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Women in the Middle East: Common Threads and Diversity of Experience.

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Presentation on theme: "Women in the Middle East: Common Threads and Diversity of Experience."— Presentation transcript:

1 Women in the Middle East: Common Threads and Diversity of Experience

2 Common Threads Fewer women than men in public life Fewer women than men in the public workforce Higher rates of female illiteracy Lower rates of female education Patriarchal system in the home and in public life

3 Female Literacy * Female literacy in the MENA region has tripled since the 1970s, but half the women in the region still cannot read or write.

4 Women’s Participation in the Formal Work Force & Politics About 80 percent of men participate in the workforce; only about 33 percent of women (in the MENA region) About 3.5 % of parliamentary seats are occupied by women (lowest % in the world)

5 Patriarchy: a system that privileges males and elders, giving males legal and economic power over his family members. In broader terms, the extension of male dominance over women in society in general.

6 Patriarchal system Public: Public office Court testimony Dress codes Segregated work spaces Limitations on movement Private: Last names Child custody Divorce/marriage laws Freedom of movement & employment

7 Cultural, linguistic, ethnic diversity A Bedouin girl Egyptian women on a bus Moroccan women demonstrating. Some Iranian women. Languages: Persian, Arabic (many dialects), Turkish, Kurdish, Hebrew, etc. Ethnic groups: Arab, Berber, Persian, Turkish, Jewish, many more Religion: Shiites, Sunnis, Jews, Christians, Druze, others.

8 Regional and historic diversity EXAMPLE- Saudi Arabia: Women make up 4% of the formal workforce Egypt: Women make up about 30% of the formal workforce

9 Women in Turkey: A case study A Turkish mayoral candidate greets locals at a Diyarbakir market. Photo: NF Watts, 03/04

10 Historic Backdrop Kemalist reforms in the new Republic Sources of reforms re: women Economic Ideological Nature of the reforms Legal equalities Legal and social inequalities New Feminism (1980s onward) 2002: New civil law New legal equality within the family

11 Multiple experiences: Class and status Women in eastern Turkey.

12 Class differences: Jobs and status Former Prime Minister Tansu Çiller Female employee at a carpet restoration center in Turkey. Market woman in central Turkey. My friend Selin making pottery.

13 Regional Diversity Map of Turkey; inset map of Turkey’s southeastern provinces

14 Regional diversity- a Turkish case Literacy: 78 % literacy for women in Turkey overall (92 % men); in Southeast Turkey, only 55 % women literate. Education: 92% girls in elementary school in Turkey overall; only 75% in the Southeast Marriage: in the Southeast, 20% girls marry before age 15 (highly uncommon in the rest of Turkey)

15 Diversity in Dress: The headscarf Veiling and exclusion from work NOT synonymous Full-body covering not specifically required in the Quran Traditionally veiling was a primarily an upper-class luxury Village women in southeast Turkey.

16 Reasons for veiling: Local custom Assertion of women’s rights “Post-modern” reaction Peer pressure State/family requirement

17 Reasons for Veiling: Islam "Say to the believing man that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty; that will make for greater purity for them; and Allah is well acquainted with all that they do. And say to the believing women that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty; and that they should not display their beauty and ornaments except what must ordinarily appear thereof; that they should draw their veils over their bosoms and not display their beauty except to their husbands..." (Qur'an 24:30-31)

18 Types of head and body cover Hijab: Head scarf Chador: Full body cover Drawings from the Seattle Times

19 Types of body covering cont. Burka Hindu woman covering face with sari or other covering.

20 More head/body coverings… Niqab: the face veil

21 Head and body fashion, images Palestinian woman in Gaza American Muslim woman showing difference between the Niqab (left) and the Hijab (right)

22 Hijab Fashion Abayas from Al- Iman Fashion Hijabs from Al-Iman Fashion Hijab & Abaya from alKaram fashion


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