Monday, November 19, 2018

The Womenpreneur

Sana Afouaiz is an activist and champion for women's rights and feminism. Here is her story.

Tell us a bit about yourself - your growing years, childhood, education, and work - that leads up to what you do today. My name is Sana Afouaiz, I grew up in Agadir, Morocco in very big family of 10, I did my first diploma in Morocco and pursued other degrees in USA, UK and France. Growing up in a deeply conservative environment, Sana Afouaiz has always questioned the norms of her society. At the age of five, she witnessed injustice inflicted on women in her surroundings. This pushed her to travel and explore the misogyny across the Middle East and North Africa region, questioning the voices of its women.

You founded the Womenpreneur initiative. Can you tell us a about that? What inspired it?I established Womenpreneur as a contribution in the global feminism, my objective was to create a space for women to acquire skills, to learn about their worth outside the taboo and limits society enforces on them. Within this network we encourage, train and prepare women to acquire their economic independence by becoming social entrepreneurs.

You co-founded Womenquake, which is a global movement that examines the ideas and perspectives about gender realities in different cultures, tell us more about it? Womenquake examines human history to prepare for a better future of not only women but the whole society. Within this global movement, we have 10 representatives in 10 countries, we explore the roots of our thoughts, behaviours, ideas and actions upon which our gender realities are constructed. Because we believe that failing in understanding this we will be trapped into providing superficial solutions that are ephemeral. Womenquake is a revolution of ideas and thoughts. 

Let's talk about your recent book. What inspired it? 
With themes of honour, virginity, sex, hijab, prostitution, religion, freedom and oppression, “Invisible Women of the Middle East” calls for a revolution of ideas and beliefs upon which gender realities are constructed in this region. Growing up in a deeply conservative environment, I've always questioned the norms of her society. At the age of five, I witnessed injustice inflicted on women in my surroundings. This pushed me to travel and explore the misogyny across the Middle East and North Africa region, questioning the voices of its women. I was exposed to the decadence and the extraordinary contradictions of the Arab and Muslim society in what it preaches and how it behaves. Men would force their sisters and daughters to never engage with men outside the family scheme, yet these limits are never enforced on their sons. I discovered that hymen reconstruction is the rage, as much as the virginity test. 

I met and discussed with educated, feminists, prostitutes, and rural women who despite their status, remained trapped in the restrictions imposed by religion and culture. Growing up underneath the conveniently constructed shadow of “honour,” they learned that they and their bodies belonged to the family, to the tribe, to the society, but not to them. Societal approval or disapproval governed their every action and decision. They also learned early on that they belonged in the kitchen, feeding and serving the patriarchs in addition to being good wives. This mindset had ultimately imprisoned these and other women like them. Prison walls don’t literally keep them captive, but they might as well be behind bars. 

The book recognises that oppression is not the same for all women — there is not one common thread that tie women together, but a whole patchwork of experiences.

Sorrowful, yet at times uplifting, the book provides a courageous look at life beneath the veil of mystery that shrouds this region, a land where the truth casts light into even the darkest of spaces.

What's coming next in terms of your work and goals?
We are expanding Womenquake movement in different countries, so everyone is welcome to join in challenging the outdate perceptives and false foundations that have damaged the way we see gender in society. I'm also planning to visit the MENA region for a road trip for a documentary. 
Our history reflects human imagination, how power creates illusion and that gender myth was the biggest lie of our history. We have experienced different types of hierarchies: race, slavery, castes, the senators and the commons during the days of the Roman Empire, and the list is long. However, there is one hierarchy that has marked the history in all cultures and all countries, it is the oldest social hierarchy that is still alive today, and that is the hierarchy of gender. We are divided into men and women.  Culture, traditions, religion, language and even science sustain and affirm daily examples of marked differences between male and female behavior, appearance, and attitude. We get used to it and accept it as the norm. We tend to believe that what we see around us is the natural order of things.