2/23/2021 to 2/25/2021

Under the patronage of His Excellency General Michel Aoun
President of the Lebanese Republic

Under the presidency of HE Mrs. Claudine Aoun
President of the Supreme Council of the Organization (2019-2021)

The Eighth Conference of the Arab Women Organization

“Arab Women and Cultural Challenges”

23-25 February 2021

The Eighth General Conference of the Arab Women Organization had been held under the patronage of His Excellency the President of the Lebanese Republic, General Michel Aoun, and chaired by Her Excellency Claudine Aoun, President of the Organization's Supreme Council.
The conference held the title (Arab Women and Cultural Challenges) and its activities had been organized during the period of 23-25 February 2021 with the participation of high-level officials, headed by the first ladies of the Arab member states or their representatives, and the ministers and heads of national machineries concerned with women’s issues, And public policy makers in the Arab countries, as well as representatives of international, regional and local organizations and a distinguished group of researchers, academics and experts from Arab countries.
The conference approaches women's issues from a cultural perspective, sheds light on the challenges that Arab women face due to the stereotypes rooted in the societal culture about the status and roles of women. The conference research studies the relevant cultural discourses, on top of which is the feminist discourse. It also focuses on highlighting the manifestations of the heritage / modernity problematic on the image and social conditions of women. The conference also discusses the role of public policies, legal and economic frameworks in combating stereotypical culture and allowing women to overcome the restrictive influences of traditional culture and positively engage in the development of society.
The conference included 23 scientific papers prepared by distinguished researchers and experts from Arab countries, including: The Kingdom of Jordan, the Republic of Tunisia, the Republic of Algeria, the Republic of Iraq, the Sultanate of Oman, the State of Palestine, the Republic of Lebanon, the State of Libya, the Arab Republic of Egypt and the Kingdom of Morocco and the Islamic Republic of Mauritania.


Head of the Scientific Team

Marilyn Haider Najjar

  • Dean of the Institute of Social Sciences - Lebanese University
  • 21 years of experience in specialized university education.
  • 12 years administrative, technical and advisory experience with United Nations organizations and various sectors in Lebanon and abroad
  • Participated in many committees, conferences, seminars and workshops (chairing, preparation and participation).
  • She is the author of many books and articles in various fields such as demography, economic and social development, and culture.
  • She participated in many field studies in supervision, coordination and participation in the fields of sustainable development, intangible cultural heritage, and gender equality.
  • She is a supervisor of many research and professional guides covering programs and topics in the social sciences.

Scientific Team Members

Maha Kayyal

  • University professor and researcher in the fields of social sciences and anthropology.
  • Academic experience (education, academic and research supervision) for 30 years.
  • Head of the Research Center at the Institute of Social Sciences between 2014-2019.
  • Responsible for the Journal of Social Sciences and for all research publications of the Research Center, between 2014-2020.
  • She is the author of many books and articles on social, technical and urban anthropology. She has participated in many anthropological studies on poverty in Tripoli and on drinking water consumption.
  • Member of the Scientific Council of the Higher Institute for Doctorate in Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences - Lebanese University.

Issue of the conference:

Like the activists’ experience in the area of gender equality and women empowerment, many international studies and discussions showed the extent of the objection that hampers all of these people, in most of the attempts addressing the cultural dimension in their developmental work in the Arab world, as many of the inherited habits and traditions have turned into taboos that are hard to compromise.
We all know that there are beneficiaries and prejudiced of any social change; hence, there are opponents, on the account of “our culture” and “our tradition”, to any change and to anything stemming from abroad. In return, there is now an exaggerated international human rights’ claim against our culture and our tradition, deemed as the main constraint of the development of our societies.
The encounter of these two mindsets bear two risks within their conflicts: closure and dislocation. There is no doubt they are on opposite sides. On one hand, those advocating gender equality are championing openness to the global experience; some are even promptly asking to adopt what is internationally recognized as being the right trend that respects women as human-beings; it takes off the national hat and puts on the international one. On the other hand, some are heading backwards and towards the heritage, as being the guide in building the future on the righteous path.
Building upon this conflict of directions, amid the cultural heritage and the women’s role to move it to the connection with the cultural memes they were brought up with, and the impact of the globalized culture, with the resulting cultural conflicts and tensions between legacy and modernity in life transformations, the issue of this conference that aims at reading the existing great challenges in the Arab societies in general, and the women in particular, is reflected.  
Under this oppressive atmosphere that reigns in the Arab societies, the conflicts are aggravated in favour of enlightened change at times, legacy at other times, and in favour of the physical imitation of globalized modernity, while preserving the legacy’s spirit with its connotations and symbols most of the time.
The topics of the conference reflect in their titles and targets, this lived societal conflict, be it at the intellectual, social, economic or political level…
Let’s not forget that the inherited culture, that becomes a societal trait and a social identity of the self and the other (whether this self is an individual or a social group), is reflected in the behaviors linked to the spirit of the time. Let’s not also forget that the time shift to the cultural change is not subject to historical events alone, but also to tensions, mostly conflicts, between culture and acculturation of all types: direct and indirect, violent or symbolic.


Conference Objectives

The framework of the conference

Since its inception, the Arab Women Organization (AWO) has always addressed the women and development causes in the Arab world from all societal aspects (economic, social, cultural, legal, etc.) throughout the seven conferences organized since the inception of the AWO. The AWO selected the theme of “The Arab women and the cultural challenges” for its eighth conference to be held in Lebanon by the end of 2020.

It is no secret that this conference convened at a time where the whole world is subject to the crisis of Covid-19 pandemic that aggravated all societal problems. It affected women globally in general and in the Arab world in particular.

This reality is amplifying the challenges of the Arab women; it also makes them prone to more challenges within their responsibilities towards the causes of Arab women and development. The AWO’s ambition is to contribute to supplementing the national policies of the Arab countries with several knowledge approaches and field readings, in order to support them in achieving gender equality, which is more urgent now than ever before, especially with the global economic crisis overwhelming all societies under the globalized system, that is strongly mutually influenced by the universal causes of all types.


Defining the main concepts of the conference

The concept of culture adopted in the conference comes under its anthropological meaning, explained by Edward Taylor as being “that complex whole which includes knowledge, belief, art, morals, law, custom, and any other capabilities and habits acquired by man as a member of society”.
Addressing this definition of culture is not arbitrary, especially that we are living in societies under the brunt of Covid-19 pandemic; yet it is a deliberate due to the fact that culture, with its global meaning of living, seems to be the main obstacle to the developmental shifts that are crippling the Arab woman, causing her production return to herself and making her accept the social and cultural gender-based stereotyping within the society. Given her great role in the social upbringing, the woman is not cleared of re-tailored and re-adapted cultural gown as per the ambitions of the people themselves and their aspirations, including her own, according to the habitus rationale materialized in the symbolic subconscious of her societal role that was broadly explained by several researchers, especially Bourdieu, 1998. The symbolic subconscious’ phenomenon leads us to Clifford Geertz, 1977, who defined the culture as being “...a system of inherited conceptions expressed in symbolic forms by means of which men communicate, perpetuate, and develop their knowledge about and attitudes toward life…”.
The adoption of this societal approach contributes to the understanding and building upon the reality according to the future aspirations, for which targeted development policies are elaborated and affect the women. In fact, sustainable development cannot be achieved without an effective participation of half of the society; the women.

Conference Themes

The conference, which had been held virtually with live broadcast on social media, is divided into five main topics, as follows:

The first:

Arab women throughout the length of tradition and modernity: Between confrontation and reconciliation

The second:

Arab women in the midst of literary and artistic production and mechanisms of socialization

The third:

The economic role of women in sustainable development and the elimination of poverty and marginalization

The fourth:

Arab women between citizenship, government policies and civil struggles, and the dissemination of gender culture: various and intersecting Arab tracks

The fifth is:

The contribution of women to strengthening the resilience of society and earth

Chairman / President of the Conference Word:

Highness First Ladies Words

Rest of Opening Words

First Session: Arab Women and the Crucial Moments of Change

Session II: Women in Decision-Making Positions

Session III: Activating the Role of Women in the National Economy Trails

Session IV: Women and Peace-Building

Fifth Session: Women in the Face of Violence and Terrorism

Conference Recommendations

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Keynote Speakers: