The Arab Institute for Women


Aqlam Publications in 2018

Vocational Programs for Refugee Women: More than Sewing Classes?

Several organizations have established vocational and cash-for-work programs (e.g. knitting, soap making, and sewing classes) to create opportunities for Syrian refugee women to earn a living in Jordan and other neighboring countries. At first glance, these programs seem to address the many issues that plague refugee women by providing both economic and psychosocial support.

This paper will argue that despite the immediate benefits, vocational and cash-for-work programs perpetuate gender roles, building specifically on the gender division of labor, and do not challenge normative conceptions of “appropriate” work for women in the long-term.

This research advocates for the restructuring of such programming to incorporate women’s voices, to involve both men and women in the empowerment of women, and to develop less gendered projects. By tapping into the expertise of refugee women, these programs can empower women and their families in the long run and avoid perpetuating and sustaining normative gender roles. 

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Domestic Work in Lebanon: What are some of the main factors that contribute to the continued exploitation of women migrant domestic workers in Lebanon?

This paper examines migrant domestic labor in the Middle East, with an emphasis on Lebanon as a case study. Lebanon has caught the spotlight for mistreating women migrant domestic workers in the Middle East, and this research focuses on the different factors that contribute to that mistreatment. The paper is divided into three parts, each part deals with a specific factor that contributes to the continued exploitation and mistreatment of this group of women. 

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ARAB QUEER LANGUAGE: What are the characteristics of the language used upon, and within queer Arab culture, and how does that affect the identity-formation and subjectivity of queer Arab individuals?

This paper examines Arab queer language, focusing on Lebanon as a case study. Lebanon has always been seen as a “Queer hub” for neighboring countries due to multiple socio-economic and historical factors that have made it one of the more “liberal” Arab countries. This research focuses on the different characteristics of Arab queer language, including the etymology and semantics of frequently-used terms in formal and informal settings. The paper is divided into five sections, each dealing with the effects of different aspects of queer language on queer identity in the Arab region/Lebanon.

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Reframing Beauty: The Institute for Women’s Studies in the Arab World and the Miss Lebanon Pageant

In the spring of 2018, the Lebanese American University (LAU) was approached by the Lebanese TV station MTV with a request to train, support, and enrich women participants in the Miss Lebanese Beauty Pageant in preparation for the event in late September 2018. LAU requested guidance from the Institute for Women’s Studies in the Arab World (IWSAW) – and the Institute rose to the challenge. In its quest to change the ways that Miss Lebanon had been produced and filmed in recent years, MTV asked LAU – and the Institute – to conceptualize new ways of “doing” the pageant.
IWSAW was ready to have the opportunity to think through alternative challenges to standard beauty pageants: If we couldn’t stop the pageant in its entirety, could we challenge it from the inside? What, if anything, could we arm participants with as part of this challenge from the inside out?
These workshops would raise awareness among contestants about the underlying meaning of such pageants, the responsibility contestants have to serve as positive role models, and ultimately, the radical potential that these contestants have to disrupt the normative practices of such pageants from the inside out.

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Gender Relations among Neighbors - a Study of Humanitarian Practices Addressing Syrian Refugees in Lebanon

The purpose of this paper is to study the perceptions of gender relations among Syrian refugees as presented by employees of selected local NGOs in Lebanon. These NGOs form part of a civil society undergoing changes since the refugee crisis of the Syrian war, and now collaborating with Syrian NGOs, and engaging Syrian refugees in humanitarian projects. Their participation in humanitarian response occurs in Lebanon in several contexts, ranging from handicraft workshops to neighborhood committees, civil society activism and business initiation. Gender relations among Syrians are presented by such NGOs as more patriarchal and harmful for women, but Syrian activists in Lebanon contest this indictment. Nevertheless, these conceptions become a pretext for the approach that refugee women are more vulnerable not only due to the war, but also due to their relations to Syrian men. The paper forms part of a study, which asks what consequences the engagement of Syrian refugees in humanitarian work may have for citizenship transformation– with particular urgency and value for women who are denied equal citizenship with men.

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