swift and concerted global response to contain the virus while also protecting the most vulnerable — placing women’s safety and women’s rights at the heart of the response. For the majority of women, their challenges do not end when the crisis is resolved. For women and girls, the crisis is just beginning.

A World After Covid-19: Charting a Path for Gender Justice in the Arab Region

There was a recent, critical, event that can be useful in creating a path forward for gender equity and justice in a post-COVID world: Accelerating Gender Justice in the Arab States region: a pathway to achieving the 2030 Agenda post-COVID.

Fadia Kiwan spoke about the context of the economic crisis in Lebanon where women: were the first to be fired since men are considered the “providers of the household,” have suffered under the double burden of working from home and supporting the family and the children, and have been facing increases in violence.

WE NEED: to look at the labor laws and amend them to protect women and provide them with facilities, as well as close the gap between unequal work for men and women at home; to strengthen women’s public affairs roles, where women have weak power; support by women’s NGOs, and gender mainstreaming implementation. The contribution of women in the Agenda of 2030, should focus on social change and gender mainstreaming. We also need to engage men in gender mainstreaming and public policies.

Fatema Barkan spoke on the several challenges in Morocco as the suffering and crisis is ongoing. There have been some steps to support families and women through creating a committee to take quick decisions regarding this support. The decisions involved the private sector because one sector only should not take the fall of the results of COVID-19. It was important to support people in the informal sectors since most of these workers are women. Support cards were provided for people with a focus on women. Social media campaigns focused on supporting women in finding shelters if needed and especially those who suffered from violence. During the lockdown, we were able to develop a national plan that already existed. We developed it and were able to reach a larger number of women: 199,000 women benefited from the support programs.

Shamsa Saleh spoke on the status of the United Arab Emirates. She regards the UAE as one of the best success cases in managing the pandemic. For example, the Minister of Education managed to support women who have children attending online school by sending them paid leave from their work to support their children. Gender equality is extremely important and is included in the long-term plan of the UAE for the next 50 years. They are looking at alternative working ways, especially remote work, to make the pandemic an opportunity. In regards to political participation, there is a 50% quota for women in parliament. All companies and banks are obliged to treat both women and men equally as well. There is a new protection law: a law to protect women and girls and all family members without discrimination. There are nurseries in companies exceeding 50 employees. These are the types of efforts being made.

The UN Women Regional Director Arab States, Susanne Mikhail Eldhagen, shared preliminary research from a UN Women and partners study on Access to Justice Mechanisms for SGBV Cases of Syrian Refugee Women and at-risk population in Lebanon.

Some Findings:

There is a high prevalence of gender-based violence against Syrian Refugee Women in Lebanon, which increased during Covid-19 and the economic crisis. Women are afraid to appeal to state justice services out of fear of arrest or abuse. Even if they decide to come forward, there are limited legal protections, services, and information available.

Syrian refugee women confront social, legal, and structural barriers to the formal justice system, often turning to informal justice mechanisms. Patriarchal socio-cultural expectations expect women to endure abuse and avoid formal justice mechanism, especially in instances of family violence. Lack of legal residency, economic fragility, lack of information about rights, and dependence on perpetrators exacerbate these life threatening issues.

Male-dominated and patriarchal justice structures control women’s choices. Men make up the majority of police and judges. Male leaders with decision making power in refugee communities are men, particularly among Sheikh and Shawish communities.


-Provide proper accountability and supervision of informal justice actors, such as the sheikhs, religious judges. 

-Prioritize funding for sustainable long-term economic empowerment programming targeting refugee survivors of SGBV.

-Increase women’s representation in the justice and the legal system at the national and decentralized level (in line with WPS1325)

-Advocate for more permissive policies on legal stay for refugees, including faster and more affordable residency approval procedures. 

-Scale-up programming that engages men and boys, particularly community and religious leaders to prevent SGBV and change harmful behaviors and attitudes. 

– More female lawyers, which results in more laws focused on gender equality

The panelists gave suggestions on improvements still needed and how to move forward.

Some of which included:

– More follow-up on the work the countries are doing. For example, the database capacities of the hotlines the countries are added to should be improved. 

– Civil society and private sector need to be partners in policymaking. A culture of self-criticism needs to be a pillar in the government’s work in the Arab region. 

– Key objective: help governments achieve the sustainable development goals. 

– Help for governments to achieve Principal SDG 5, and also 4 and 16

– Codifying the international standards for justice and equality before the law

– Reviewing laws with a gender justice approach, looking at states with strong gender justice.

– Allow sexual and reproductive laws to be on the table.

Gender justice is multidimensional. No one left behind is a key principle

COVID has been both a disruptor and accelerator across all industries but has been decelerator for women’s rights, especially in the MENA region. Consequences of the pandemic have been more difficult for the MENA region and we need to address gender justice during the recovery from this pandemic. Women’s participation in the labor force has lowered, women are more susceptible to contracting COVID, and lockdowns have increased violence against women across the board. While representation and awareness are important, action is key.

The Yazidi Women Survivors Bill & Where We Go From Here

After two years in the works and under negotiation, the Yazidi Women Survivor’s Law was passed earlier this month on March 1st. This is a monumental victory in the ongoing efforts to support the Yazidi women who were kidnapped into sex slavery by ISIS terrorists. The bill includes reparations, pathways for rehabilitation, and education for survivors. Those who will be able to receive assistance under this bill include every Yazidi woman survivor kidnapped by Daesh, Turkmen, Christian, Shabak girls subjected to the same crimes, Yazidi children survivors, and ‘Yazidi, Turkmen, Christian and Shabak survivors from the mass killings and mass elimination carried out by [Daesh] in their areas.’ It also creates ‘a general directorate for female Yazidi affairs.’

This bill is also the first legal recognition of the Yazidi genocide by the Iraqi government. This helps to solidify the horrific events as crimes against humanity and a mass atrocity. 3,000 girls and women are still missing, over 120,000 were forced to flee in one evening, and mass graves were still being exhumed for proper burials this year.

Survivor and Nobel peace and Nobel peace laureate tweeted: “Today’s passage of Iraq’s Yazidi Survivors Bill is an important first step in acknowledging the gender-based trauma of sexual violence & need for tangible redress. Implementation of the law will need to be focused comprehensively supporting & sustainably reintegrating survivors.”

A lack of institutional acknowledgment of violence has historically made healing and justice difficult for survivors. More specifically, a lack of acknowledgement of sexual violence against women as a weapon of war has worked against feminist movements to fight gender-based violence as a systematic issue. 

So let us take this win, as we continue to ask ourselves what it looks like to fight for women and what it means to demand accountability. 

But we are nowhere near done.

Children Born of Rape & War Crimes: Where Do We Go From Here?

This bill is only the beginning of what needs to be a long-term fight, which must include a gender-focused peacebuilding strategy in the Yazidi community, centering the women survivors and their children. Whether escaping from ISIS territory two years ago in Syria or the al-Hol refugee camp in eastern Syria, Yazidi women were cruelly forced to choose between being able to return home to their communities in Sinjar, northern Iraq, or keeping their children born to them under ISIS sex slavery and captivity. 

As reported in a New York Times article, Baba Sheikh Ali Elyas, the top Yazidi religious authority, makes clear the perceived connection between the community’s plans to move forward post genocide and the sacrifice these women are expected to bear: “Bringing the children of ISIS terrorists to Sinjar “would destroy the Yazidi community,”. “It is very painful for us. The fathers of these children killed the parents of these survivors. How can we accept them?”

Last week, a small group of Yazidi women (after over a year of planning between Kurdish and American officials) traveled to the Iraq/Syria border, leaving their families and communities behind, and reunited with their children who have been living in an orphanage in the Kurdish region. They are now in safe houses, unable to return to their homes. 

This all makes clear once again, that women impacted by conflict, war, and violence MUST BE partners in rebuilding their communities, lest they be forced to bear the unbearable sacrifices of a community that would rather move forward without transformative reckoning.

The Yazidis and the Kurdish people should not have to manage this nearly impossible situation alone. Nemam Ghafouri, an organiser of the Yazidi mothers and the founder of Joint Help for Kurdistan, put it succinctly: “We need to find solutions now. I don’t necessarily blame Yazidi communities or Kurdish communities in either Iraq or Syria, but I do blame the UN and the international community. They are victims again being victimised by those people saying they are supporting them, but not doing anything.”

Illustration & Feminist Superheros: Melanconnie from Priya Comics

Interview by Carla Haid  

CARLA: Connie Michelle Molina, you are from Bogota, Colombia. You’re an artist, an  illustrator, a character designer, a creative director, a media artist… So, my first question  is: what made you want to do art in the first place? Is it a « given  skill » since childhood, or is it something you learned little by little? 

CONNIE: Well, since I could hold a pen I started drawing. I was not especially good at first but I  always felt like I had something there. And art, it’s something I don’t judge myself at. I am good at  judging myself at other stuff but not at art. And everytime, I keep drawing until it gets better.  Drawing is really something I started during my childhood and that I never stopped doing. I started  with pencils and coloured pencils and then moved on ink pencils. I also painted a lot but it was  mostly drawing with pencils and watercolours.  

CARLA : What support do you use for your work? I saw on your website that you use lot  of animations, how do you do that? 

CONNIE : I bought a tablet last year, but I’ve been doing it on paper most of the time. Everytime,  especially for the work you saw online, I do it frame by frame. I play a lot with that, some are  slower, others faster. I draw each frame by hand so I do the drawing several times. My thesis was on  animations, so this is the reason why you can find a lot of animations on my Tumblr.  

CARLA : You have a deep interest in art linked with gender. I’ve seen in your various  work that you mainly draw women. Why women?  

CONNIE : I just do it. I think it is super pleasing. It’s not like I prefer drawing women rather than  men or that I don’t like to draw men but I think women are so beautiful and express the outside  world so well. I always end up drawing more and more women. Also, I am part of a gender group  here in Bogota, which is helping to achieve gender equality in different areas (theatres etc). I also  like going through a lot of deconstruction in this gender topic, but I had the chance to go to a liberal  art school, and learned a lot from my female artist friends.  

CARLA : Do you try to convey a message through your work, as the one of gender  equality for example? 

CONNIE : My illustrations are most of the time based on a context, on a social context. Many  things about my work in the past were about myself in my art, but now it’s more about political  twists, with the aim of delivering a message. Most of it has a meaning or a context behind.  

CARLA : Would you say it’s easy to touch people and raise their awareness through art? CONNIE: Well, I think it’s easier when you deliver something that is easy to understand but the  power of the image is really important. Standard of beauty goes this fast, but if you see different  messages like « be beautiful as you are », maybe you can start thinking differently .  

CARLA : How is gender equality in your country, is it a sensitive subject ? 

CONNIE: Colombia is a very conservative country, and we are really holding tight to past traditions. Gender is not really a common topic here. There is a lot of sexism here and sensitive topics, even in the households. There are a lot of things you are expected to do as a girl, you are not supposed to chase greater things than that. If you don’t have children, it’s sacrilege. The way you look physically too. There is also lot of violence here against women, domestic violence and murder. We have a long way to go. In the women’s movement protests, violence and police brutality are common. There is a lot of hate. The average Colombian girl has to be not « that thin » but with « big boobs and big butts », they must have « meat to hold ». Girls have to have long straight hair and little make up, have to be beautiful without not a lot of make up. They have to be dressed in bright colors, but not too much, have to be short but not too much, tall but not too tall…  

CARLA : What would be the thing we could do to improve gender equality ? 

CONNIE : Well, there’s a lot of things to do. I think everyone, from their own place, should try  not to be silent about gender equality and abuse. They need to raise their voices and stand up for  female friends and themselves. It is a key to have allies in this fight and trans people, men…have to  be included in this fight. The world is not just about ourselves, it’s about everyone and other people  around. Everyone should take the lead in the fight and stand up for themselves. There’s a feminist movement here in Colombia. Something really cool is happening which was born from the art school and university: making sorority in public university (which is really rare). Public universities usually hate the private ones. But I noticed a lot of sorority between us lately. Last year, we made a program called « Destapa la Olla ». We made a public denouncement of abuse of every type: rape, pressure etc; and we discovered more than 30 girls denounced the headmaster of my faculty of science. It was so shocking. I illustrated a frog with his face (because he’s a specialist in the matter), made a giant poster, saying that the poisonous frog here is the headmaster of this faculty. 

I also have a friend of mine, she is such an inspiration. She did a performance at a medical center,  where a doctor raped a lot of patients. It was mass coverage and it was so revealing. I think the  movement has been getting stronger each time. These are little victories that just make a difference.  But to get back to sorority in University, the movement grew bigger, almost in every University in  Bogota right now, where lots of girls are involved in different contexts. We created a very strong  network of support within us all.  

CARLA : You participated in the Baturu campaign for gender equality. What did you  think of this campaign? Why did you decide to participate ? 

CONNIE : I think this campaign was really good. Places like Colombia or China are not that  different culturally. It was really nice to see different countries, to draw characters that have already  existed before. I loved participating in this campaign because, who doesn’t like international  representation and interesting projects like that? On top of that, groups of women superheros are not  something you see everyday. Why is it that drawing 5 men super heros seems normal but drawing 5 women super heros is not. I am super glad I made it. I am glad I participated in this project because it was really cool. The freedom is not just being strong women that are not perfect, but just being themselves. Because, most of the time still, a women superhero has to be perfect.  

CARLA : One piece of your work is the poster of this project. What did you want to represent  through this work?  

CONNIE : Sorority. That is something you don’t see that much here in Colombia. Being friends  with another girl is not that common. But it’s important not to see another girl as an enemy or as  competition. I learned sorority in art school and it was the best thing in my life: being friends with  another girl. In this project, I tried to make this group bonded, like real friends. They know each  other and care about each other. Everyone has different personalities but they take care of each other.  

For example, the lady in green pants is super moody but everyone knows her well and tries to make  her happy too. The black girl with the green and purple suit was my original character. I created it when I was 16 actually. My favourite one is the one in the pink outfit. When I drew her it came out so great! She has a nice power, she can control with music, it looks so mysterious. We also  represented Natalia Ponce de Leon (with the tiny panther), a woman who was attacked with acid.  20% of her body was damaged. She is a celebrity here in Colombia because she made a law about  acid attacks. She’s a feminist and activist, and created a foundation with her name to help people  with severe burns. Colombia is the second country with acid attacks, the first one, is India. 

How to Bring Women into Foreign Affairs & Retain Them

The discussion around the need for women to be involved in foreign affairs and foreign policy has been around as long as the institutions themselves. It has become an even more urgent crucial lens to use when we look at the economic crises facing nations around the world because of the pandemic. It brings an important question into center view: With the impact the world has been undergoing, will nations be able to lift themselves back up and truly create change and opportunity for women?

A recent panel discussion, “Gender and Geopolitics: The Role of Women in Foreign Affairs” included Eugenia Podesta (Senior Director of Economic Empowerment and Entrepreneurship at Vital Voices Global Partnership), Rachel Vogelstein (Douglas Dillon Senior Fellow and Director of the Women and Foreign Policy Program at the Council on Foreign Relations), and Jenna Ben-Yehuda (President and CEO of the Truman National Security Project and the Truman Center for National Policy), and tackled the different elements of change needed to advance women’s involvement in both American foreign policy and global policy. It is not just important to create the frameworks and make the promises about including women in foreign policy; it is now critical that we demand implementation. 

We start off with Jenna Ben-Yehuda explaining why she takes issue with the common question: Why is gender equality important?

It puts the onus on women to defend equity. How could we possibly afford, in such a complex and interwoven world with so many simultaneous and complex issues, to exclude half of the world’s voices? It’s no longer defensible – it is imperative that women are at the table. There should be nothing about us without us. 

We see legal barriers to women’s economic participation – over 100 countries have such laws on the books. Structural barriers exist – girls are less likely to have access to education compared to boys, child marriage truncates girls’ ability to provide for themselves and their families, boys education being prioritized over girls is often a culturally entrenched belief. As greatly emphasized during the panel discussion, it is a necessity to recognize the current economic impact of COVID-19 and use what is staring us in the face as an opportunity to create new changes – both structural and otherwise – as we rebuild our economies. Though, this opportunity is not a given, despite the many conversations and the amount of organizing around these issues.  

What are some of the issues being brought to light about work environments and the care economy during Covid19 and the need for structural changes that would benefit women? How can we retain women in these industries?

Sometimes, like in the State Department, it’s not that a pipeline of talent doesn’t exist, but rather that the pipe leaks. Retention is an issue. There are barriers that need our attention, ones that if fixed would have drastic positive impacts for women in their work environment. For example, there needs to be child care services at work. We need to listen, first and foremost to the needs of our employees.. For example, if these flexible, telecommute strategies are working, then we need to keep them. Moving forward, organizations have to at least be able to discuss flexibility options, but not without caregiving to back it up. We need to be human centered in our solutions and changes. 

Women are working in vulnerable industries (hospitality, education, food service, retail) and women make less in every country in the world where there is data available, as compared to men. Women comprise only 39% of the labor force but account for 54% of job losses in the pandemic. The care economy runs on the work of unpaid women and these roles have increased with closures of schools and care facilities, and in the context of lockdowns. It is not a given that these issues will be dealt with, even though they are being discussed. 

Caregiving and education structures need to be treated like critical infrastructure. In our government structure, we have about 20 critical infrastructure categories. Hospitals and nuclear power plants are in there but schools are not. The need for budget strategies and other structural strategies become clear in this instance. Education and caregiving are the unsung critical infrastructures of our society and they are being underserviced.  

How can we center women of color in particular when it comes to getting people working in foreign affairs industries?

Transparency and accountability is key. You can’t just toss out a net, you have to really make an effort and do engaged outreach. Reach out to HBCUs. Employers can do a lot to change the perceptions as well: posting salary ranges, not requiring the disclosing of previous salaries – which can reinforce wage gaps. If you have a position and your application pool is not diverse, then you have to start over because you’ve done something wrong. The notion that you ‘just didn’t get anyone’ is lazy and doesn’t cut it. Employers can’t just say Black Lives Matter, they have to show how they are changing internal policies and making structural changes.

We need to think more about targeting and benchmarks. We need concrete data and structural benchmarks. Quotas are not typically viewed favorably in the US, though interestingly enough it is happy to export the use of quotas internationally and in their development work. 

We also know that in peacekeeping, a diverse workforce creates stronger outcomes. Rachel Vogelstein did research recently at CFR around peacekeeping operations. There were claims that they couldn’t ‘find qualified people’ to deploy. Yet, what they found in their research was that women were being trained, but they were not being deployed. And what does that say?

The foreign affairs field and its industries both appear to be, and are, exclusive. What are we doing to bridge the gaps and foster interest and education in these topics? There is a lack of understanding of the possibilities. It feels unreachable to people. We have to be clear about what the pathways are, and we have to be more intentional about creating more access and opportunities for others. 

Awakening is often the outcome of crisis. People have awoken to the challenges and that can set us up to make the changes we need to make moving forward. We need to make room for new structures and new innovations. Collaboration, cooperation, and flexibility should be at the center of our work moving forward.

The Global White Supremacy Project & Muslim Identity Construction

Dr. Sheren Razack recently spoke on Race, Women, and the Global War on Terror, which you can find in full here. We would recommend giving it a listen and enjoying the brilliance and illumination we felt while listening. Below you will find a summary of themes and examples explored.

How are racialized Muslim bodies and gender constructed by global white supremacy? And how does that produce and sustain networks, affinities, and ideas in the Global War on Terror? Anti-muslim racism intends on denigrating Muslim individuals. Anti-muslim actors insist on the creation and perpetuation of a threatening Islamic other and on the link between whiteness and Christianity. That idea may also be expressed even when looking at issues in the context of secularism. In the different contexts of white supremacy, processes of marginalization and oppression are targeted against Muslim people to prioritize and protect white Christian life – both in terms of individuals and predominant culture. This is implemented in foundations of hierarchy within society and replicated by law. Global white supremacy and legal regimes paint Muslims as terrorists, adopting a number of repressive policies and practices built on a violent homogenization of entire populations.  

The vigorous, xenophobic approach continues to take place in white politics as if to violently reclaim the nation for Christ. Militant white nationalists, for example, were leaders in the attempted insurrection at the US Capitol. This branch of white politics is simply part of the bigger picture of a racist approach to center the white community as the norm. These processes also have a gendered dimension, where attempts to denigrate Islam are rebranded as a necessary component of liberation. We see this perhaps most commonly through anti-hijab movements and transforming the Muslim or Arab women into a sign of oppression within the Islam community. A rejection of Islam as an oppressing force against women allows a framing of Muslims as unworthy and Europeans/Westerners as the representatives of cultures of gender equality, democracy, and secularism. 

“Whiteness is an emotional place to dwell.”

 Even from the beginnings of the creation of a white nation in the US, we can see an internalized psychic struggle over the settlers’ legitimacy, as detailed in Renee Bergland’s book, “The National Uncanny.” Bergland also explains how indigenous, Black, and Muslim people are made out to be uncivil, irrational, and spectral, further solidifying their subjugation and domination by white forces. Colonialism, imperialism, and empire must be examined as both creations and perpetrators of white supremacy. Xenophobia against Muslim populations must be seen as a transnational phenomenon that contributes to the making of global white supremacy. It functions to transform the social fear directed at Muslims into a legal framework intended to ‘protect’ the world from Muslims and Islam. Western nations fear losing control over territories in South Asia or the MENA region. This structural racism is a deepening crisis. Within Western law such concepts are deeply embedded, whereby societal structures are fueled from a place of fear and prejudice, rather than from a logical framework about the presence of Muslims in society. Prejudiced, hateful beliefs are encouraged about Muslim populations such as young children being born with a propensity for violence in their blood. These falsehoods justify the creation of a group who believe in their own superiority and are prepared to act from that belief as if it were a matter of entitlement and survival. 

“The link between whiteness and Christiantity and the implications this has for Muslims remains unacknowledged in many quarters. And produces denial that Muslims are constituted as a race and consequently that anti-Muslim feelings and emotions and the practices they underride amount to race making. And very significantly, Muslims become illegible subjects of racial harm. To cut through all of that, one has to begin with the nature of whiteness and the project that is white supremacy.”

She encourages us to refer to Cheryl Harris’s article on Whiteness as Property – where it is explained that ‘whiteness ensures economic returns, a positional superiority that gives whiteness something in common with property. The right to exclude.’

Global white supremacy has redirected the path is which Arabs, specifically Arab Muslims construct their political and social action. Specifically looking into the feminist lens of white-supremacy, scholars such as Miriam Cooke and Homa Hodfar contribute to the ongoing ‘Western’ discourse of Muslim women and the veil or hijab. Kavita Ramdas’s Ted Talk brings attention to the importance of women addressing and utilizing elements within their culture and traditions to assist the improvement of their people, nation, and political reforms. Arab feminists have always and will continue to fight to differentiate the Arab Muslim from the Western portrayal of the Arab Muslim. Race naturalization as a historical process is a good example of the racial narratives that have potential to be legitimized within a legal framework. 

These frameworks are insidious in local politics as well as internationally. These constant interferences show up in global negotiation and mediation, as well as the global response to emergencies and what is recognized as such by the international community. We undergo constant collective heartbreak and rage while we identify the ways that white Western supremacy dictates global affairs. However, to not recognize the power white politics has globally is to be oblivious to how white supremacists have established an underlying anti-muslim racism approach to practices and policies. 

Where Women Stand in Lebanon – Post Explosion & In an Ongoing Pandemic

Even before the current crises originating from the explosion and the pandemic, Lebanon was not doing well in terms of women’s rights and equality. In 2020, the country ranked 145th out of a total of 153 countries in overall gender disparities and 12th out of 16 Arab countries on the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Index. Lebanon ranked 136th out of 153 countries in economic participation and opportunity as well as 149th out of 153 countries in political empowerment. Lebanon consistently ranked low in female participation. 

Women struggle in the workforce due to outdated stereotypes and misogynist cultures that question women’s intellect and competency. They are the first to be fired and the last to be rehired. Women often don’t join the formal economy as a result of discrimination and instead create their own informal economy by making and selling their own items. Historically, women will do whatever it takes to care for their children. Due to Covid-19 and the explosion, and the insecurity in their aftermath, many children are out of school and at home during the day leaving women to struggle to take care of their children, the house, and their professional duties. Schools gave women a chance to leave the house and do their work and now women must stay home either to help the children with online school or stay with them if their school was canceled.

In Lebanese political structures, women are severely under-represented and those that are in the system have become increasingly frustrated with the rampant corruption and sectarian power plays that have debilitated Lebanon for decades. The last government had 30% female representation with 6 women as ministers, yet they were unaware of what women needed. Recently, they refused to include sanitary pads as a subsidized product on a list of imports. What may seem like a small example is actually an indicator of a perpetuation and increase of what people call “period poverty,” a small pillar of a wide foundation built to keep women in insecurity.

As the Covid-19 pandemic progressed, many women found themselves caring for the sick at home or in the hospitals, making them more exposed to the virus. The nursing sector in Lebanon consists of 79.52% female from the Order of Nurses. These nurses face trauma from the blast. As the economy has worsened, nurses are paid less and expected to work longer hours. This gendered economic immobility prevents some young girls from gaining access to mental health resources as they have no access to an income. Between mid-March and June of 2020, over 300 calls were made to the National Emotional Support and Suicide Prevention Helpline, 50% of which were women and 16% of whom were actively contemplating suicide. Many women report feeling socially isolated and are experiencing major stress in regards to trauma, loss, family discord, relationship problems, and financial difficulties. 

During times of crisis, girls are the first to be pulled out of school and the last to return. Many girls are expected to do additional labor at home and in poorer households, girls are denied education altogether. With Covid-19 and school being canceled, children have lost a year of education and social interaction. We don’t know how the long-term effects of social isolation will impact young people, but we can anticipate that the effects will have long term ramifications and will require explicit attention. 

Violence against women increases during times of insecurity, and the pandemic is no exception. The numbers of calls received by the NGO hotlines in March 2020 was double that recorded in the same period of 2019. KAFA, which means ‘Enough’ in Arabic, reports that the number of calls that received has increased by 4.5 times between March and June of 2020 from 299 to 1371 calls. New calls increased three-fold from 75 to 236 between that time period. ABAAD, meaning dimensions in Arabic, is a Resource Centre for Gender Equality that found that domestic violence cases were up 20% since March 2020. The pandemic resulted in exacerbating pre-existing cases of intimate partner violence as well as creating new cases. For women and girls, being quarantined safely is a luxury.

LGBTQ populations, female migrant domestic workers, refugees, and other groups were already vulnerable before the pandemic. When Lebanon got rid of the US Dollar, they prevented female migrant domestic workers from sending money to their families. They also cannot leave the house as their employer’s fear that they might get Covid and, with their employers at home, they are expected to work all day. Many domestic workers are abused sexually, physically, physiologically, and economically although it has also increased drastically due to the stress from the deteriorating economic climate and health risks. Due to the financial crisis, many employers have not paid their domestic workers or have left them on the streets outside the embassy as the employers refuse to pay their repatriation fees. The Embrace and the Internal Security Forces noted that during the first six months of 2020, 15% of suicides were committed by female foreign domestic workers as compared to 17% in all of 2019.

Discrimination against refugees has been rising as the narrative of refugees “taking Lebanese jobs” has been on the rise. Many refugees do not have a choice but to keep working in order to support their families. The UNHCR was able to provide emergency cash support to nearly 200,000 additional refugees in Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey who previously did not receive financial aid yet this is still not enough to keep the increasing refugee families from living well below the poverty line. ILO surveys found that the workforce has faced major layoffs with nearly 60% of respondents reporting that they had been permanently or temporarily laid-off; the majority of respondents were refugees. They are also blamed for spreading the virus as they were unable to stay home and unable to self-isolate for a majority of the pandemic. LGBTQ populations are forced to live in situations where their identities are negated or denied without the support of their communities and other outlets.

When the crises are over, the risks will not end for women. Life will be different in Lebanon going forward as the economy, politics, health, and infrastructure will all have been impacted. We need to be productive in mitigating risks for women and in making sure they are an active part of the recovery in leadership and decision-making roles. Our job is to ensure that women’s rights organizations and feminist activist have the tools and resources they need to advocate and act on behalf of women and girls. If women are once again left out of leadership roles in the response to the pandemic, the patriarchal consolidation of power in these areas will have devastating effects on women’s rights, equality, and autonomy. Women in Lebanon are an under-utilized asset. They are an economic force, and they are the country’s social safety net. Women are the ones who know who is in need, what they need, and how to get it to them. Centering women in the response will enable the country to recover better and to better withstand future shock. A Lebanon with women in the lead is better for everyone.

Feminist Perspectives: Thoughts from Movement Builders in Africa

Yunqing Han

VOICE Amplified recently hosted a webinar named “Feminist Movement Building,” which featured activists Sally Mboumien Maforchi and Aisha Yesufu. The former serves as the Cameroonian director for COMAGEND, an organization promoting sexual and reproductive health and rights. The latter is a leader in the movement Bring Back Our Girls, which works for the return of schoolgirls whom Boko Haram, an Islamist extremist organization, has kidnapped in 2014 in Borno State, Nigeria.

During the event, the panelists shared their perspectives on feminism and activism. Aisha points out that while girls are expected to be “the mature ones” in childhood, women are rarely given chances to lead. She highlights that feminist movements are not about asserting female dominance. Instead, leadership is gender neutral and activism simply attempts to establish that notion, as we try to shift away from a patriarchal society.

Sally emphasizes the role of women in peacemaking and contends that women’s resolution of conflicts often involves the forgiving of conflicts that harmed women the most. She believes that feminist movements’ focus on love is the right path to settling regional issues. 

When asked about the biggest obstacle to mobilizing women for social work, both activists agreed it involves leading women to question their past beliefs. Patriarchal societies often educate girls with notions of feminine docility and inferiority, and many repeatedly taught these performances would lead to their acceptance. Feminist movements’ actions can appear as odd or indecently bold in the eyes of many due to the boundaries they push and the active upending of stifling gender binaries. 

Moving forward, Sally and Aisha emphasize the need for more violence-awareness campaigns, funds (and not just lip service) from donors and organizations, and civic engagement from the masses. With all of these pieces working in tandem, we can hope to see steady changes toward a world unbridled by limiting, violent frameworks of the patriarchy – all while we actively prioritize women’s leadership.

The Arab View on Global Powers & Why They Matter to Feminists Outside the Region

On January 28th, the Arab Barometer hosted a webcast discussing the Arab countries’ perception of regional and global powers. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and limited funding, their survey currently only covers Lebanon, Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, Jordan, and Libya. However, results already demonstrate regional trends.

  1. China viewed as more favorable than the U.S.

With rather tense international relations between Arab countries and the U.S. in recent years, less than 30% of surveyed citizens of the six countries view the U.S. favorably. Libya, in particular, reveals a minimal approval rate of 14%. On the other hand, respondents from all six states express a 30-60% favorability rate for China. The U.S. leader at the time of the survey, Donald Trump, is also less popular than the Chinese Chairman Xi Jinping. The former has the most support in Libya (18%) and the latter in Algeria (42%).

Differences in approach to diplomacy and business in the region perhaps caused this contrast of popularity. As a state that has been affected by various foreign spheres of influence in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, China pitches the doctrine of non-interference in its foreign policy. It emphasizes “win-win relationships” and “mutual respect” as its diplomatic rhetoric. This can easily win over Arab countries, many of whom have had unpleasant history with actions spawned by the U.S. “humanitarian interventionism.”

The COVID-19 pandemic may have also increased China’s popularity. Countries in the region witness contrasting policies in China and the U.S. that led to different case numbers and death tolls. More importantly, several Arab countries like Jordan, UAE, Bahrain and Egypt have recently received China’s COVID vaccine, while European countries and the U.S. have been stocking up their vaccines for domestic use. China’s vaccine diplomacy may have won popularity in the region.

  1. European firms are preferred over both.

While China is witnessing surging popularity in MENA, German and French firms are still more approved than their Chinese and American counterparts when it comes to business. Germany consistently occupies the largest or second largest market shares in all six countries. French firms’ popularity varies interestingly: in certain past colonies (Algeria), they have little footing, while in others (Lebanon) the lack of language barrier leads to bigger market shares.

  1. Regional powers’ influences. 

Turkey and Russia are “significantly more popular” than the U.S. Russia’s popularity could be attributed to its reentrance to the Middle East since its intervention in the Syrian conflict. However, it still remains less approved than China, and Putin is less popular than Xi. Turkey proves to be more favorable than Russia, except in Lebanon and Libya, probably because of intervention in their conflicts.

Saudi Arabia and Iran are two other regional powers evaluated in the survey. As expected, Saudi Araba turns out more popular than Iran, which is not an Arab country (Iranians are mostly Persians) and is majority Shia while most other Muslim countries are majority Sunni. Iran has also intervened in several conflicts in the region, causing some Arab countries to perceive it as a threat.

However, the Arab Barometer’s poll does not reveal people to think of Iran as a great threat. Surprisingly, except in Lebanon, where 21% of the surveyed citizens believe Iran is the greatest threat to stability, 2% or less respondents from all other countries hold the same belief.

On the other hand, the U.S. seems to pose a greater danger in Arab people’s perception. 4% or more individuals from all six surveyed countries state the U.S. as the greatest threat to their stability – twice the percentage that believe Iran to be the greatest threat – with Lebanese people the most skeptical at 15%.

  1. The Abraham Accords is not well-liked. Biden’s popularity fares better than Trump’s. Except in Lebanon.

The Abraham Accords is brokered by Donald Trump and normalizes the relationship between Israel and the UAE and Israel and Bahrain. According to the Arab Barometer’s poll, all the surveyed nations demonstrate less than 10% support for the Abraham Accords except for Lebanon, which showcases 20% agreement. This is due to the state’s Christian minority, who shows a 50% approval rate while the rest of the population only demonstrates 11%.

Interestingly, Lebanon is also the only of the six countries that supported Trump over Biden. Some Lebanese people believed that Trump could effectively contain Iran’s nuclear threat. Trump’s Lebanese supporters are mostly Christians, but there are Muslim supporters who approve his “strong” stance against ISIS and terrorism and are willing to overlook the Muslim travel ban. Biden is more well-received in all five other countries, potentially because of his softer stance towards the region.

Do these polls on Arab public opinion matter, especially to feminists outside the region who just want to advance women’s rights there? Definitely. The survey is not conducted by the basis of gender, but anyone living outside the MENA region interested in advancing women’s rights there should understand the contexts these women are living in.

From there, we can better comprehend these women’s thoughts, priorities, and even what “women’s rights” means in their context. The point of activism outside one’s own country is not to force one’s own moral standards onto another society (i.e. to satisfy one’s own savior complex), but instead to provide assistance as an equal peer for goals that people in the region themselves want.