UWE Bristol academics support women's rights movement in Egypt

Issue date: 25 February 2014

Dr Nadine Riad Tchelebi

UWE academics from Bristol Business School are using their skills in understanding and analysing group dynamics to support women striving together for women's rights in Egypt following the 'Arab Spring'.

Working with the international organisation, Peace Women Across the Globe (PWAG), Dr Nadine Riad Tchelebi (Bristol Business School), is taking part in the first initiative in Egyptian history to create a dialogue forum which brings together a broad range of women's groups across the country.

This initiative comes in the wake of recent political upheavals in the Middle East which have presented opportunities for political reform and women's participation.

Dr Tchelebi attended a successful initial event by PWAG held in Alexandria, Egypt, in November 2012 at which she advised the organisers on group dynamics with further input from Dr Peter Simpson (Bristol Business School).

In March 2014, Dr Tchelebi will return to Luxor in the South of Egypt to support the next stage of dialogue organised by PWAG with groups from different regions of the country.

The overall aim of the project is to create an overarching women's network that is working for women's rights in Egypt that brings together existing women's groups and their leaders. To do this requires the participation and cooperation of a wide range of groups.

The women's groups represented in the forum come from a very wide spectrum of interests and beliefs in Egyptian society and the dialogue events aim to bring them together so they have a stronger combined voice to pursue women's rights in Egypt.

Dr Tchelebi's role is to support the organisers of the event from PWAG, by observing and analysing the dynamics of the meetings, and advising on how to manage conflicts between the groups, in order to achieve better dialogue and focus on shared aims.

Dr Tchelebi says, “The situation in Egypt is very complex, and this is reflected in the diverse range of groups who are working for women's rights. My role is to observe, not directly contribute to the talks, but to offer my expert support and guidance to the organisers as to how to manage conflict between different parties involved.

“Despite a well-established women's rights movement in Egypt, the participation of women in political decision-making is yet to be achieved. Many of the women's groups are grass roots activists still dealing with the emotional struggle of getting their voices heard on subjects as diverse as domestic violence, poverty and education for women. Alongside these grass roots organisations are higher profile groups with women who are leaders in their field. The challenge of these talks is to get the participants to listen to each other's perspective, to keep the dialogue flowing and on track so that shared aims and goals can be identified and committed to.

“By travelling to the South of Egypt this time, the aim is to integrate those women's rights organisations who are more on the outskirts of the nation so that a representation can be achieved that speaks for the concerns of women all across Egypt.

“It is an ongoing challenge for the organisers of the dialogue events to manage conflicts between groups, and to make sure the valuable time they have together is used well. Throughout the talks I will feed back to PWAG my thoughts on how the group dynamics are working, any particularly sensitive areas that are emerging and how to handle them, as well as offering suggestions on how to manage conflict and steer the talks in the right direction while valuing all the contributions.

“Since we first became involved in this work, there have been further changes and upheavals in Egypt, but there is still an enormous need to get women's groups actively involved and working together. We hope that our expert knowledge can support women's groups in Egypt to work together to achieve greater understanding and common goals with regards to women's rights and political participation.”

PeaceWomen Across the Globe is a Swiss-based women's rights and peace building organisation and a global network which works with women around the world to support them in working for peace, social justice and a secure future applying a wide range of approaches and methods.

Tanja Mirabile of PWAG said, “Nadine's support is very important for us to understand the conditions for effective dialogue facilitation of different women's groups that are very fragmented. Understanding group dynamics in such a difficult political setting is crucial for the outcome of a dialogue and the group being capable of working together.”

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