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"I am delighted to be able to participate in Nordiskt Forum and engage with other like-minded people," says Lebense women's rights defender Lina Abou Habib, who arrives in Malmö today. Photo: Kvinna till Kvinna/Alexandra Karlsdotter Stenström.
"I am delighted to be able to participate in Nordiskt Forum and engage with other like-minded people," says Lebense women's rights defender Lina Abou Habib, who arrives in Malmö today. Photo: Kvinna till Kvinna/Alexandra Karlsdotter Stenström.

"I hope to build networks with feminists worldwide"

Lina Abou Habib from Lebanon is one of the international women’s rights defenders invited by The Kvinna till Kvinna Foundation to participate in a Nordic conference gathering thousands of feminists. One of her key focuses is to discuss how feminists can challenge the growing influence of extremism.

New Action on Women’s RightsThe conference takes place in Malmö, Sweden 12-15 June. It gathers feminists from Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland and Iceland, as well as invited guests from other parts of the world.

Participants come from numerous different sectors including NGOs, activist networks, government, academia and private enterprises, as well as members of the public.

New Action on Women’s Rights is a continuation of the Nordic conferences held in Oslo, Norway, in 1988 and in Turku, Finland, in 1994. Focus of the conference is on finding joint strategies for how to achieve an equal society where women have full human rights, in the Nordic region, Europe and internationally.

How do you feel about participating in the New Action on Women’s Rights conference (Nordiskt Forum) in Malmö, Sweden?

”This is my first visit to Sweden. I am delighted to be able to participate and engage with other like-minded people at a time in history when exchanges like this are of such importance. Extremist and fundamentalist groups are trying in a very organised fashion to push women back to the private sphere and to make them invisible. Being in a context like this conference, means an opportunity to challenge that growing trend, and to build networks with feminists worldwide.”

What are the key issues you would like to address?

”I am very concerned about the changes in the Arab world: the rise of extremism, fundamentalism and militarism, the breakdown of social institutions as well as the erosion of women rights. I hope that I will be able to communicate my understanding of what democracy really is. I want to relay that the militarization of the Arab region is a threat to humankind everywhere and I am also hoping to provide insight as to what we do and how we work as a partnership to fight threats to women’s rights.”

Lina Abou HabibLina Abou Habib is chairwoman of Kvinna till Kvinna’s Lebanese partner organisation Collective for Research and Training on Development-Action (CRTD.A). CRTD.A has extensive experience of working for gender equality and empowering women politically and financially.

What is the current situation like, working for women’s rights in Lebanon – especially considering the conflict in Syria?

”Indeed, our working conditions have become more challenging. There have been certain breakthroughs for women but these remain partial and limited. The power of religious institutions is a constant threat. One of the ramifications of the Syrian crisis is the widespread militarization and increased fundamentalism. This poses a challenge to us all, but is also an incentive for further solidarity and focusing even more on the work for women’s rights in Lebanon and the region.

Karin Råghall

Updated in: 2016-08-19