Resistance is no longer futile : women's rights in Lebanon
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This thesis focuses on the current state of women's rights in Lebanon. Due to gender inequality, wider systems of violence, and institutionalized methods of disenfranchisement such as Lebanese personal status laws and the Kafala system, a sponsorship system for migrant domestic labor, women and children are most vulnerable to violence. Despite these pervasive systems of patriarchal dominance, it has thus far been difficult to fight gender-based violence in Lebanon because the country promotes a superficial appearance of equality. This thesis discusses how the women's rights organization KAFA, meaning "Enough" in Arabic, could ignite a women's movement in a country, like Lebanon, that has experienced limited progress for women and prolonged national violence. My thesis begins with an interview with the Communication Director of KAFA, followed by a discussion of KAFA's different campaign strategies to engage the state apparatus, the public sphere, and the migrant and refugee community. I then illustrate how KAFA implements its campaigns through mass media and other visual culture, incorporating audience responses to these strategies into my discussion. Finally, I analyze these campaigns strategies in relation to each other, focusing on the implications of the audiences' responses. I argue in this thesis that in order for KAFA to launch a women's rights movement under current social and political conditions in KAFA, it must first employ strategic campaigns to confront forms of gender-based violence at the state and community levels, appealing to a wide audience and building support across campaigns. Constructing webs of activist support across campaigns is crucial for combatting patriarchal oppression regarding socioeconomic and nationalist differences that a part of KAFA's audience reproduces in their responses to campaigns. These issues are particularly evident in responses regarding those working under the Kafala system, a form of modern day slavery. KAFA uses these contentious responses, however, as an opportunity to educate and raise awareness, educate, and prevent gender-based violence. KAFA's campaign strategies have led to an increase in volunteers and activists participating in KAFA, which I argue places the organization in a unique place to build a women's rights movement in Lebanon.