The systematic targeting of women in West Asia and North Africa was made brutally clear last year by the broad daylight campus murders of two female students in Egypt and Jordan. Their deaths, which sparked widespread outrage and fear across the region, spurred feminist activists to call for a regionwide strike to condemn the violence and demand that perpetrators of violence be held accountable.
For women and girls living across the West Asia and North Africa regions, gender-based violence is an ever-present reality. According to statistics released by UN Women, at least 37% of women from the region have experienced violence in their lifetime, although few will seek help, and even fewer will resort to legal channels. Such violence is normalised and encouraged by patriarchal cultural codes and legal systems that limit the ability of women and girls to protect themselves against their perpetrators.
The murders of Nayera Ashraf in Mansoura, Egypt, on June 20th, 2022, and Iman Rachid in Amman, Jordan, on June 25th—both 21-year-old students killed on their university campuses by men whose advances they had refused—reflect a troubling shift towards increasingly public attacks. These, however, are only the tip of the iceberg, concealing much more violence behind closed doors.
In Jordan, the independent feminist collective Takatoat, is actively working to shift social norms that allow for these crimes while building solidarity and feminist movements across Arab-speaking countries. In response to the deaths of Ashraf and Rachid, and six other women in June 2022, Takatoat called for women across the region to stay home from work. The collective then strategically used media coverage of the strike to call for a complete reform to the country’s protection system, which is heavily weighted against women’s rights. For example, a provision in Jordan’s Penal Code currently allows for a family member of the victim to wave legal rights on her behalf, and rather than hold perpetrators to account, it keeps women in prison-like shelters.
“There is a huge increase in anxiety and insecurity and absence of safety among peers and those around us. Any of us could be the next victim, in the public eye, in the middle of the street, in the middle of the day,” said Ghaida Saket of Takatoat.
This story illustrates how CMI! works under its money strategy. In a climate where patriarchal oppression and violent retribution continue to threaten feminist activists, core funding from Mama Cash through CMI! helped Takatoat strengthen its online and physical security systems and expand its reach and ability to secure further funding by recruiting additional staff.
The collective was also able to successfully establish safe online and physical spaces for Jordanian women and girls to discuss topics related to gender, gender-based violence, sexual and reproductive health rights, and women’s rights, and to learn from and collaborate with feminist experts and activists from all over the Arabic-speaking world. In 2022 Takatoat worked with more than 300 girls and women in urban and rural areas while reaching many more through its social media outreach. It continues to provide critical referrals to legal and protection services while disseminating feminist knowledge nationwide.
This is one of the seven stories we have published as CMI! Stories of Change 2022 under the #FundWhatWorks campaign. The stories aim to portray how activists and organisations around the world are working to advance gender justice.