Karama held its first national workshop in Cairo in 2005. It brought together 35 Egyptian NGOs to discuss the problem of violence against women in Egypt, what Egyptian civil society has been doing to address it until now, and how the new Karama approach might amplify these efforts.
Since that first meeting, Karama’s focus on women’s dignity, on the society-wide impact of violence against women, and on grassroots-led collaborative efforts to end violence has continued to resonate. The majority of groups that participated in the national workshop have stayed on to become the core of Karama’s network in Egypt, and to build a social movement for a life free of violence against women.
Working together, Karama’s network of Egyptian NGO partners defined their vision, goals, terms, and action plans, and created strong relationships that continue to flourish. Karama and its partners are working at the national, regional and international levels to realize their shared vision and raise Arab women’s voices in arenas where they have previously not been heard.
In Egypt, this network is doing the work of extending Karama’s vision across society introducing Karama ideas to its contacts and colleagues, inviting new partners into the network, analyzing the causes and consequences of violence against women, raising awareness of the issues in its communities, and catalyzing action for change, from the grassroots to the policy makers.
At the regional level, Karama Egypt has been participating in both regional workshops and experience exchanges alongside Karama partners from other countries. The regional workshops have helped us to strengthen ties with women’s organizations across the Arab world, share knowledge and experience, and create a regional anti-violence movement that speaks with one voice. These workshops have dealt with the state of shelters and services for women victims of violence, as well as civil society efforts to hold national governments throughout the region accountable for their commitments under CEDAW.
Karama Egypt is also participating, with its regional partners, in international and regional exchanges that will strengthen its relationships both within and outside the region. The Egyptian partners are learning from the challenges and successes of one another’s anti-violence efforts and using that experience to inform each organization’s work.
In 2007, for example, Karama partners in Cairo hosted ten activists from the Syrian Committee for Women’s Causes for a week-long exchange visit, inviting them to visit their organizations and identify best practices that the activists could adapt in the Syrian context. Later the same year, Karama delegates from Egypt took part, along with partners from other Karama countries, in an exchange visit to Stockholm organized by the Swedish organization Kvinna till Kvinna. We met and learned from various actors in the Swedish anti-violence movement, including shelters for battered women, NGOs working on prostitution, trafficking and honor crimes, rape crisis centers, and activists from a number of Swedish feminist NGOs.
At the international level, Karama’s partners in Egypt are working alongside its partners across the region to put issues of urgent concern to Arab women on the agenda at international forums. The Egyptian partners were part of Karama delegations to the UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) in 2007 and 2008 and to the international forums of the Association for Women in Development (AWID) in Thailand in 2005 and Mexico in 2006. They were there when Karama revived the CSW’s Middle East Caucus, which until 2007 hadn’t met in recent memory. And they were part of the delegation in 2008 to meet with Yakin Ertürk, the Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women, inviting a visit to the region to investigate the high risks and incidence of violence that jeopardize refugee women—especially Iraqi women seeking asylum in Jordan and Syria.