ʺAwakeningʺ Identifies Unique Positioning of Women in Arab Uprisings

On September 30, 2013, The Council on Women’s Leadership (CWL) at Meridian co-hosted a unique dinner discussion in partnership with the Independent Television Service (ITVS)’sWomen and Girls Lead Campaign and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) to introduce the multimedia initiative, Awakening. Members of the Council gathered in Meridian’s Linden Grove to join supporters of public television, advocates and experts in Middle East/North Africa policy. Meridian’s President and CEO, Ambassador Stuart Holliday, opened with welcome remarks, followed by Michele Manatt, CWL Chair, who recognized Council members and underscored the mission of the Council in engaging and connecting women around the world. The Honorable Tara Sonenshine, Former Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs at the State Department, emphasized the importance of women in their communities and the potentially transformative power they hold. Sally Jo Fifer, ITVS President and CEO, described ITVS’ Women and Girls Lead, a public media initiative to focus, educate, and connect people around the world in support of the issues facing women and girls.

CPB President and CEO, and Meridian Trustee, Patricia Harrison welcomed to the stage the impressive roster of featured speakers, including Abigail E. Disney, Executive Producer of Awakening and Producer of Pray the Devil Back to Hell; Zainab Salbi, Executive Producer, Awakening and Founder, Women for Women International, and Farah Pandith, Special Representative to Muslim Communities, U.S. Department of State. The panelists explored the impact of the Arab Spring on women’s rights and political change in the Middle East and North Africa and emphasized women’s heightened visibility, as well as their ability to challenge traditional societal norms and to engage on the frontlines for incremental change. The panelists credited the power of social media in part for opening up new space in the pursuit of greater women’s rights and protections. One of the tools clearly is Arab women’s use social and digital media to tell their stories and share their experiences and bypass traditional, state-run media in countries like Egypt, Libya, Syria, Iraq and Tunisia.

The program featured a screening of highlights from the documentary-in-progress, Awakening, currently in production. It is the first initiative of its kind to focus on women’s indispensable contributions in shaping the future of the MENA region. The film will include interviews with, and highlight the stories of, women in Egypt, Libya and Tunisia who have been on the frontlines of the uprisings that swept across the Arab world and remain active in fighting for the rights of all citizens. Awakening is scheduled to air on PBS in 2015. Ms. Harrison took questions and comments from the well-informed audience, before thanking the speakers, guests, and supporters for sharing their evening at Meridian. The Council hosted the Washington preview of the television documentary Half the Sky based on the book by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn last September.

Project summary

ʺAwakeningʺ Identifies Unique Positioning of Women in Arab Uprisings
Regions: Near East and North Africa
Impact Areas: Empowering Women and Girls, Human and Civil Rights, Civic Engagement
Program Areas: Forums, Culture
Partners: Private Sector, Public Sector
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