Arab Women in Revolution: Reports from the Ground

Part: 7

Arab Women's Forum Presents Revolution 'Lite'

Thursday, February 9, 2012

It was billed as a forum on Arab women and the Arab Spring. But Paola Daher found that the $300 entry free and luxury-hotel ambiance ensured that any truly revolutionary, or even slightly controversial, topics were kept off the agenda.

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No Economic Diversity

The entry fee made sure there was no real economic diversity in the rooms of a deluxe hotel, in a country where the average salary is $700 a month and where many households need to have two jobs or side occupations to make ends meet.

In this economic context the question that needs to be raised is whether this money couldn't have been used to serve a better purpose.

With the amounts paid for that lavish hotel and with the money the sponsors poured into it, couldn't a more creative approach been taken?

Imagine, for instance, if the money had been used to hire a bus to take participants around the country, touring all of Lebanon, visiting female refugees, listening to the stories of other women. Sharing all that with the scheduled panel of speakers would have been a real effort at solidarity and understanding.

Instead the sessions lacked a participatory approach, with panelists sitting in front of the audience, talking more about women as mothers than anything else and leaving little time or opportunity for questions from the floor. It felt less like an enriching debate and more like watching people have coffee. In other words, we were a long, long away from real women in real revolutions.

Where were the women who slept in Tahrir Square for days and nights and are still being harassed by Egypt's military rule and its thugs, facing an uncertain future? Where were the brave Tunisian women of the Kasbah? Where were the women who live and breathe the revolution on the streets of their countries, in Syria, in Bahrain, in Yemen, and in each and every Arab country that has seen its political landscape shift dramatically?

At the end of the conference, participants held a march, called Sawa Sawa, meaning Together Together.

And here I ask you, together with whom?

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Paola Salwan Daher is a Lebanese feminist activist, currently based in Beirut. You can follow her two blogs Café Thawra and Myrrh and Mint and contact on Twitter at CafeThawra. For more updates about her work, visit her Facebook Page

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