Fighting against misogyny is no easy battle. Yet local initiatives like Ikhtyar for Gender Studies and Research are working towards terminating the social disease once and for all. May Mansour speaks to them and finds out how they are working on eradicating gender inequality in Egypt.
Ikhtyar “Choice” for Gender Studies and Research is a virtuous, registered initiative launched by a group of young feminists in the hopes of establishing gender equality in Egypt. It is an innovative syndicate powered by gender research and training. Knowledge is certainly Ikhtyar’s weapon of choice. “We believe that producing knowledge in Arabic, whether written, performed or audio knowledge, is essential for a strong gender equality movement in Egypt,” state the team behind Ikhtyar who choose to educate the public by giving them the opportunity to choose to think differently, “Everything in life revolves around choices; still these choices can be socially constructed. We need to understand the things that formulate our choices and how they affect men and women alike.”
Their Abassiya office is open for public activities to create a platform where researchers as well as activists and interested individuals can meet and exchange views and ideas. Ikhtyar conduct research, produce stimulating online publications in Arabic, hold feminist reading groups, a monthly gathering called Kalam in Abassiya as well as weekly rounds of Gender Studies Seminars hosting speakers introducing interrelated topics such as gender and development, gender and arts among others, discussed from a feminist perspective. They told us they "tackle different subjects that reflect on analytical gender and feminist perspectives to stimulate discussion.”
They also recently travelled to Al Minya, collaborating with youth groups in the governorate, to produce inspiring theatre performances illustrating the obstacles young women face in rural areas such as freedom of mobility and access to education among other issues, with more programs in the works and on their fervently active agenda.
Ikhtyar are also in the process of collecting book donations via a Facebook event to launch a specialised public library located at their office, with the hopes of creating a hub for gender knowledge, and inspiring other entities within society to replicate their initiative. “We seek to provide accessible knowledge on gender roles and feminism to a wider audience who can’t access academic libraries or buy expensive books. Accordingly we initiated a call for donation for books and periodicals either in Arabic or in English to reach for a wide audience who share the same passion and feel the necessity of making knowledge accessible to all,” state the team before adding that they “believe that a specialised public library in this subject is much needed as it will serve junior researchers, gender equality activists and advocates and all individuals interested.”
If such an initiative encourages an established collective, through community support as well as individual contribution, engagement and action, there is no doubt a country such as Egypt, with its patriarchal political and social systems, can nonetheless initiate a change in attitude and perspective towards women in society.
At its earlier stage of development, the library will be open 3 days a week from 10am to 6pm. To organise a donation, or for general inquiries, email email@example.com. All donations will be credited.
“I am passionate about everything in my life - first and foremost, passionate about ideas. And that’s a dangerous person to be in this society, not just because I’m a woman, but because it’s such a fundamentally anti-intellectual, anti-critical thinking society.” - Bell Hooks
Photo Credits: Ikhtyar