American University of Beirut

AUB collaboration celebrates International Women’s Day

​​​​​​Safa Jafari Safa, Office of Communications,​​​

A series of diverse events were held on campus in celebration of International Women's Day and in honor of great women throughout the history of the university, Lebanon, and the region as AUB continues to celebrate its Coed Centennial. Several AUB entities collaborated to organize and implement the events: the University Libraries, Asfari Institute for Civil Society and Citizenship, the Archaeological Museum, and students from the MEPI-Tomorrow's Leaders program at AUB.

Following opening remarks by Interim University Librarian Fatme Charafeddine at Nami Jafet Memorial Library and a welcome note by Director of the Asfari Institute Lina Abou-Habib, a keynote speech was delivered virtually by Dr. Amal Mudallali, Lebanon's Ambassador to the UN. Mudallali spoke about the many achievements of pioneer Arab women in different fields throughout history, the recent slide back in progress toward gender equality, and the many remaining gaps that call for urgent action.

“There are Arab women achievers today in all fields; in science, technology, medicine, the arts, politics, and education. But we still have a long way to go as women in the Arab world but also women in general. Just look around you in Lebanon," said Mudallali. “Women should not feel that they have to continue swimming against the current to do their job. Women should not be forced to speak louder because others drown their voices and they are not heard. Women and men working together can bring the change that we are all aspiring for."

A month-long library exhibit entitled “Women Pioneers in Arabic Press (1892-1925)" was launched during the event. The audience—which included AUB President Fadlo Khuri, administration, faculty, staff, and students—was invited to explore the creative display highlighting the contribution of women writers in the Arab press during the Nahda or the Arab awakening. As explained at the opening of the exhibit by Mirna Kalash, Arab, Islamic, and Middle Eastern Studies librarian, the exhibition celebrates the work of ten women writers, who published their own magazines and promoted the ideas of modernization through social, political, and religious reform. It displays the first issue of each magazine, first editorials, sample articles, and biographies of the journalists—to be featured in an online exhibit soon.

The audience then moved to join an intergenerational panel discussion organized by the Asfari Institute and moderated by its researcher, Carla Akil. Students and alumni, activists and academics from different parts of the world, and representatives from the administration discussed progress, shortcomings, and the way forward on the path to demystify feminism and attain true equality in gender representation across different fields and sectors. The participants highlighted key variables to consider in today's world and proposed practical collaboration steps toward amplifying women's voices and translating academic knowledge to change, action, and a more just legislation and policy on the ground.

The celebration continued at the AUB Archaeological Museum with a garden party and a viewing of an installation of Andrée Hochar Fattal's sculptures, entitled “Mother Earth." Through her bronze sculptures, Fattal celebrates the beauty of womanhood, motherhood, and fertility. “Mother Earth" daringly reveals a cultural dialogue around the oneness of women through the ages, resonating with the museum's collection of goddesses of fertility, which was animated for the occasion.

The day's activities concluded with a Beirut Art Film Festival screening of “Sheherazade's Diary." Filmed during and after a ten-month drama therapy/theater project by drama therapist and director Zeina Daccache, this tragicomic film features women inmates of Lebanon's Baabda Prison who confront societies that oppress women as they prepare and present the first theater performance staged inside an Arab women's prison. The screening was followed by a panel discussion with film director Daccache.​

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