Tomorrow’s Leaders Program

Success Stories

TLS Students Call their Peers to Fight for their Somatic Rights

Women throughout the MENA region are still struggling for bodily integrity and their demand to have the right to govern their own bodies is still reverberating without seemingly getting into any remarkable progress.

When TLS students Rita Mira Bawab, Perla Khaled, Omar Chaiban,  Samir Wadih, and Bilal Abi Shakra gathered on a brainstorming session to agree on a gender-related topic to address in their paper, they found out that while all eyes are on gender balance in the workplace, in political and public decision-making, one crucial gender-related pressing crisis is still raging with almost a total media blackout: Bodily Autonomy

To address this topic from all its perspectives, the team focused on five factors shaping the problem in the MENA region: sexual assault, the virginity and pre/extra-marital sex taboo, child marriage, LGBTQ+ rights violations, and abortion rights. Unfolding each aspect required and intensive data collection, which was not an easy task given the scarcity of information available regarding all of the subtopics which contributed to the severity of the problems as a never-ending cycle that can only be broken by radical changes. Another obstacle the team has faced was the internalized discrimination found in the tone of many journals and authors from the Arab world even when tackling these issues in their literature. However, through their perseverance and determination, the team succeeded in getting « shocking statistics » that they portrayed in their illustrated short video underlining boldly every aspect of the problem.

One of the most heated topics in the gender course was the impact of the sexual objectification of women’s bodies entitling men to own and abuse women while blaming women for heinous crimes. Mira, Perla, Omar, Samir, and Bilal reflected on this in their presentation, shedding light on this paradoxical reality, and analyzing the different stakeholders – the spoilers as well as the reformist actions shaping the fight for equality. Almost all students are perplexed by how to honor crimes, marital rape, and different forms of violence that are not yet well tackled. Students agree that lots need to be done and that they will continue to advocate and work for the elimination of this perplexing stereotyping.

“The TLS program transformed our beliefs from passive ideas to active thoughts and action plans and visions” affirms the team. “TLS has taught us how to transform gender equality into a domain-fluid concept. It can be integrated everywhere and leaves improvement and development and increased productivity wherever it is integrated.” The team added.