In this project, I explore and problematize the demarcation of religious versus secular based women's activism in Egypt. In doing so, this thesis accompanies the body of literature that contests liberal feminists' assumptions that Islam and gender justice are incompatible and that Muslim women's lives are linked to religious and cultural factors only. Through fieldwork at the Cariene women's NGO, Center for Egyptian Women's Legal Assistance (CEWLA), this thesis reveals that women's rights work can operate within frameworks, which are rooted simultaneously in liberal secular ideas, and Islamic discourses of gender justice. CEWLA is an organization that aims to establish equity among citizens and runs myriads of right based- and development driven projects. The center bases its mission and objectives on the international human rights conventions of which CEDAW is a significant reference. However, the organization systematically engages Islamic discourse throughout their work. The deployment of religion encourages dialogue and provides a space where discourses of women's rights work, gender justice, and Islam can convene and be debated. This thesis argues that the members of CEWLA navigate among the multiple discourses at play in women's right work and the Egyptian society. Since religion is a vital discourse on which people's social imagination is structured, it becomes axiomatic for CEWLA members to deploy religious knowledge. Through analyzing how CEWLA recognizes the complex and non-clear cut religious and secular dimensions in Egypt, I locate the deployment of religious discourse within the wider debate on women's right work and gender justice in an era of transnational feminism.
Cynthia Nelson Institute for Gender and Women's Studies
MA in Gender & Women's Studies
Date of Award
Online Submission Date
Library of Congress Subject Heading 1
Non-governmental organizations -- Egypt.
Library of Congress Subject Heading 2
Women's rights -- Egypt.
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(2011).Navigating multiple sites: religion and women's NGO activism in Cairo [Master’s thesis, the American University in Cairo]. AUC Knowledge Fountain.
Sundkvist, Emma. Navigating multiple sites: religion and women's NGO activism in Cairo. 2011. American University in Cairo, Master's thesis. AUC Knowledge Fountain.