WLUML Communications & Advocacy Officer Yasmin Ghrawi joins the Feminist and Women's Studies Association Biennial Conference in Nottingham

This June 2013, Women Living Under Muslim Laws traveled to Nottingham for the 2013 Feminist and Women’s Studies Association conference. In the course of a lively discussion about religion, secularism, law and gender discrimination ignited by our name and history we found itself at the centre of what one member of the audience called the most exciting debate of the day.

WLUML Communications and Advocacy officer, Yasmin Ghrawi, was invited by FWSA to take part in their biennial conference, taking the pulse of protest movements worldwide. Through this meeting of minds, WLUML aimed to critically explore feminist protest – its discourse, image and impact – and to examine possibilities for creative feminist engagement across a spectrum of moments, movements and mobilizations.

Women have always participated in and led a wide variety of protests around the globe. Our discussions revisited debates on women and protest in light of vibrant new movements that sprang into focus during the Arab Revolutions, the Occupy movement, and such activist marches such as Slut Walk. Conference participants sought to understand how feminist protest responds to and emerges amidst the challenges of our contemporary world.

Yasmin spoke on a panel on activism and advocacy entitled ‘Activism and Advocacy Session: Vision Statement’ along with Gael Chester, the founder of the Feminist Library, and Julie Oberin, the chair of the Australian Women against Violence Alliance. Central to the theme of the panel was the idea of praxis and collaboration between feminist academics’ and activists’ experience and expertise. 

It was an important opportunity to highlight WLUML’s development of the dialectic between theory and practice in Muslim contexts. For instance, just this year Egyptian and Sudanese networkers have come together to form a Feminist Reading group to inform their analysis and work, looking at unpacking ‘fundamentalist’ policies and practices that disempower women and laws and practices that are erroneously described as ‘sharia’ rather than cultural or traditional practices.

Yasmin spoke about how through building networks between women in different Muslim contexts, and mobilizing around common priority issues, helps to break the sense of isolation experienced by many women human rights defenders. She also discussed how WLUML works through knowledge production and dissemination, solidarity and advocacy, and capacity building.  The dynamics of our transnational women’s rights network, reaches out to the brave activists on the frontline and links them together – and in doing so we help bolster women’s confidence in their activism, and giving them access to knowledge production

WLUML creates a safe space that embraces diverse manifestations of feminist protest informed by socio-culturally diverse Muslim contexts and grassroots organizations that form our network – from a fresh young Muslim organization like Voice of Libyan Women to secular organizations employing a human rights framework.

Our audience of academics and activists were engaged, curious, and eager to learn more. The panel discussion evolved into passionate group chats that lasted hours after the session was over.  It was an honour to meet with old friends of WLUML at the conference, who provided a much-needed view into our history with great stories from our past advocacy, protest, and other key initiatives led by our brave founders. In particular, it was a great honour to meet Dagmar Schultz  who was at the FWSA screening her documentary on the life and works of her friend Audre Lorde. Dagmar spoke admiringly of WLUML’s work, the solidarity we have nurtured over the decades, and reminding us that though we have come far, there is still a long way to go ahead. 

As the conference came to a close, we gave thanks for the three powerful and intense days that had brought all of us together. Because of our daily struggles to achieve gender justice and the challenging environments we negotiate, we sometimes forget to take that crucial step back, and look at the bigger picture. Ultimately, no matter what paths we tread or how distinct our unique narratives, we all aspire to arrive at our common dream - a more just and egalitarian world for all women.