Arab Women's Solidarity Association International

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international women's rights organization that advocates liberation of arab women.

The Arab Women's Solidarity Association International (AWSA) was founded in Egypt in 1982 by 120 women under the leadership of Dr. Nawal al Saadawi to promote Arab women's active participation in social, economic, cultural, and political life. Its aims were to link the struggle of Arabs for liberation and freedom from economic, cultural, and media domination to the liberation of Arab women. By 1985, AWSA International had 3,000 members and was granted consultative status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations. Between 1982 and 1991, AWSA International organized several international conferences, developed income-generating projects for economically underprivileged women, published literary magazines and books, and produced films about Arab women's lives. In 1991, AWSA International took a stance against the Gulf War and demanded that the UN takes a firm position against the war.

This action provoked the Egyptian government to close down Noon, the magazine published by the association and later to close down the association and turn its funds to an Islamic women organization. AWSA sued the government but lost the case. Egyptian government officials maintained that the banning was due to "irregularities" in AWSA's financial accounts. AWSA International's headquarters shifted to Algeria and then to Cairo by 1996.

In the United States, AWSA has two active chapters in Seattle and San Francisco with a board of directors of seven elected members. In 2001, AWSA San Francisco published a paper entitled "The Forgotten '-ism': An Arab American Women's Perspective on Zionism, Racism, and Sexism" that served as a training guide for activists. AWSA members have established Cyber AWSA in 1999, a web site and e-mail listserv that connects Arab women internationally. The Cyber AWSA listserv provides a space for Arab women and their allies to discuss and share information around issues relevant to their lives and experiences. It also serves as a springboard for activism related to Arab women's issues.


Arab Women Solidarity Association web site. Available from <>.

Badran, Margot. "Competing Agenda: Feminists, Islam and the State in Nineteenth and Twentieth Century Egypt." In Global Feminisms: A Survey of Issues and Controversies (Rewriting Histories), edited by Bonnie Smith. New York: Routledge, 2000.

Hitchcock, Peter. "The Eye and the Other: The Gaze and the Look in Egyptian Feminist Fiction." In The Politics of (M)Othering: Womanhood, Identity, and Resistance in African Literature (Opening Out), edited by Obioma Nnaemeka. New York: Routledge, 1997.

Peteet, Julie, and Harlow, Barbara. "Gender and Political Change." Middle East Report, no. 173 (1991): 48.

"The Forgotten '-ism': An Arab American Women's Perspective on Zionism, Racism, and Sexism." Available from <>.

Rita Stephan

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Arab Women's Solidarity Association International

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