Asmaa Guedira: “We have to change the image of women in society and counter conservative discourses”
Asmaa Guedira is a self-described nomad. At 31 years old, Asmaa, a citizen both Morocco and France, has experienced a wide range of cultures, and worked in very different professional settings. Her accomplished background led her to the Womanity Foundation, where she currently works to educate women in the MENA* region about their rights and roles in society.
Where did you start your career?
After studying in France, I worked at a major consulting firm in Paris for four years. In the beginning, nothing suggested that I would end up working on innovation or in the humanitarian field! But at some point I decided that I wanted something different in my life. I quit my job and got involved with organizations working at the intersection of the fields of social and solidarity economy, innovation and collaboration. That is what brought me to OuiShare in late 2013. OuiShare is a collective that promotes the emergence of a collaborative society as well as social entrepreneurship. As an active member, I was responsible for organizing a conference called the OuiShare Fest and for creating and managing communities in the Arab world. In fact, that is what prompted me to take more interest in my home region. I left when I was 18 and had never really had the chance to work there.
What did you gain from that experience?
My work with OuiShare and other organizations helped me expand my network and build bridges between Europe, Brazil, and countries in the Arab world around topics such as innovation, entrepreneurship, and cultural activism. Later, I decided to leave Paris and experience life as a “digital nomad”, which would enable me to continue to work on these projectswhile I traveled. I also wanted to focus on the issues of gender and feminism.
In my personal life, I had spent a lot of time thinking about gender isuues and I realized that at all the conferences where we talked about new communities and the new economy, we never addressed this crucial topic. I became more and more aware of this as I travelled and met with with LGBTQA communities all over the world. That’s how I came to create the “Hyper gender” project, a movement I launched a year ago to examine the impact of digital culture on gender identity, ideas about family, romantic relationships, and so on.
What brought you to the Womanity Foundation?
First, I met the team at the Womanity Foundation, then in late 2015 I applied to run the “Be 100 Ragl” program, which aims to use the media to talk about gender inequalities in the Arab world. We created an online animated video series, the heroine of which is a journalist tackling issues related to being an Arab woman in countries in the MENA region. In addition to coordinating the distribution of the video, my job is to manage an online community as well as a physical community in various countries by organizing conferences, workshops, etc. In that capacity, I was able to bring together established NGOs and traditional feminist organizations to interact with artists and representatives of the new social and solidarity economy. We educated the former about digital culture, social networks and all the new ways to do activist work and run campaigns. Meanwhile, we helped the latter incorporate a gender lens into their daily work.
What are the main topics addressed in the series and that you work on within these communities?
The roles of women in the public sphere, sexual violence, street harassment… as well as domestic violence and rape. Covering these serious subjects in an animated series gives people the freedom to speak. We also address women’s economic roles, their place in the workforce and as entrepreneurs. And obviously the question of rights: women must have the same property rights as men, the same freedom of movement, the right to make decisions about their own bodies…
Overall, in the Arab world and in other places, we have to change the image of women in society and counter the conservative discourses that take up more space than anything else in the public sphere. You have to tell women that they can do it, that they have to go for it, and that there is room for them to grow and be fulfilled. And we have to get men involved in the cause by educating them about their own power to take action against toxic masculinity!
Par Camille C.
Reporter pour la Fondation CHANEL
* Mena : Middle East and North Africa
To learn more about the program “Be 100 Ragl”, click here