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Arab women envy role models in literature

Seminar to mark Women’s Day captures angst of constant struggle to assert rights

Gulf News

Dubai: Despite the different facets attributed to women achievers in Arabic literature, young women of today find their attention limited to a single aspect — fighting for their rights in a male-controlled society. This was the sombre assessment at a seminar titled ‘Women and Literature’.

The seminar held in celebration of International Women’s Day by the Sultan Bin Ali Al Owais Cultural Foundation discussed how women are portrayed in Arab literature, specifically in the Gulf.

Arab intellectual Rasheed Bu Shaeer presented a paper on ‘Women’s model in Gulf Novels’ identifying the four main models for women in the novels of female Gulf writers: romantic, rebel, realistic and existentialist.

Aisha Al Daheri presented a paper summarising writings of female students attending her English literature class in university, indicating that almost all accounts were one-sided.

In her presentation on ‘Reading young women’s thoughts’, Aisha said it was based on inputs from her students when they were asked to write a paper describing women’s current situation in the Arab world.

The many articles seemed to all be centred around women fighting for their rights in a traditional male-oriented society and their struggle to believe that formed a vital part of society despite the obstacles they faced.

“There is inequality between women and men in society, men have all the control while only few women get equal rights in education and employment,” one of the students wrote.

Another student recorded her feedback thus in Aisha’s paper: “Since their childhood, women were bought up and raised to follow three main rules: protecting their body, reputation and behaviour against a society that has no trust in their women.”

One point on which all of Aisha’s students agreed unanimously was that all women must have access to education as it is an empowering weapon in society.

Aisha added: “One of my students’ introductions caught my eye; she stated that women are not half of society but are all of society because she is the mother of the other half and that we would not have a functioning society if woman were deprived of their right to education.”

— Noor Nazzal is a trainee at Gulf News