A Window Opens Wide into the Issues Facing Women in Arab Region

by Rita Henley Jensen | https://twitter.com/Womens_eNews | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Tuesday, 26 July 2011 21:53 GMT

* Any views expressed in this opinion piece are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Our nonprofit site is in the middle of featuring seven stories to mark the launch of our redesigned and upgraded Arabic-language sister site Arabic Women's eNews.

Arabic Women's eNews, in existence since 2003, has just been redesigned and updated. It will now carry original content from the region at least once a week written in Arabic and translated for the English site. It will carry its own Cheers and Jeers column based on news clips from within the region. The new, more user-friendly design incorporates vivid graphics and enhanced interactive capacity for our Arabic-speaking audience.

The postings started last week and will continue throughout this week. You can find them in English at www.womensenews.org or Arabic at www.awomensenews.org.

On Sunday, for the first time in their history, Women’s eNews and Arabic Women’s eNews posted poetry, reflecting its prominence in the Arabic-speaking regions as a story-telling vehicle.

 “In The Thing About Feathers,” from the upcoming book "Poet in Andaluci," Arab-American poet and playwright Nathalie Handal invokes the powerful emotions of those who flee their homelands. The words of Nathalie Handal that touched us all deeply as journalists were:

I am seven

it is the day before our departure,

the day my father

gives me a notebook,

and I tell him,

this is where I'll keep my country.

Nathalie Handal is an award-winning poet, playwright, and editor. She has lived in Europe, the United States, the Caribbean, Latin America and the Arab world.

Women’s eNews was also delighted to post a piece that might not be a first, but certainly is rare: A look at a successful business woman in the Palestinian Territories. In “Entrepreneur Brews Up Coffee and Wi-Fi in Ramallah,” journalist Abigail Klein Leichman profiles Ramallah's Huda El-Jack, who moved there in 2003 as a trailing spouse and saw a business opportunity when she couldn't find a good cup of coffee. She's now eyeing another location in the West Bank.

And from Egypt, our reporter on the ground, Igor Kossov (yes, we hire male writers) filed an extraordinary look at how the regional conflicts and the political upheaval in Egypt are affecting female refugees from the Sudan. “In Egypt, Sudan's Single Moms Resist Resettlement”  Kossov writes about the reasons a newly independent homeland isn't enough to leave Egypt, even though the country has become much harsher since the January revolution.

And while most see Egypt as a 100-percent Islamic nation, the Egyptian Copts remain a significant minority population. Jessica Gray spotlights divorce strictures that can keep many women unable to escape domestic violence in "Rigid Coptic Divorce Law Sparks Brawl, Protests". From Cairo, Gray writes about a push for separation of church and state when it comes to marriage and divorce.

We also have an exciting piece about women’s current status in Tunisia—where women enjoyed the most rights of any Arabic-speaking nation and where the possibility of backlash is offset by the chance to weigh in on the framing of the new constitution.

Kossov too  has another piece coming this week or next; depending on time zones and cross-Atlantic deadlines. This one from Libya about an organization led by women determined to foster democracy through a “Get Rid of the Gadhafi Inside You,” campaign.

From Bahrain, Courtney C. Radsch will be providing a piece on the young women who are giving their names, faces and voices to the revolutionary effort there.  

Women’s eNews has already received wonderful comments on our stories from the Arabic region, including one from Yvonne Ridley, one of the founders of Women in Journalism and the European President of the International Muslim Womens Union, London.

Join her and enjoy this opportunity to hear from the women who are so often ignored or silent.