The Arab Institute for Women

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International Conference: “Anti-Feminist Backlash in the Global South: Cross-Regional Discussions, Strategies, and Innovative Practices”

On June 19, 20, 21, and 22, 2023, The AiW hosted an international conference titled “Anti-Feminist Backlash in the Global South: Cross-Regional Discussions, Strategies, and Innovative Practices”. The conference significantly helped to produce and build knowledge on anti-feminist backlash, compare and contrast anti-backlash strategies, and build cross-sectoral and transnational alliances among anti-backlash actors in the global South. While exchanging learnings and knowledge, the conference further provided scholars and activists from different parts of the world with an excellent opportunity to reflect on recent cases of backlash in challenging and often underexplored contexts.

The opening ceremony of the international conference on June 19 served as a captivating and memorable event that set the ambiance for the days ahead of the conference. It featured welcome words, notably by the President of Lebanese American University (LAU), Dr. Michel E. Mawad; Director of The AiW, Ms. Myriam Sfeir; and Research Fellow at the Institute of Development Studies (IDS), Mr. Jerker Edström. Then, the attendees enjoyed an inspiring theatrical skit titled “Backlash Played Out”, directed by Associate Professor of Theatre at the Department of Communication, Arts & Languages at LAU, Dr. Lina Abyad, and performed by her students. The skit, which brought to life the experiences of those most affected by discrimination and gender inequality, created an artistic space for empathy and reflection, and sparked conversations, throughout the conference days, on the most pressing challenges related to anti-feminist backlash. The ceremony was finally concluded with a warm and welcoming reception.

The conference sessions, held over a period of 3 consecutive days on June 20, 21, and 22, featured 10 main panels and subsequent discussion sessions.

The panels on June 20 featured the following topics: “Backlash: Understanding Power Dynamics”, “Backlash Against Gender Rights: Exploring Global and Regional Perspectives”, and “Linking Backlash and Crises: Why Now, Why Here, There and (Almost) Everywhere?”.

The panels on June 21 featured the following topics: “Countering Backlash Against Gender Rights: Innovative Practices and Lessons Learned”, “Misogyny, Morality, and State Repression: Anti-Feminist Backlash in Malaysia, Ethiopia, and Bangladesh”. The panel discussions were wrapped up by an interactive workshop on “Grasping Patriarchal Backlash: Briefing and Interactive Gameplay – Chess”.  

The panels on June 22 featured the following topics: “Backlash in the Media: Analyzing the Role of Traditional, Digital, and Alternative Media Outlets”, “Breaking Barriers: The Struggle for Gender Rights and Freedoms”, “Case Study on the Feminist Civil Society Platform in Lebanon”, and “Reflections on Backlash: A Conversation”. Additionally, in a keynote speech, Dr. Maya Mikdashi, delivered a presentation on “Sextarian Backlash: The Political Work of Moral and Sex Panics”.

The international conference, by bringing together scholars and activists, provided a platform for collaborative work, critical thinking, and in-depth discussions. It represented a great opportunity for participants to strategize, compare experiences, and address the challenges associated with the multifaceted dimensions of backlash in the global south. By sharing best practices, lessons learned, and innovative insights, the conference served as a catalyst to strengthen collective efforts in countering anti-feminist backlash.