KARAMA: ARAB WOMEN'S ANTI-VIOLENCE NETWORK
Dignity is a
fundamental social concept in Arab society.
It is at the root of many of the Arab world’s most remarked-upon
social customs including generosity when there is little to share,
selflessness in the face of great danger and abundant hospitality.
Rethinking the very definitions of violence against women is
Karama, a new Arab women’s anti-violence network spread across the Middle
East and North Africa. Joining the network Karama, which is
Arabic for ‘dignity,’ scores of Arab women are probing the power of the
Is violence indeed a humiliation committed against a woman,
her family, her community and her society? Or, might it also
profoundly influence public health and well-being; civic discourse and
politics; ingenuity and education; belief and religion; legal protections
and the judicial system; creative arts and cultural expression; public
discourse and the media; and economic opportunity and advancement?
is freedom from violence: On our own terms
Women’s organizations and social issue experts from nine Arab
countries have pushed aside old barriers and begun meeting nationally and
across the region to capitalize on the power of networking. We are
re-defining the very terms of the discussion on violence against women,
examining all available information, generating theories of change based on
our own experiences, and developing anti-violence strategies particular to
our own realities—country by country. Participation in the Karama network has
rapidly expanded over the past 2- years as more than 400 women and men
have come together in 30 gatherings across the nine countries .
In a region where most
of the international aid goes to governments whose policies do not support
anti-violence, and in a region whose social sector only receives 6% of US
foundation grants, there are distinct political interests that push us
apart. Neo-liberalism's push toward privatization tends to create economic
hardship and fewer resources for families, which leads to a double impact
The tangle of war, foreign
aid, occupation and control of the region’s natural energy casts pallor
over data that is gathered and analyzed by Western sources.
Karama’s first endeavor has
been to redefine its understanding of the causes and effects of violence
The dearth of information about violence against women in
Arab countries means there is little information from which to assess the
problem and create solutions harnessing the power of our local voices,
resources and supporters. Access to
data and research and studies that document the problem opens the door to
the kinds of social change strategies that address the root causes of
violence including poverty, humiliation and despair.