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  • Nazra for Feminist Studies

Nazra for Feminist Studies was established in Cairo in 2005 as a new wave feminist organization in Egypt, a country with a long history of feminist activism. We are particularly interested in decentralized activism. Nazra projects include defending women’s human rights, combating sexual violence in male-structured spaces, supporting young women who enter formal politics, and making public spaces where women of different ideologies are safe. Nazra activists produce research and documentation and encourage women to write their stories in their voices. Nazra includes approximately thirty staff and volunteers. Many Nazra projects engage young people on the feminist question, which we believe is highly important, through art, storytelling, interactive theater, comics, and other media. We currently work in various Egyptian governorates with more than fifteen groups of young women and men who set the agenda according to their own challenges and priorities.

The feminist question is always problematic in patriarchal societies. Our goal is to build movements, which requires creating space for new discourse and encouraging new people to join. The Egyptian Revolution of January 25, 2011, was an opportunity to implement this goal, but it became evident that it is difficult to sustain feminist discourse during a revolutionary time. “NGO-ization” is a challenge for a grassroots feminist movement. The formal organizational requirements of an NGO (nongovernmental organization) restrict free activism and make it difficult to maintain our commitment to collective and decentralized decision making. NGO-ization is required for funding, but the same dynamics make it difficult to sustain activist commitments rather than voluntarism. The personal and political questions in feminists’ lives in a socially conservative society are another challenge, especially when one realizes that building a genuinely feminist movement is an endless struggle. Our experiences make evident that consciousness is fluid and requires regular work, especially considering the rapid and multilayered discourses [End Page 238] that intersect in Egyptian society, the escalation of violence, and the common problematic dichotomy between the personal and the public. Feminist consciousness is something we struggle with and work on, as people move in different directions rather than following a linear course.

The 2011 revolution and its aftermath changed the landscape of public space for women, as huge numbers of women and men of different ages, social backgrounds, and political affiliations became involved. The revolution led to escalations of state and social violence and ongoing conflict and transition. Our work on sexual violence in public spaces leaves us with the following dilemma: Are the services we provide to women and survivors helping to build a vibrant feminist movement or creating codependent NGO relationships?

Nazra for Feminist Studies
November 1, 2014 [End Page 239]



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pp. 238-239
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