Empowering Arab feminists: Children’s book chronicles 12 pioneering women

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A new book is set to shine a spotlight on pioneering Arab feminists who have made significant contributions to various fields from the 19th century to the present day.

DUBAI, UAE, Oct 12, (Agencies): A new book is set to shine a spotlight on pioneering Arab feminists who have made significant contributions to various fields from the 19th century to the present day. Aimed at children, the book received support from the German foundation Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, operating across the MENA region. It features concise yet informative profiles of 12 women who dedicated their lives to politics, literature, law, and education.

The Arabic-language version was released in a free digital format during the summer, with physical copies recently hitting the shelves. An English-language version titled “Brave and Bold” is also in the works.

Samantha Elia, the project manager based in Beirut, emphasizes the importance of recognizing the regional roots of feminism, challenging the misconception that it’s a foreign concept imposed on the region. She highlights that many of the changes in the Arab world, such as girls’ right to education or women’s voting and work rights, were championed by Arab feminists themselves.

Feminism, often a topic of complex debate, is approached in the book with a back-to-basics perspective suitable for children. Elia clarifies that feminism is primarily about justice, equal rights, and opportunities for all genders. It aims to eliminate one gender’s control over another, fostering equality for all.

The 12 women featured in “Brave and Bold” all share a common trait of struggling for basic rights in deeply patriarchal societies, whether in Syria, Lebanon, Sudan, Egypt, or other regions.

One of these inspiring figures is Raufa Hassan Al-Sharki, a Yemeni educator and radio broadcaster. Born in 1958, she became Yemen’s first female journalist and started her activism while still a student. Together with friends, she petitioned the prime minister to provide the same educational resources for girls that boys received, leading to a change in the school system.

Another notable figure is Linda Matar, a Lebanese women’s rights activist who worked at a silk factory while attending school at night, advocating for women’s voting rights. The law granting them voting rights in Lebanon was passed in 1952.

Dr. Naziha Al-Dulaimi, born in 1923, became Iraq’s first female minister. She passionately advocated for women’s right to initiate divorce proceedings and to protect children from forced marriages.

The book’s vibrant illustrations were created by Amman-based artist Aya Mobaydeen, using a wealth of colors and details to make the featured women appealing to children. The illustrations include flowers and objects defining their careers, from pens to voting boxes and scales.

The book, an ode to these feminist pioneers, serves as a testament to the educational and societal changes they helped bring about. It stands as a tribute to the achievements of these remarkable women, whose stories are a source of inspiration for future generations.

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