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Enabling Women's Agency: Arab Women Speak Out
Unformatted Document Text:  Tracking #: ICA-19-11265 They were, in short, women with whom many other Arab women can identify. Given the importance of the family in the Arab world together with the theoretical and practical emphasis throughout the project on interdependence, most of the women selected were of reproductive age, married and had children. Arab filmmakers produced video profiles of ten women. The companion text, Arab Women Speak Out: Profiles of Self-Empowerment, 28 comprises thirty written profiles. Project Implementation Developed and funded by a group of international organizations, the project was designed so that it could be fully integrated into ongoing programs in the region, whether by NGOs, governmental agencies or international agencies. Of the many agencies identified in the region as potential partners, 25 agencies from ten Arab countries committed themselves to implementing the project. Thirty-one people (28 women and three men) participated in the master trainers’ workshop that took place in December 1998. Upon returning to their home countries, these trainers and their trainees were able to train nearly one thousand facilitators within two years of the initial master trainers’ workshop. By June 2002 nearly 80,000 women in six Arab countries had participated in AWSO workshops, all of which have been organized and conducted by local agencies or agencies working at the community level. Participatory Training Empowerment education complements and extends social learning theory. Intellectually indebted to Freire, it assumes that knowledge comes not from experts but emerges from group discussions about the social influences that affect the individual and collective lives of participants. The understanding gained through dialogue is reinforced and strengthened through action at the community level. Though individual women were profiled in the Arab Women Speak Out project, training materials were designed to facilitate discussions to give women a venue where they could analyze critically and collectively the social, economic, political, and cultural conditions that enhance or diminish their ability to act. Used in conjunction with the documentary videos, the training manual provided the framework through which women at the local level discuss their needs, concerns and opportunities with their peers. The examples offered in the videos were analyzed through facilitated discussions in which the participants shared their own perspectives and experiences, thus enabling many women to gain a new sense of the possible as well as a renewed sense of their own capabilities. In workshops organized by NGOs and governmental agencies in six Arab countries, women 29 were encouraged to interrogate gender constructs as manifested in their own communities, 30 to explore the attendant implications for various community members, including themselves, and to determine “next steps” for themselves as individuals, as members of families and as community members. The sole agenda was to enable conscientisation to unfold, thus meeting Kiiti and Nielsen’s distinction between a facilitator and an advocate: “an advocate is often driven by an external agenda while the facilitator seeks to understand and help people determine their own agenda. 31 The training manual comprises learning exercises designed to help women strengthen their self-esteem and self-confidence, develop their negotiating, networking and decision-making skills and identify sources of information and support, gain access to available resources, participate in public life, communicate with authority figures and safeguard their own health. The topics were covered in eight sessions, which typically Training Manual Topics • Viewing and discussing the video • changing social roles • self-esteem and self- confidence • decision making • negotiating skills • strengthening social networks and social support • participation in public life • safeguarding one's health media monitoring tool

Authors: Underwood, Carol R. and Jabre, Bushra.
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background image
Tracking #: ICA-19-11265
They were, in short, women with whom many other Arab women can identify. Given the importance of
the family in the Arab world together with the theoretical and practical emphasis throughout the project
on interdependence, most of the women selected were of reproductive age, married and had children.
Arab filmmakers produced video profiles of ten women. The companion text, Arab Women Speak Out:
Profiles of Self-Empowerment
,
28
comprises thirty written profiles.
Project Implementation
Developed and funded by a group of international organizations, the project was designed so that
it could be fully integrated into ongoing programs in the region, whether by NGOs, governmental
agencies or international agencies. Of the many agencies identified in the region as potential
partners, 25 agencies from ten Arab countries committed themselves to implementing the project.
Thirty-one people (28 women and three men) participated in the master trainers’ workshop that
took place in December 1998. Upon returning to their home countries, these trainers and their
trainees were able to train nearly one thousand facilitators within two years of the initial master
trainers’ workshop. By June 2002 nearly 80,000 women in six Arab countries had participated in
AWSO workshops, all of which have been organized and conducted by local agencies or agencies
working at the community level.

Participatory Training
Empowerment education complements and extends social learning theory. Intellectually indebted
to Freire, it assumes that knowledge comes not from experts but emerges from group discussions
about the social influences that affect the individual and collective lives of participants. The
understanding gained through dialogue is reinforced and strengthened through action at the
community level. Though individual women were profiled in the Arab Women Speak Out project,
training materials were designed to facilitate discussions to give women a venue where they could
analyze critically and collectively the social, economic, political, and cultural conditions that
enhance or diminish their ability to act. Used in conjunction with the documentary videos, the
training manual provided the framework through which women at the local level discuss their
needs, concerns and opportunities with their peers. The examples offered in the videos were
analyzed through facilitated discussions in which the participants shared their own perspectives
and experiences, thus enabling many women to gain a new sense of the possible as well as a
renewed sense of their own capabilities.

In workshops organized by NGOs and governmental agencies in six Arab countries, women
29
were encouraged to interrogate gender constructs as manifested in their own communities,
30
to
explore the attendant implications for various community members, including themselves, and to
determine “next steps” for themselves as individuals, as members of families and as community
members. The sole agenda was to enable conscientisation to unfold, thus meeting Kiiti and
Nielsen’s distinction between a facilitator and an advocate: “an advocate is often driven by an
external agenda while the facilitator seeks to understand and help people determine their own
agenda.
31
The training manual comprises learning exercises
designed to help women strengthen their self-esteem and
self-confidence, develop their negotiating, networking
and decision-making skills and identify sources of
information and support, gain access to available
resources, participate in public life, communicate with
authority figures and safeguard their own health. The
topics were covered in eight sessions, which typically
Training Manual Topics
Viewing and discussing the
video
changing social roles
self-esteem and self-
confidence
decision making
negotiating skills
strengthening social
networks and social support
participation in public life
safeguarding one's health
media monitoring tool


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