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Arab Women's Fund & Mahfoutha Award

November 29, 2007

New Foundation to Support Women in the Arab World

Women activists from across the Arab world celebrated the creation of the
Arab Women's Fund in Amman, Jordan on 28 November. It is the first
foundation in the region dedicated exclusively to supporting initiatives by
women and prioritizing women's rights.

Advocates of women's rights in the Arab world have received relatively
little support compared to their global counterparts, and little of the
region's oil wealth goes toward advancing women's rights.

The Arab Women's Fund aims to reverse this trend by fostering a local
culture of giving that supports women's leadership and prioritizes women's
needs. By bringing donations from local investors directly to women across
the region, the fund will support women to define their own priorities for
action and to access positions of influence.

The fund also aims to combat the pervasive stereotype that all women in the
Arab world are victims of oppression by helping dynamic women leaders bring
their assets, experience and vision to bear on the most pressing issues of
the day.

As its first official act, the Arab Women's Fund presented the inaugural
Mahfoutha, Sindiyanat al-Karama Award to Mahfoutha Shtayyeh, the
65-year-old Palestinian woman from whom the award takes its name. This
award honors the courage and dignity she displayed in standing up to
Israeli soldiers and settlers as they uprooted hundreds of olive trees in
her village—the source of her community's livelihoods. Photographed as she
clung to one of the few trees left standing, her action, captured on film,
delivered a powerful statement against the wanton destruction and its
disastrous effects for an already suffering people. It epitomized the
struggle to preserve dignity in the face of adversity—a struggle many women
in the region are engaged in every day.

"The Mahfoutha Award and the Arab Women's Fund are two sides of the same
coin," said Hibaaq Osman, Special Representative of V-Day in the Arab world
and the fund's founder. "Women are constantly doing the little they can with
the little they have, whether it's holding their families and communities
together under horrible conditions or providing services to other women and
trying to make a positive change in the world. I wanted to find a way to
recognize and honor and support them, and to make them less invisible."

The Mahfoutha Award will honor women who have struggled throughout their
lives to achieve justice and preserve dignity and will be given annually in
conjunction with Karama, a regional movement to end violence against women
in the Arab world, and V-Day, an international anti-violence foundation.

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