Stories of Girls’ Resistance

Middle East and North Africa

From Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Libya, Palestine, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, Western Sahara, Yemen to United Arab Emirates, the Middle East and North Africa series documents 21 stories of resistance across the region.

The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region encompasses both western Asia and northern Africa, and a recent term used to describe it in some circles is South West Asia and North Africa or SWANA in an effort to decolonise the terminology and better reflect its diversity. The region has been the site of numerous significant historical events and movements, including the rise and fall of powerful empires, the birth of Abrahamic religions, as well as the colonisation and decolonisation of most of its territories turned nations. Today, many peoples remain occupied, their land disputed or forcibly erased.

Civil war, political turmoil, and ongoing corruption contribute to the instability that some of the region experiences. In turn, this has and continues to have a profound impact on the lives of women and girls, who are often disproportionately affected by the violence and disruption caused by these conflicts.

In addition to the challenges posed by instability and violence, girls and women  face gendered discrimination that prevents them from participating fully in society. The impacts of this are compounded by the patriarchal systems in place and are felt on a family level, a community level and beyond at the national and regional level. Political and religious violence also contribute to the intersectional and layered challenges faced by women and girls in the region. In recent conflicts, a rise in child marriage and gender based violence has been seen simultaneously halting girls education and economic potential. Wherever instability strikes, peace and the hard earned advancements in women and human rights are often the first casualties lost.

And yet, women have been and continue to be on the forefront of social, political, and justice movements from their resistance against imperial colonisers during the 20th Century – from Egypt and across North Africa fighting the repression of dictatorial regimes and illegal occupation of Palestine. Human rights and liberation movements from Sudan to Palestine, Iran and Libya are not only supported by women but women are overwhelmingly represented as the drivers of such movements. Examples in the last decade alone include women on the forefront of revolution from Tunisia, Egypt, Libya to Yemen, Syria and more recently Sudan and Iran and the current #WomenLifeFreedom #JinJiyanAzadi movement. On the other hand, women are often the first targets of revolutionary change and the region has lost many women leaders in the struggle for liberation. Freedom can only be achieved when women are its champions; their resilience, determination and strength is our hope.



The Middle East and North Africa stories of resistance were curated by Ayat Mneina in partnership with story collectors: Manal Taleb, Amani Aruri, Tara Ashour, Sandie Hanna, Shiyam Galyon and Lamia Mneina. The translations and transcriptions were completed by independent translators , Yusef Sawie, Ali Al-Abbasi, Sanussi Mneina, Salma Burashid and the team at Industry Arabic. The beautiful illustrations were created by the talented Sarah Handala (@berberewoman on Instagram). We’d like to also acknowledge Françoise Moudouthe, Nana Bruce-Amanquah and Jama Jack of Eyala Blog for their partnership with story curator Ayat Mneina; Eyala Blog will be featuring a series on the North African resistance stories in 2023. As well as Saja Othman and Farah Ezzeldin and the team at the Valve Studio (Jordan) for designing and leading the curation of the the digital exhibit. Last but not least, we’d like to thank Hibaaq Osman and the El Karama network for facilitating key introductions to storytellers and their continued support and encouragement throughout the project.