The Arab Institute for Women

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Arts Competition Winners!

A painting about how the victim is the only one to witness the mental and physical violence “The Victim is the Witness” of Lynn Medlej won The Arab Institute for Women’s (AiW) annual art competition, organized in collaboration with the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA).

Every year, as part of the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence global campaign, The AiW and ESCWA hold a joint youth art competition under the general theme of “denouncing violence against women”. Young people across the Arab region are asked to submit artistic pieces that reflect their own interpretations of denouncing and fighting violence against women, which can include various artistic forms, including written work such as poetry or prose and drawings. The competition provides a creative outlet for youth to express themselves about a topic that is still considered taboo across the Arab region, allowing them to participate in a global movement that might otherwise be difficult to access. 

This year, the competition attracted around 80 entries from a number of countries, including Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan, the UAE, and Saudi Arabia, and included a wide variety of artistic pieces, such as paintings, poems and even videos. The submissions for 2020 were a powerful reflection on the increasingly difficult socioeconomic and political conditions that much of the Arab region has been experiencing for the better half of the last decade, and exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

At the end of this yearly competition, The AiW and ESCWA host a panel discussion related to the yearly theme. This year, The AiW and ESCWA invited women activists from the region, who shared their personal experiences about fighting gender-based violence (GBV), their activism, and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, disasters, and conflict on women in the region. The panelists included Alaa Salah, Asma Khalifa, and Gabriella Nassif and was moderated by Maya El Ammar, a feminist activist and journalist in Lebanon.

Alaa Salah (“Kindakat al Sudan”) garnered international attention as the “Women in White,” which became a symbol of the Sudanese revolution. In her presentation, Salah discussed the changes in Sudan after the revolution, and highlighted her future goals, which include fighting for access to education as a human right. Asma Khalifa, the second panelist and co-founder of Tamazight Women’s Movement, received the Luxembourg Peace Prize in 2016 during The World Peace Forum in the European Parliament in Luxembourg and in 2017 she was named as one of the 100 most influential young Africans by the Africa Youth awards. Khalifa talked about politics and activism in Libya, and noted that “as long as there is more oppression, women are stronger, and as long as youth have visions and big dreams, I will never allow myself to stop fighting”. Gabriella Nassif, a PhD candidate at the University of Buffalo whose work focuses on the realities of migrant domestic work in Lebanon, talked about the ways that COVID-19 has impacted the relationship between gender and labor with a specific emphasis on migrant domestic workers. She also highlighted the ways that forced lockdowns and restrictions on mobility have exacerbated the “double burden” on women as caregivers, and the simultaneous increase in GBV. 

The panel culminated with a few closing thoughts by the Director of The AiW Myriam Sfeir, who announced the winners of the competition.

“The black fists forced on the feminine figure symbolize the violence and dominance of men inflicted on girls and women’s lives. The two red circles positioned on her chest are a symbol of her vulnerability and reflect the victim’s pain and agony. Furthermore, her hopelessness and passiveness are showed in her crossed legs.” Lynn Medlij, winner of the art competition, a junior architect and designer from Lebanon.

Christy Nassif, won the children’s category for her composed recital ‘Mermaid’s Dream”, and Zeina Habib won the Poem Category for the poem “This is not Just a Bad Day”. The poem will be published in Al-Raida. Some lines from the poem:

“You are not alone

You are not broken

You were a victim of a crime

This is not your fault

Nothing about this is your fault

You are a survivor and a warrior with a light within”


To watch the full panel discussion, please check our YouTube channel.