Welcome to Part 2 of our September 2023 Inspirational Interview with Azza Soliman, founder of the Centre for Egyptian Women’s Legal Assistance (CEWLA).
Azza is an Egyptian lawyer and women’s human rights defender (WHRD). She has been working in the field of human rights and development for more than 25 years and has additional expertise as a trainer in the field of human rights concepts, women’s human rights and gender equality. She has worked on changing personal status law for Muslims and non-Muslims and trained governmental and non-governmental bodies on writing national and shadow reports on CEDAW. Azza also has experience in resisting domestic violence against women, citizenship and conflict resolution.
In this part of the interview, Azza talks about how to encourage men and boys to work toward ending VAW and shares her advice to lawyers seeking to reform laws in patriarchal legal systems in their countries.
Part one of Azza’s interview was published on 3 September 2023.
All photos are courtesy of CEWLA.
6. What would your advice be to lawyers in other parts of the world – particularly those in conservative communities and countries – who wish to use their legal expertise to assist survivors of VAW and push for law reform within patriarchal legal systems that have upheld everything from female genital mutilation to child marriage?
Look critically at the nuances of this conservatism and its reasons and start from the root causes. Ask yourself if this is mainly related to customs and traditions, religious fundamentalism, culture, or anything else.
Always stay updated, beyond the legal aspect, and with various enlightened religious scholars and legislators in order to be able to have room for discussions with these stakeholders.
Remain in-touch and observant of your beneficiaries, public opinion cases, media discourses, as well as politics and political discourse. Engage with them.
When you do not find the discourses adequate to a specific issue, you have the capacity to create them.
7. One of the keys to eradicating VAW is to get men and boys on board efforts to do so. Given that you have spent your life battling for women’s human rights in Egypt, what do you think are the most effective ways of galvanising men and boys in very conservative cultures to help to end violence against women?
Several CEWLA activities are highlighted as success stories in the role of men’s and boys’ participation in combatting violence:
- Through mediation sessions conducted between married couples, men are educated on their duties towards women and on various forms of violence that they could be contributing to directly or indirectly. Several men asked for more specific sessions for men on combatting violence against women.
- Our sessions and activities on PSL advocacy and lobbying feature the participation of men and women law students in spreading awareness of discriminatory law, and show how they could be players in advocating for a more fair law.
- Our sexual and reproductive health and rights program works on the awareness of sexual abuse and violence and bodily autonomy for young boys in schools, including schools for disabilities. These sessions always involve discussions and reflections on what they see in their household and environment and how they can apply what they learned to their everyday life.
8. Tell us about CEWLA’s plans for the future. What campaigns, programmes, or projects do you have coming up in the next 5 years?
CEWLA’s strategic plan is for 3 years, hence I will be answering based on that premise. Our priorities are working on the issuance of a Personal Status Law that promotes fairness and equality for all members of the Egyptian family and the issuance of a Unified Law for combatting GBV. Our programmes and campaigns will continue to work on supporting women against violent environments and empowering them towards financial independence, public sphere participation, and having access to legal procedures.
9.How can The Pixel Project’s supporters engage with and support the efforts of CEWLA to stop violence against women?
Pixel Project supporters are grassroot organisers who use digital media in order to eliminate violence against women across the globe. This engagement would be more fruitful by adding a presence in places where there are multicultural and intersectional approaches and organisers, using the nature of the digital realm in order to enable transnational solidarity. We would like to have Pixel Project supporters’ solidarity and engagement on our PSL draft law, as well as promoting a fairer PSL and a unified Anti-VAW law in Egypt.
10.In your considered opinion, how can we end VAW for good?
Through legislating laws that eliminate violence against women and having a consistency between legal codes and the supreme goal of ending violence against women; through more awareness and engagement from various stakeholders, like media professionals and lawyers, in talking about the symptoms and roots of violence against women.