Transnational Activism in Lebanon's Women's Movement: Between FITNA, FAWDA, and Feminism
This thesis investigates transnational campaigns from the international and state level to consider the existence of transnational activism in Lebanon’s women’s movement. Lebanon’s women’s movement serves as an example to analyze the effects of transnationalism on national campaigns for policy change, in the Lebanese case, reformed personal status laws and citizenship rights. The study follows the literature on Lebanon’s women’s movement to extend an analysis of systemic effects on the structure of women’s organizing with emphasis on international partnerships in state-centered contention during the country’s post-war development. Pressure for greater recognition and observance of women’s human rights has risen as a pertinent feature of civil society as Lebanon has become further enmeshed in international partnerships and U.N. agencies. As a result, the structure of the women’s movement has transformed from a loose network of women’s advocacy groups to a centralized, top-down movement. The focus of this case study investigates the spur of a bottom- up, grassroots feminist movement as a response to top-down contention and cooptation of women’s organizing by a UN-Lebanon alliance through the UNFPA and National Commission for Lebanese Women. With focus on grassroots organizing and diffusion of feminist discourse, the case study of Nasawiya provides a contrast between transnational activism in women’s organizing across ideology and structure. Still, Lebanon’s women’s movements reveals old truths of the country’s sectarian political system: women’s organizing continues to suffer at the hands of patriarchal politics. Nonetheless, the emergence of a grassroots, feminist polity suggests that, as the “mainstream” women’s movement has become less fragmented and institutionalized, the “alternative” feminist movement has also increased in activism and visibility, thus implying a new schism in Lebanon’s women’s movement.