Doria Feminist Fund "To Want and to Dare" 2023 Awardees Stories

Oula Ramadan

Oula Ramadan, a young feminist activist from Syria and the executive director of Badael, understands that feminism can hold different meanings for different people. She believes that feminism is a concept that continuously evolves and adapts over time, shaped by personal transformations influenced by shifting power dynamics and a deeper understanding of those dynamics. For Oula, feminism is rooted in the challenge against invisible power structures that uphold repressive systems. It involves unlearning inherited patriarchal and colonial behaviors through continuous learning and intentional self-reflection.

To Oula, being a feminist is an act of radical kindness. It requires cultivating the courage to break free from limiting boundaries and envision a world where equality and justice prevail. She recognizes that feminism is not solely about fighting for women's rights but encompasses all aspects of life and society.

A pivotal moment that sparked Oula's feminist awakening occurred in 2012 during a women's demonstration in Douma, Syria. Witnessing the brutal show of force by the military, with thousands of fully armed soldiers deployed, deeply disheartened her. This event made her realize the vital role women play in political struggles. She understood that feminism cannot be separated from other forms of activism or social movements. When women lead political, revolutionary, or rights-based movements, they challenge the foundations of militarized patriarchal power systems.

Looking back, Oula recognizes that her first feminist struggle began during her teenage years, although she may not have labeled it as such at the time. She consciously defied societal expectations by choosing to read on the balcony with her father instead of conforming to the traditional gender role of being in the kitchen cooking. Society often pressured her mother to prepare her for the role of a "good housewife." Rejecting this pressure and challenging the policing of her choices became her initial and fundamental feminist struggle. She transformed her kitchen table into a political space where she engaged in feminist and political discussions with her peers.

Currently, Oula views every struggle she engages in as a feminist struggle. She strives for an intersectional feminist approach in all her activism, aiming to amplify the experiences and perspectives of all vulnerable and marginalized groups. Her focus is on centering the voices of the excluded majority in civil society, political arenas, and knowledge production. This commitment drives her to do more and keeps her awake at night.

Oula finds strength as a feminist in her deep sense of responsibility to contribute to the creation of a just world. She is motivated by the realization that individuals born into unjust societies and regimes do not have the luxury of giving up. Her inspiration and ideas come from her fellow feminist sisters. The collective work she engages in, the daily personal and intellectual encounters, and the spaces created for joy and healing nourish and empower her deeply.

She believes that young feminists should follow their curiosities and explore the questions that arise during their journeys. It is essential to be intentional about what they explore and read and to seek out communities that transform reading and learning from an individual practice into a collective one. In these spaces, meaning can be collectively created from personal and communal realities, enabling progress in feminist journeys together.

Enas Muzamel

Enas Muzamel grew up in a world where gender discrimination was pervasive. For her, feminism encompassed all the positive actions women could take to improve their social, political, and economic conditions.

Her mother served as her first inspiration and role model. As a young woman raising her daughters in two different countries, she faced the challenges of a difficult and complex society. Enas witnessed her mother's battle for economic independence, and together with her mother and sisters, she fought against the male influence embedded in Sudan's personal status laws. They spent countless years in personal status courts, advocating for their rights.

At the age of nine, Enas experienced her first confrontation with gendered expectations. Her beloved red bike was given away to her male cousin, which sparked a determination to challenge the societal norms imposed upon her.

Over time, Enas's struggle against patriarchal laws, societal norms, and the state intensified. She took it upon herself to stand up for the marginalized, whose voices often went unheard. Enas saw herself as a change-maker, striving to bring about positive transformations in society.

The recognition, appreciation, and support she received for her work became a source of strength for Enas. She yearned for future generations to emerge stronger, equipped with better tools to continue the fight for gender equality.

Enas had an insatiable thirst for knowledge. She delved into contemporary and classic literature, politics, philosophy, and closely followed advancements in science. Each page she turned expanded her understanding of the world, empowering her to challenge the status quo.

Passionate about empowering the younger generation, Enas offered valuable advice. She encouraged them to explore subjects that resonated with them, to broaden their perspectives beyond their own experiences. She emphasized the importance of understanding reality through the lens of history and urged them to document their own experiences, no matter how short or seemingly insignificant. Enas believed that every voice mattered in shaping a brighter future.

Enas had become an embodiment of courage, resilience, and determination in her quest for gender equality. She knew her journey was far from over, but she remained steadfast in her mission. As she continued to fight against the societal barriers, Enas hoped that her actions would inspire others to join her cause, working collectively to bring about lasting change.

Amal Charif

In a world where being both a feminist and having a disability posed a unique challenge, Amal dedicated herself to tackling the intersecting discrimination faced by women with disabilities. She believed that the fight against discrimination extended beyond a single level and encompassed a broader understanding of human rights issues. Through her advocacy, she aimed to bring attention to the unique circumstances and struggles experienced by women with disabilities, urging the feminist movement to amplify their voices and include them.

For Amal, a pivotal moment of awakening reshaped her perspective. Despite her own motor disabilities, she had achieved success in the field of graphic design within the private sector, securing contracts in various countries. However, it was upon reconnecting with a group of old friends with disabilities in Lebanon that she fully realized the immense challenges faced by individuals in similar situations. Witnessing her friends' suffering, limited access to employment, illiteracy, and cognitive ignorance, she resolved to take action.

Every struggle Amal encountered was intertwined with her disability and her identity as a woman. It was only in recent years that she recognized the resonance of the feminist label with her lived experiences. Her initial feminist endeavors involved advocating for laws that protected women's rights and pushing for reforms in civil status laws, with a particular emphasis on women's participation in political action.

Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdown, Amal's feminist efforts focused on raising awareness among women with disabilities. She devoted herself to supporting these women in finding employment opportunities and boosting their self-confidence. Closed sessions were organized to educate them about various forms of harassment and provide them with strategies to confront exploitation and manipulation.

As a feminist, Amal drew strength from her name, which means "Hope." The significance of her name served as a constant reminder to rise above obstacles whenever she encountered them. Engaging in meditation and spending time in peaceful environments, she engaged in deep reflection and sought practical solutions to the many challenges they faced.

Reading played a crucial role in Amal's life, especially during her formative years amidst Lebanon's bloody civil war. She recommended that young feminists explore works by women writers, particularly those from Arab backgrounds, as these writings had significantly influenced her own journey. Currently, her reading focuses on disability-related issues, examining the relationship between individuals with disabilities and their bodies, as well as exploring topics like harassment. One of the first feminist books she encountered was Simone de Beauvoir's "Le Deuxième Sexe," which had a profound impact on her perspective.

Through her extensive reading and personal experiences, Amal gained valuable insights and knowledge to inform her work. She understood the importance of practical solutions and collaboration with other women, always seeking counsel and engaging in dialogue to deepen her understanding of various issues. As Amal navigated the complex landscape of feminism and disability, her ultimate aim was to contribute to a better world where equality and justice prevailed for all.

Amal Hadjadj

For Amal, feminism embodies the theoretical and ideological aspects of political and social movements that strive for women's rights and gender equality. It goes beyond individual efforts and represents a collective revolution that involves women and marginalized groups, challenging the remnants of the patriarchal system. The word "struggle" holds deep meaning for her, encompassing the transformative power of feminism in women's lives, addressing personal narratives, queering bodies, and drawing inspiration from women's experiences.

Amal's feminist awakening came relatively late in her life, during her university years when she was around twenty. She collaborated with a close friend on an online student club, but there was a significant disparity between them. While her friend could freely express his opinions using his real name, Amal had to resort to a secret identity. She chose the name "real voice" and even created another account named "le journaliste," adopting a masculine form to lend her words more credibility and impact.

Her articles shed light on the unequal experiences faced by female students compared to their male counterparts, although she did not explicitly label herself as a feminist. However, her friend's actions on the website opened her eyes to the reality they were living in. He would share private photos and videos of girls without their consent, leading Amal to deeply reflect on privilege and misogyny. This eye-opening experience exposed the violence and patriarchal discrimination that permeated society.

As social media emerged, Amal found it easier to join and follow feminist discussions. No longer dependent on platforms provided by others, she became a part of a feminist group in her city called "Voix de femmes" (Women's Voice). This group encouraged dialogue and reflection, prompting Amal to share the experiences of Algerian women and delve into feminist literature. It was during this period, around 2013, that she embraced her identity as a feminist, breaking free from secrecy and societal taboos associated with the term.

A pivotal moment in Amal's feminist journey occurred on July 5th, 2015, when she embarked on an intersectional feminist path. She moved away from her previous involvement with "Safirat Jazairiyat" and established a Facebook page for an Algerian feminist newspaper. However, it was in September 2016 that she made a significant impact.

Amal published a story about Amira Marabet, a feminist woman who gained national media attention. Together with her feminist friend Fanny, who was visiting from Constantine, Algeria, they organized a protest that drew women from various cities, including the capital, Oran, and Béjaïa. As the press covered the event, Amal felt more anxious about her family's reaction than the authorities'. Her family pressured her regarding marriage and conforming to traditional gender roles, but she rebelled against those expectations.

While they couldn't save Amira Marabet, Amal and her fellow activists brought attention to her murder and prevented an oversimplification of the issue. This moment marked the beginning of Amal's active involvement in feminism.

Today, Amal is an intersectional feminist activist who is acutely aware of the unique challenges within the Algerian context. She believes in mobilizing and breaking free from closed groups to contribute to the feminist awakening. While she acknowledges that she cannot replace the collective voices of women and marginalized groups, Amal and her fellow activists are determined to influence change through political expression and social engagement. Amal's journey as a feminist continues to make waves and inspire others around her.

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