08 Mar 2014
On this International Women's Day 2014 I am pleased and honored to post on Meedan's blog what those of you on the social web have known for several days. The brilliant, eloquent, fearless, outspoken, compassionate, reliable, and spirited media superstar Muna AbuSulayman has been working to empower, assist, and educate women across the Arab Region through her work on the MBC television program Kalam Nawaem, her 'work' as a social media addict practitioner, and her many affiliations with various global organizations and causes.
Muna has graced Meedan with her friendship for many years now, and in fact served - with the then president of MacArthur Jonathan Fanton and IBM Foundation President Stanley Litow - on Meedan's original Steering Committeee. We are thrilled to announce that Muna AbuSulayman is now joining Wael Fakharany, Hanan Heikal, Jon Corshen, and myself on the Meedan.org Board of Directors.
Muna wrote an inspiring piece today in the Saudi Gazette for International Women's Day. It is worth a lengthy cross- post here - though please read the full Post here on the Saudi Gazette:
Are we better off today than yesterday or last year? And is our life a product of our decisions or our circumstances? These two questions to me are the benchmark by which to measure change, progress and improvement.
Today, International Women’s Day, there will be many articles that will look at different reiterations of this question penned by knowledgeable and learned and perhaps –unfortunately - not so learned Saudi men and women.
We will hear discussions on the different sides of the argument: the humanitarian, the political, the economic and, of course, the religious. The very same facts will be brought to bear on both sides of the argument.
Therefore, I choose not to look at the big picture of the situation of Saudi women. I will save that for another day, when the subject will not seem so hackneyed.
Nor am I going to answer these questions by participating in the important debates on absolute guardianship laws, increased female participation in the labor force, the triumph of the female Shoura members participation in that body, or the endless discussions on allowing women to drive which have been plastered all over the media.
Neither will I in this article reiterate the accomplishments of Saudi women by naming those who have done something worthy of notice in the past. Everyone reading this paper can name at least a dozen exceptional Saudi women who have defied the odds in the past year alone. And, of course, everyone knows that women are now able to run and vote in the upcoming municipality elections, although, at least this time around, they mostly will do neither. These accomplishments are documented and I am proud of how many pioneering women have worked hard to achieve them.
And this article is also not about defending myself. My position has always been clear; a Saudi woman needs to be assured of the basic rights to her humanity and for her to be treated on an equal footing under the law. She must be able to access all the resources that will allow her to explore her full potential, to use her mind, to be prepared for motherhood and for entering the labor force. A just Islamic society allows women to create such a dignified life and the opportunity for full participation in making decisions that affect her and her society. More importantly, Islam does not punish her for her gender. Anything that does not fulfill that is flawed. Finding and implementing the exact laws and mechanism to achieve this is difficult for, as they say, the devil is in the details. But, I digress.
This article is NOT about the abstract Saudi woman, her circumstances, her past or her future. It is NOT written to verify facts, emphasize faith or curry favor.
The article, quite simply, is about taking personal responsibility in our daily lives, in our own circle of influence in the way we deal with women. I am shifting today’s focus from what the government or organizations should be doing to improve women’s lives to what each one of us should be doing.
Again, the internet's version of 'fair use' recommends that I encourage again that you read the rest of Muna's post here on the Saudi Gazette site.
We are thrilled and honored to have Muna in the Meedan Nebula (as KR referred to it this week), and expect many great things to come from this partnership.
It wouldn't be right to put up a blog post on International Women's Day without addressing directly the most consistent reader of this blog, my hero and role model in this life - Anne Bice. Thanks for everything, Mom! :)
Nor will I pass up the chance to mention also the amazingly brilliant women I am honored to work with at Meedan every day - Dina El Hawary, Noha Daoud, An Xiao Mina, Maya Zankoul, and Hanan Heikal - and the amazing women who are leading our partner organizations - Dima Saber (BCU), Samia Mehrez (AUC), Fatemah Farag (Welad ElBalad), Jessica Dheere (SMEX), Mariam Abuada (7iber), Ruba (Shabab), Maggie Salem (QFI), Adriana Valencia (volunteer), and Amy Stornaiuolo and Deb Broderick (UPenn).
Happy International Women's Day 2014 to all!