SOAS University of London

Centre for Gender Studies

Afaf Jabiri

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Afaf Jabiri
Centre for Gender Studies

Senior Teaching Fellow

Dr Afaf Jabiri
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Thesis title:
Women’s Rights in Postcolonial States: A case study of the Institution of Wilaya over women in Jordan and Yemen
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Afaf Jabiri is a Senior Teaching Fellow at the Centre for Gender Studies, SOAS University of London. She contributed to the teaching of courses on Gender and Islam and Gender in the Middle East at SOAS as well as at the University of Roehampton and University of Leicester. Afaf is the author of the book ‘Gendered Politics and Law in Jordan: Guardianship over Women’.

For the last 20 years, she has been advocating for gender equality, law, and policy reform in the Middle East. She is a member of the Harvard Kennedy School’s Carr Centre for Human Rights’ global Initiative on violence against women. She was the Regional Director of the Karama (Dignity) Network and the Director of the Jordanian Women’s Union Aid Centre and Shelter for women’s survivors of violence. She has also worked as women’s protection officer at UNHCR and served as a policy and advocacy advisor for international and domestic NGOs and UN agencies. She took part in several UN missions to conflict areas, such as: Libya, Syria, and Yemen.

Afaf contributed to several global action-oriented research projects related to gender equality in the Middle East, which entailed analysis of gender equality, family laws, gender based violence, and women’s empowerment programmes at the regional and national levels, such as, the UNDP Global Report on ‘Gender Equality in Public Administration’; the Law School of Northeastern University’s (Boston) publication on ‘Due Diligence and States: Responsibilities in Combating Violence against Women’; and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development’s (EBRD) study on ‘Women’s Agency, Choice and Economic Participation in the MENA region’.

Teaching and research interests: gender and the Middle East; gendering migration and diaspora; gender and religion; gender and development; Muslim and secular women’s movement in the Middle East, and Palestinian refugees.

Education: PhD in Gender Studies/Centre for Gender Studies/SOAS/2014

MPhil in International Politics/University of Glasgow /2004

PhD Research

This research is an attempt to explain the different contexts and politics that women in the Arab region are affected by in order to contribute to the understanding of the realities through which Arab women have shaped their strategies. It defines Wilaya over (male guardianship), women as a form of oppression that has led and legitimised discriminatory practices against women. It, therefore, aims to contribute to the Arab women’s literature of how the concept of Wilaya, which either is totally absent from the feminists’ research or just tackled briefly, is conceptualizing women and their rights in the Arab region.  The goal is to uncover the hidden concepts that matter for women through discussing of Wilaya from the perspectives of women in Jordan and Yemen.

The focus in this research is to examine the concept of Wilaya over women vis-à-vis postcolonial states’ classification of women’s rights. It questions the extent to which Wilaya over women generates the conceptual legal and social frameworks of women’s rights in the Arab region. While the few scholars who have studied Wilaya have mainly focused on the limitations that Wilaya places on women in relation to marriage  this research takes the discussion further to demonstrate the intertwining of Wilaya with a wide range of discriminatory laws and practices, such as citizenship laws, women’s freedom of movement, and violence against women. The research assumption is that states’ structuring and defining of what Wilaya means, the criteria set for males to be the guardians of females, the concept of “giving women in marriage,” have all constituted important bases for gender differences, and inequality before the law.  A woman as a person is accordingly defined through her guardian and not her individual self, which devalues the legal personality of women and their social and political capacities.