Feminism in MENA Region

Session Report
Prasangana Paul

Impact and Policy Research Institute, New Delhi conducted an Online International Winter School Program, a Three-Day Immersive Online Certificate Training Course in January 2024.

This Course, spread over three days, delved deep into the multifaceted realm of feminism. Throughout the program, participants had invaluable opportunities to explore the rich tapestry of feminist thought, spanning from its historical origins to contemporary manifestations.

On the 2nd Day our speaker Dr Chitra Sinha, visited Senio Fellow at IMPRI.

Overview of the presentation: Feminism in the Middle East and Northern African Region

In an enlightening lecture, Dr. Chitra Sinha provided a deep dive into the intricacies of feminism in the MENA (Middle East and North Africa) region, with a specific focus on Bahrain and the UAE. The lecture commenced with an exploration of the diverse nature of the MENA region, examining feminist ideas, movements, and the theoretical framework that underpins feminism in this complex geopolitical landscape.

Dr. Chitra Sinha highlighted the economic diversities within MENA countries, categorizing them into three distinct groups. Firstly, the oil-rich, labor-abundant countries such as Algeria, Syria, Iraq, and Yemen. Secondly, the resource-rich, labor-importing countries, and finally, the economically challenged nations heavily dependent on oil and gas imports, including Egypt, Jordan, and Lebanon. The lecture delved into the economic challenges faced by these nations, with a particular emphasis on those grappling with the aftermath of war, illustrated through data on per capita income.

Drawing attention to the Human Development Index (HDI), Dr. Chitra Sinha underscored the imperative for feminist theories and movements in the MENA region to incorporate a nuanced analysis of the diversity within women’s movements. This analysis, she argued, must encompass historical contexts, economic development, and the political landscape, elucidating the multifaceted goals and strategies of feminist movements in the region.

A crucial aspect of Dr. Chitra Sinha’s discourse was the emphasis on understanding the background of the MENA region, encompassing geographical, ethnic, and economic dimensions. Contrary to homogeneity, she pointed out the social-cultural fluidity within these areas, cautioning against generalizations. The lecture stressed the need for a meticulous approach to comprehend the intricate tapestry of the MENA region, acknowledging and respecting its diversity.

Dr Chitra Sinha extended her examination to the underrepresentation of women in the MENA region, shedding light on their perceived status as second-class citizens in Muslim households. The lecture touched upon the famous Iranian feminist movement, offering a case study to illustrate the challenges faced by women in the region. The transformative journey from domestic patriarchy to public patriarchy, attributed to broad modernization, was a pivotal point of discussion, reflecting the evolving socio-cultural landscape of the MENA region.

In conclusion, Dr. Chitra Sinha’s lecture provided a nuanced understanding of feminism in the MENA region, encapsulating economic complexities, historical nuances, and the socio-cultural fabric. By emphasizing the need for context-specific analyses, she paved the way for a more profound comprehension of the challenges and transformations within feminist movements in the diverse and dynamic MENA region.

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