This website is an online portal for “Even the Finest of Warriors”, a book concerned with feminism and wellbeing in relation to women human rights defenders (WHRDs) in the MENA region post 2011. This interactive website accompanies the book and features profiles of WHRDs who have been part of the research process, pictures of the research journey, as well any other form of documentation of the research and book writing process.
Even the Finest of Warriors is a feminist book about the wellbeing of women human rights defenders (WHRDs) from the Middle East and North of Africa (MENA) post-2011. In the first phase of this book, the author will focus on Egypt and Tunisia and draw upon the similarities and differences with regard to the impact of revolution, engagement with public space, and how wellbeing is perceived in these two countries. The second phase aims to engage with WHRDs who were forced into exile post-2011, namely those from Yemen, Syria, and Libya, and how wellbeing is exercised in such circumstances. The third and last phase will explore the Gulf region and the work of WHRDs under the tight and autocratic regimes which do not show much respect for women’s rights. The book strives for the inclusion of the research conducted for its third phase in the already growing narrative on wellbeing globally.
Even the Finest of Warriors makes no distinction between WHRDs who are still actively engaged in the public space and in the defense of human rights and those who have decided to leave the field and shift their paths. The author believes that those who have chosen to leave the movement, even at a young age or those who left after long years, still deserve credit for the work they have done, and they deserve to have their voices heard. The book is based, primarily, on the narratives and stories of WHRDs who are interviewed by the author. However, it does not intend to be a storytelling book, as it rather seeks to answer questions about continuity, challenges and feminist ethics of work and living, and to engage critically with the notions of “resilience” and “closing civic space”. The book seeks to honor and validate every woman’s contribution and her sacrifices to the movement, whether our youngest or oldest of defenders and to acknowledge that the space we work in constantly changes. The book also aims to show how there is not one single narrative, especially when the dominant narrative is taken up by women’s rights and feminist organizations which have access to the media and enjoy privileges such as functioning in a second language and the centralization of the capital.
The first phase will look into the different contexts of Egypt and Tunisia, and how movements and institutions in these two countries contribute to the wellness or the burnout of WHRDs.
However, this research is not concerned with institutional policies, nor with interviewing defenders in their professional capacity. The author of this book believes that the conversation about organizational roles and impact with regards to the wellbeing of staff members is a different one than the conversation Even the Finest of Warriors is attempting to initiate. The scope which the book is focused on is the personal narratives of women who decided to engage with the public space in defense of human rights at a certain point of their lives and how they were able to navigate this space and how this impacted them.
Even the Finest of Warriors is going to be written in Arabic and translated into English. Most publications or research conducted on wellbeing at the moment are written in English and are mostly never translated into Arabic. This book seeks to contribute to the current literature concerned with narratives from the MENA region, and written in its native language. Interviews will take place where WHRDs are based, in Arabic, and they will be recorded (depending on the consent of the defender), transcribed and approved by them for accuracy.
The number of WHRDs interviewed in this book should not be taken as an indicator of the number of women activists in the public space in those countries, or be used to draw analysis or trends based on these interviews. This book will have samples of different experiences, which will merit a longer project of documentation that will help reflect on, understand, and map women activism in this region in a meaningful way without rushing to a conclusion, nor will it be driven by the limitation of funding and tight deadlines. The choice of the interviewees was intentionally selected to cover less known WHRDs; intersections such as race, capital cities, religion, and age have been taken into consideration.
The book will also be guided with desktop research (English and Arabic), which will cover available resources on burnout, women’s activism in the MENA region, impact of activism on mental health, and publications on wellbeing.
* Title inspired by one of Mada Masr’s articles on mental health, https://www.madamasr.com/en/2017/12/23/feature/society/even-the-finest-of-warriors/