Citation
Interview with Lubna Dawany

Material Information

Title:
Interview with Lubna Dawany
Series Title:
Middle East Women's Activism
Alternate Title:
مقابلة مع لبنى دواني
Creator:
Dawany, Lubna ( Interviewee )
دواني ، لبنى ( contributor )
Pratt, Nicola Christine ( contributor )
Place of Publication:
Amman, Jordan
Publication Date:
Language:
English

Subjects

Subjects / Keywords:
Sisterhood Is Global Institute ( LCSH )
Mizan, Law group for Human Rights ( UW-MEWA )
مجموعة القانون من أجل حقوق الإنسان (ميزان) ( UW-MEWA )
Religious fundamentalism ( LCSH )
Fundamentalism ( LCSH )
Islamic fundamentalism ( LCSH )
IZDIHAR Project ( UW-MEWA )
Human rights ( LCSH )
Women's rights ( LCSH )
Arab Spring (2010-) ( LCSH )
الربيع العربي (2010-) ( UW-MEWA )
Women's empowerment ( UW-MEWA )
Families Development Association ( UW-MEWA )
جمعية الأسر التنموية ( UW-MEWA )
Civil society -- Law and legislation ( LCSH )
Terrorism ( LCSH )
Religious co-existence ( UW-MEWA )
Conservatives ( UW-MEWA )
Conservatism -- Religious aspects -- Islam ( LCSH )
Spatial Coverage:
Asia -- Jordan -- Amman Governorate -- Amman
Coordinates:
31.949722 x 35.932778

Notes

Abstract:
Lubna was born in Amman in the early 1960s. Her mother and father were both teachers. After getting married, she studied law at university, graduating in 1993, and then did an MA in transformation management at Buckingham University. Lubna is a lawyer. She began her public work and volunteering at the end of the 1980s, first as an individual initiative to help women around her and later co-founding Mizan Law Group for Human Rights and Sisterhood is Global Institute (SiGi) She also volunteers with the Families Development Association, with their Izdihar project, which aims to help impoverished women become more independent. ( en )
General Note:
Funding : Women's Activism in the Arab World (2013-2016). This project, funded by a British Academy Mid-Career Fellowship, examines the significance of middle-class women's activism to the geo/politics of Arab countries, from national independence until the Arab uprisings. It was based on over 100 personal narratives of women activists of different generations from Egypt, Jordan and Lebanon.
General Note:
Interview conducted on: 06 May 2014
General Note:
Duration: 45 minutes and 9 seconds
General Note:
Language of Interview: English
General Note:
Audio transcription and translation by Captivate Arabia, Amman, Jordan, info@captivatearabia.com
General Note:
آسيا -- الأردن -- عَمّان -- عَمّان
General Note:
VIAF (name authority) : Pratt, Nicola Christine : URI http://viaf.org/viaf/49147457

Record Information

Source Institution:
University of Warwick
Rights Management:
© 2014 the Interviewer and Interviewee. All rights reserved. Used here with permission.

Downloads

This item has the following downloads:


Full Text
Interview with Lubna Dawany
2014
TAPE 1
Nicole Pratt: Can I begin by asking you where and when you were born?
Lubna Dawanay: I was born in Amman, in the early sixties. And... I was raised in a Christian
family, of course, in a Muslim neighborhood, which is ok. We live together since that time, I
even finished school, and at that time, we never knew who is Muslim and who is Christian. We
were living together in harmony and in a beautiful way. It was never an issue. It never crossed
our mind to ask the question, you know? That's why I'm telling you sometimes we feel we're
going backwards in some of the issues.
NP: And what did your father and mother do?
LD: My father, he is a teacher, and my mother is a teacher too. They were teaching in private
schools since ever, yah. So, it was the family... we were all involved in education and
enhancement, you know? It was full of energy, and always we have this kind of getting more
information of what we're doing from their backgrounds; stories from schools, stories from
childhoods, from everywhere, yah.
NP: what did you study in university?
LD: Law, I studied law. For my Master's degree I studied transformation management. I thought
that transformation is very important, and management. The combination of law and
management is very good... very good subjects to combine together because I believe that
management is very important for all of us, no matter if you are a doctor, a teacher, lawyer,
whatever, management is a good thing to have. So I had in Buckingham University for few years
for a master's degree, yah. I'm thinking now for my PhD, although I tried to start few years ago,
but so many things are going, and... my children, they were in need for me until this age, so I
couldn't just start very important thing like PhD at that time. But now, I have the opportunity to
start again. So, I'm thinking of few subjects to start with my PhD. I did not choose exactly, but
I'm in my way, yah.


NP: In what year did you graduate from law?
LD: It was... 1993, I think, yes, yah, 1993. I studied my degree after my marriage, after I was
married, you know? Because I felt that I have a role that I should do, I should take a role, so I
decided to have my degree, so I went back to study again and I had my degree, since 1993, yah.
NP: And when did you first become involved in public work and volunteering?
LD: It was from... when I started from the end of eighties, beginning of nineties, I felt the need
for such a work, and I felt the need for having somebody who will be involved with women,
with the ladies, to give some information and light the lives of these women. It was always my
passion.
NP: Was there any particular event that happened that made you thing "I must do this now"?
LD: No, in general, I felt that the way people are bringing up the women to be obedient, to be
good girls, to be good wives. It's by following the instructions and rules and to do whatever the
older generations are doing, while there were few women that I felt that they have something
that could do better than only following the instructions and whatever they have from the past
of these. So I always felt that if they were given the chance they would do better if they were
given the chance. So, almost I have that... you know? People are in need for, women in
particular and girls are in need for someone to be... give them some positive energy to start
something in them, you know?
NP: Do you think that you were unusual to feel this?
LD: At the time I did not have the feeling if I am like any other people or not, I did not compare,
I just have the passion and I felt I have to do what I have to do, so I did not see what the other
ladies are doing. But now, in my age, you know? Some of ladies and women around me, they
would tell me... "Oh, PhD now? Why?" "What for do you need it?", "You're still giving so much
of your time< why don't you relax? Enjoy life", "Why you keep going to prisons?" "Why keep
seeing these ladies?". Always from the side they are in pain, they are in problem, they are
having hard times, and they are having issues in their lives. So, I hear it many times and I hear it
continuously, but, on the contrary, it gave me more energy to do more and give more, yah.
NP: So, when you began doing ... when you became involved in public work and volunteering,
was that with one of the organizations here? Sigi or Mizan?
LD: I started first by myself.
NP: OK


LD: giving support and giving time for ladies around me that I feel they need help. And then, the
ideas came of having an organization, so I felt that was perfect, that was a message from God
that yes, He's blessing me in serving people, to giving... to share some of my life and some of
the things that I have to support these women and the girls that need some kind of support,
yah. So, I was one of the founders for Mizan, the group for human rights. In the same year, I
was one of the founders for sisterhoods' global institute SiGi. The same year, both
organizations were found on the same year, yah. So, it was a good year, yah.
NP: Did you face any challenges in establishing these organizations?
LD: That period of time, the law gave us the chance to register non-profit organization. Which
means it's not following or it's registered under the Ministry of Development, it was registered
under the Ministry of Trade and Industry, but as a non-profit organization. Which gave us the
freedom to maneuver, to work freely without so much constraint, you know? But we worked
for some time before we were back to the Ministry of Social Development and to the
challenges to have these registrations and piles of reporting and pre-approval before we have
any funds from anybody and any organization and giving all the reports you can think of, so
these are constraints that we face in doing our work. Sometimes I feel that we are a
department of the Ministry or the Government, not an NGO, because we are requested for so
much reporting and information to be given. But I don't mind if the government or anybody
looked into the files, you know? They're welcomed to come and check the files but not the pre-
approvals that we're doing, because you lose a good amount of your energy and good amount
of your thinking and your passion in doing these pre-approval things and in meeting these laws
and regulations. But since we were working, since twenty years, our files are open and they are
there for whoever were to look for anything, I mean. We work in a transparent way; we work in
a good way. On the contrary, in our beginnings, we were... we ourselves were giving money to
the organizations so we could start. We didn't have money to print anything. We didn't have
money to have any lectures, so we were volunteering our time, our money, our everything, to
start good thing for our societies. But after that, you know, like fifteen years later, the work
started to be much more difficult for us, you know? Difficult with the government, difficult...
also we faced few issues here and there, as if we were dealing with they, but who are they,
sometimes we face problems, we face some difficulties, but believing in serving our society,
believing in serving women in general and Jordanian women and girls in particular, I'm going
full force, no matter what. These obstacles or challenges we feel that they are a part of the
work of the challenges, and we're going full force, or I am going full force in serving society and
the Jordanian girls and ladies, and even foreign ladies, because I look after few problems for...
for domestic helpers, Seri Lankans and Filipinos for (12:10??? Inaudible) in prison, even if they
are not Jordanians, serving humanity in general.


NP: Is there any sensitivity about some of the issues that you deal with from the governments'
point of view? Do they have sensitivities because of some cultural issues or religious issues or
political sensitivities?
LD: All what you mentioned has a role, all of it. Sometimes it's politics, especially when we have
the Arab spring, which I don't call it a "spring" with the fundamentalists. Sometimes I
understand when with a government, have specific fear or specific concern about few issues,
which is understandable, but sometimes it's not. What if we work freely, if we get work
without approvals. And I open my financial files, reports, other reports for whoever wants to
check from the government. Because, as you know, all founders need to know each penny,
each JD, how it was... given or spent. So whenever we have funders, we have very detailed...
you know! What you call them? Detailed financial reports for our spending and for everything,
so it would be pleasure if the government want work before anything. I understand that some
of the other organizations are not working properly, maybe they have some corruption, and it's
Ok. But I think about it like we have an accident in a road; will you close the roads to prevent
accidents? It's impossible. The road will still going, but we have more precautions, we have to
make the roads more ... better way to serve people, and to find the people who are not using
the road properly, but you cannot close all the roads because you have accidents. It's the same
way, you have some corruption and some corrupt people, Ok. But also in our penal code you
have some laws that are dealing with such people. You don't have to put so many constraints,
so many details for working with the organizations with the civil society organizations. So what I
say is it's too much, it's really too much, and it's not getting any better. Before that they said
things will get better, but it's not. I understand they have some challenges as governments,
and their concern is my concern too, because I will not love to see Jordan or Syria or any other
places are... Jordan is invaded by some stupid conservatives from whoever and from wherever.
But they have some issues that this people will not be involved in societies that could do
terrorist issues in our country, I understand, but because of some people, as I understand also
our intelligence department is so much effective which I respect. We could deal with issues
hand in hand. We are not their enemies, we are not working against the government, on the
contrary. It's my role be their messenger, you know? Whenever I see something which does not
feel right or does not smell right, it's my responsibility to give this news to whoever is
responsible so that they could keep Jordan clean from terrorism, clean from corruption, clean...
on the contrary, as a human rights defender, I would love to see the best practice dealing with
all aspects of life in Jordan. But sometimes I feel it's too much to put such challenges or such
rules or regulations for NGO's in general.
NP: Do you think that the... are there particular allies that you and other people working for
human rights or women rights that they have within society within the government another
particular enemies or people who are hostile to human rights and women rights?


LD: Yes, we face them, we face them sometimes in shari'a courts, sometimes in our normal
courts, and sometimes we face them in different places. That is why sometimes we feel things
we cannot explain why this is happening. Sometimes it's not explainable. So we think that there
is something that is working underneath, that it's not seen but yet it's affecting the work. But
again, we encourage each other and we support each other, ok. We feel that the passion of
supporting our women, supporting our society, because women are half the society. Having this
passion for having a better society for our children to live, keep us going. This is the only thing
that keep us going, because, believe me, in these three organizations, I give so much of my
expertise and so much of my time, that is affecting my work. Because when we go full force and
you spend a good time of your day doing volunteer work and when you have the passion you
will not think of the materialistic. After a while you will not understand that it is affecting my
income. Even if it's happening, it's ok, when you see that you're going and you're serving... for
me specifically, my husbands' income is good, so it did not make me stop and reevaluate, but
maybe sometimes I should've done that. Because, again, when I empower women, I would like
to see myself empowered economically. At the end, I feel that giving is my pleasure, In giving
and in supporting and in having these ladies some of the energy to keep the energy to do a
better life for their homes and for their lives.
NP: You mentioned before, when we were talking before the recording started, how you go to
the families of the women who are involved in Izdihar project. You talked to them to persuade
them to let their daughters join with the program. What sort of arguments do you use to
persuade them?
LD: It was difficult because they have the belief that the girl has one thing to do in life which is
her house, her husband, their children and this is why women were born. So taking some of
their attention to other great women that they did things in history, and we are doing this and
giving examples for them, like if you have an airplane with two wings and one wing is working
full force and it's beautifully working while the other one is not working, would the plane be
flying properly? What would happen? This is our society, this is what should happen, and when
you are raising a girl, you are raisin... we have some proverbs and some sayings from Islam, that
if you raise your daughter in a good way, this is where God will bring you to heaven, this is
where you put a place for you in heaven. Sometimes, small little sentences and details. During
the argument, you will decide how to go about it. Sometimes we used to invite them to the
association and we would have like a lecture in some way or another, and we will have the
discussion, and when you have women at these discussions and sometimes we invite the
parents and women, and when they see that life is wider than keeping the girls... on the
contrary, if you empower her, she will empower her children in the future, what if her husband
died? Your child, she's sixteen now, she will live with him for what? 5, 6, 7, 10 years? Then she
will have few children, when her husband dies, what she will do with the children? If she's an


ignorant, if she does not have the education, what level of education she will give her children?
How will she raise them? Do you think that the ignorant girl of 16 years old or 14 would raise
the children the same as let's say Diploma girl? Ok, she will hang, as you say, her certificate in
the kitchen, I agree. Even though I don't agree, I will tell them that I agree. But imagine the
standard of education she will give her children. What if her husband dies? She will have
something in her hand to fight for her living. She will work. She will support her children and
family. But when she is ignorant and she is poor and has nothing, and after a while, if she is
divorced or she became a widow, how would she do? What she will do? So, you know, you take
it as it goes, step by step, and it is making the diversity. Especially that life is becoming very
expensive and standards of living are becoming very high. The things that we used to say that
they are not necessities of the life, is becoming a necessity. Things are becoming so much
difficult for the men in general because earning their living is becoming difficult and they should
work double the work and earn double their living to keep the same standards of life, whatever
their standard is. We are trying to tell them that raising a good girl is much more important if
not the same as raising a good boy, it's the same. It's the same for both males and females. It's
something very hard. It's extremely hard, and sometimes it's challenging and sometimes it's
frustrating, but when you have this passion, you can never stop, you should go full force all the
time, yah.
NP: When did you first become aware of the concept of human rights, of women's rights? Is
this something that you heard about through your studies or from working?
LD: It's by noticing few things as I told you and explained before, It's noticing how sometimes
cruel life is for few women and how... chances they have in life and how so many choices that
they could have but they choose not to do them because it's the instructions that they are
getting from the men members of the family, you should do this and you should not do that. It
was clear cut things that they should not do and they are so many. So I always thought Why to
keep women in the box, you know? To keep them closed in a box and not to give them the
freedom? And from there I felt that if you want to own her state from the beginning, if you
want to own the woman, give her freedom. She will come to you like a free bird in her own well
and full force, giving the man everything that she could have. But if you keep her in a prison and
jailing her, you will jail her soul and you will have children that have jailed souls and the society
will be jailed after that, you know? Because all the generations that would come they would
have low standards of thinking, of following the whole sets of rules that we have from before.
And life is changing, so I was waiting for an opportunity to bloom. That's what happened in
having some work, volunteer work at the beginning and then after having these organizations
seeing the light, yah.


NP: The women that you helped from the beginning or, you know, from when you first started
volunteering, these are women that you knew in your everyday life? I'm trying to imagine how
you would have known these women, how you'd meet them, how you'd understand their
situation?
LD: By... it's not meeting them by living, like when you go to renew a passport, you would sit
there with the women and maybe you will hear a couple of them talking, maybe you will hear
her saying something and then try to bring something out of her, you would ask her about a
question and then she will be open with everything that she has. Sometimes at the beginnings, I
didn't have the knowledge how to go about things, but sometimes I felt that only listening to
them was so much support for them, listening to their lives, listening to what's happening with
their lives, listening to their problems, to what they face. When she hears herself talking also,
it's something for her to bring out, bring out some of the negative energy out, and then, she
may reevaluate her situation, maybe she will have a thought, maybe I will think with her. It was
not an organized thing to do, but it was like wherever I go, I keep searching for women in need.
NP: OK.
LD:Yah.
NP: I see, I see.
LD: Yah. It was not an organized thing to do. I always felt that hundreds of thousands of women
are asking for some kind of help.
NP: Yah.
LD: Especially before, when I was a child, once I heard a lady burned herself, she put some
gasoline or something and she burned herself because she had some problems with her
husband. I thought that was so much cruel to put an end to her life in such a way because she
has no right to have some kind of discussion or to have a conversation with a man.


TAPE 2
Lubna Dawanay: What kind of cruel society is that? Why won't she leave him? Why she does
not just shut the door and leave the house and go? Why did she stuck to him then she has to
burn herself? So, that was something that triggered my thoughts from the beginning. It was so
hard for a lady. I thought about that lady, you know? She was brave, I'm sure she was a brave
lady but it was such a cruel environment for her to think that the only choice that she had was
to burn herself. What kind of society we're living in? So, you know? When you have a passion
for something, you use your eyes and all your senses will try to attract all news about such
issues, and they are plenty, believe me. Where ever you go you'll find plenty of things that will
break the heart. So, the need was there from the beginning, yah.
Nicole Pratt: Did your... did you have any role models that had been important to you in being...
in giving service to other people and setting this example?
LD: No, there was no role model, but I worked with strong women that were a good support to
give some kind of support and encouragement in keeping things going and knowing where
we're heading, so support was important as well. But no I didn't have a role model since the
beginning, no.
NP: How significant for you was studying and being at university? Did that have an impact on
the way you've thought about things?
LD: Yah, I always thought that education is an important stop in human being that would give
the base for a better sight of the future and where you're heading. Maybe it's not detailed, like,
if it's not law, it's any other thing.
NP: Shall I pose? Sorry.
LD: Education is a very important factor in human life. It gives the energy, it gives the sight, it
gives so much information about things, how it goes, but it's not good enough. I mean, it's a
part of our lives; it gives us a base in our lives that you should continue and take the other steps
following the education. So I thought it was an important thing to do, to start something that I
would love to do, and I believed in continuous learning. I mean, it should not be for four years
and that's it, no, I think it's something especially these days with the internet and all these
humongous amount of information around us. It's an ongoing process for all of us. I also
encourage all the girls that I meat to keep... to keep their ongoing love for knowledge and
information, even the poor ladies I gave lectures for in the association for Izdihar and other,
even for the inmates. It's something that you should keep; it's a fire that you should keep inside


you. Keep the fire of knowledge; keep the fire of enhancing ourselves by knowledge, by doing
good things, by gaining always the right information. It's good for women and for your children
and for everybody. When you have the knowledge you have the power in fact. So this is
something that I believed from the beginnings, yah.
NP: What is the thing that you like the most about the work that you do?
LD: I find my satisfaction in the diversity that happens in women's lives. When I see that... when
I speak and I look in their eyes, and after I see this look of sadness and brokenness, this look
of... feeling that they are nothing, and then the sparkling of hope that I find in their eyes, even if
it was a little thing to do, I feel "yes, we started the process". Because the most important thing
is that she feels that she's empowered, she's important, and she can do something, she could
do something for her life. If she does it for her life and then everybody will benefit from
enhancing her life, so this is really what I feel happy of doing. Sometimes I feel it with women in
prison, and I know that they are helpless for some period of time, but I know that they have the
positiveness in having something coming, they have the guts, they have the feeling that they
will do something when they're out, yah. I usually, these ladies, I see them in prison and I see
them when they finish, and I do all what I can for their support to do something and to feel
that there are people who would love to see you a better woman, see you in a better life, to
see that you're getting something from this life, it's not only... life is not only about pain, about
negativeness, about following the rules and regulations, about making the man happy when
you follow the rules and regulations. There is something for yourself as a woman, as a creature
of God, that God loves and respect. So, it makes a difference, making the difference is my
pleasure.
NP: What's the most difficult thing about the work that you do?
LD: When I'm helpless. When I see that the amount of traditions or the amount of poverty or
the amount of negativeness in a woman that I cannot trigger anything in her in starting
anything positive, it makes me sad. But I never stop thinking of how to go about it. There should
be a way, there should be a key. Like every door has a key, every woman has a key. So I keep
going, maybe talking to her, maybe asking about her, maybe, maybe I would have an inspiration
of how to find the key to try with this woman or with this girl. Even the girls sometimes... in this
organization also we have a class for the girls that left school from an early age, either with
their own well, or from the family. I follow up with them in a way to keep a relation with them,
to see if may be in the future they would need some kind of support or some kind of
encouragement in a way or another. I always tell them that I am there if you need some kind of
support. And... I think they would need it sometime, so I usually give them my phone number.
Once in prison, we started a project in supporting inmates, and we have a big group of people
from the ministries and from the NGOs, and I was talking to the inmates in front of these


people, so the inmates asked me to give them my telephone number, mobile telephone
number. And I said of course and I gave them my number. So one of them, one of the men, he
came and he whispered in my ears "what you're doing is very dangerous, you cannot do that",
"You cannot give your number, You give a number of a land line that they will not find anybody
when they call". Oh my God! This man was an employee in the Ministry of Social Development.
I was shocked. Maybe I looked in his eyes for few moments, I don't know how many moments it
was, I didn't believe it. You are a man who's supposed to be the brave one. I am the woman
who was usually less brave. You are the employee and I am an NGO Human right defenders.
You are the one who have the prestige working for an organization which is the Ministry, and
you can call whoever you want and ask for if you can call the prison, the police if some of them
would call you. After all, I am a lawyer and I am... if any of them called me, maybe it will be
harder for me to call the police. But you are whispering in my ears to give them a land line that
nobody would answer! That was really shocking for me. You meat lots of people, sometimes
you need the energy to convince these people of... being decent and believing in what you're
doing. Maybe they will not see it, but at least we should try, or I should say it loud and clear,
yah.
NP: You mentioned before that your friends tell you you should take things easy now.
LD: Yes.
NP: Not give so much time and you must be so incredibly busy involved in three organizations
and your law practice.
LD:yah.
NP: So, what is it that keeps you going, keeps you volunteering, being active?
LD: Yah, I cannot just drop what I'm doing, you know? I worked so hard to reach where I am.
And I don't mean where I am as a prestigious place, no. I reach where I am so the poor and
needy would know me, I cannot just turn my back and relax and tell myself these are the good
days that I should have some sunbath. No, I can't. I feel that the need is there for so many
people like me, tens if not hundreds of people, to make the diversity that I'm looking for, for my
society, for women, for girls. So, it's something that I didn't think about, to stop doing it all, no. I
take it as a joke when somebody tells me this, I laugh as it's a joke. I hope that God will give me
the energy and keep going for so many years to come to continue serving. Hopefully, thank you.
Thank you.
NP: Is there anything that you want to tell me and I didn't ask you? Anything that you think is
important that I didn't ask?


LD: No, I don't have anything in mind, but you have my e-mail, you have my mobile, I have
Viber. So, in case you have other questions that you did not have the chance to discuss, please
don't hesitate to come back to me anytime. Ok?
NP: Thank you.
LD: It was nice meeting you.
NP: You too.
LD: And I appreciate your work. It's as important as well.


Full Text
Interview with Lubna Dawany
2014

TAPE 1

Nicole Pratt: Can I begin by asking you where and when you were born?
Lubna Dawanay: I was born in Amman, in the early sixties. And… I was raised in a Christian family, of course, in a Muslim neighborhood, which is ok. We live together since that time, I even finished school, and at that time, we never knew who is Muslim and who is Christian. We were living together in harmony and in a beautiful way. It was never an issue. It never crossed our mind to ask the question, you know? That’s why I’m telling you sometimes we feel we’re going backwards in some of the issues.
NP: And what did your father and mother do?
LD: My father, he is a teacher, and my mother is a teacher too. They were teaching in private schools since ever, yah. So, it was the family… we were all involved in education and enhancement, you know? It was full of energy, and always we have this kind of getting more information of what we’re doing from their backgrounds; stories from schools, stories from childhoods, from everywhere, yah.
NP: what did you study in university?
LD: Law, I studied law. For my Master’s degree I studied transformation management. I thought that transformation is very important, and management. The combination of law and management is very good… very good subjects to combine together because I believe that management is very important for all of us, no matter if you are a doctor, a teacher, lawyer, whatever, management is a good thing to have. So I had in Buckingham University for few years for a master’s degree, yah. I’m thinking now for my PhD, although I tried to start few years ago, but so many things are going, and… my children, they were in need for me until this age, so I couldn’t just start very important thing like PhD at that time. But now, I have the opportunity to start again. So, I’m thinking of few subjects to start with my PhD. I did not choose exactly, but I’m in my way, yah.


NP: In what year did you graduate from law?
LD: It was… 1993, I think, yes, yah, 1993. I studied my degree after my marriage, after I was married, you know? Because I felt that I have a role that I should do, I should take a role, so I decided to have my degree, so I went back to study again and I had my degree, since 1993, yah.
NP: And when did you first become involved in public work and volunteering?
LD: It was from… when I started from the end of eighties, beginning of nineties, I felt the need for such a work, and I felt the need for having somebody who will be involved with women, with the ladies, to give some information and light the lives of these women. It was always my passion.
NP: Was there any particular event that happened that made you thing “I must do this now”?
LD: No, in general, I felt that the way people are bringing up the women to be obedient, to be good girls, to be good wives. It’s by following the instructions and rules and to do whatever the older generations are doing, while there were few women that I felt that they have something that could do better than only following the instructions and whatever they have from the past of these. So I always felt that if they were given the chance they would do better if they were given the chance. So, almost I have that… you know? People are in need for, women in particular and girls are in need for someone to be… give them some positive energy to start something in them, you know?
NP: Do you think that you were unusual to feel this?
LD: At the time I did not have the feeling if I am like any other people or not, I did not compare, I just have the passion and I felt I have to do what I have to do, so I did not see what the other ladies are doing. But now, in my age, you know? Some of ladies and women around me, they would tell me… “Oh, PhD now? Why?” “What for do you need it?”, “You’re still giving so much of your time< why don’t you relax? Enjoy life”, “Why you keep going to prisons?” “Why keep seeing these ladies?”. Always from the side they are in pain, they are in problem, they are having hard times, and they are having issues in their lives. So, I hear it many times and I hear it continuously, but, on the contrary, it gave me more energy to do more and give more, yah.
NP: So, when you began doing … when you became involved in public work and volunteering, was that with one of the organizations here? Sigi or Mizan?
LD: I started first by myself.
NP: OK
LD: giving support and giving time for ladies around me that I feel they need help. And then, the ideas came of having an organization, so I felt that was perfect, that was a message from God that yes, He’s blessing me in serving people, to giving… to share some of my life and some of the things that I have to support these women and the girls that need some kind of support, yah. So, I was one of the founders for Mizan, the group for human rights. In the same year, I was one of the founders for sisterhoods’ global institute SiGi. The same year, both organizations were found on the same year, yah. So, it was a good year, yah.
NP: Did you face any challenges in establishing these organizations?
LD: That period of time, the law gave us the chance to register non-profit organization. Which means it’s not following or it’s registered under the Ministry of Development, it was registered under the Ministry of Trade and Industry, but as a non-profit organization. Which gave us the freedom to maneuver, to work freely without so much constraint, you know? But we worked for some time before we were back to the Ministry of Social Development and to the challenges to have these registrations and piles of reporting and pre-approval before we have any funds from anybody and any organization and giving all the reports you can think of, so these are constraints that we face in doing our work. Sometimes I feel that we are a department of the Ministry or the Government, not an NGO, because we are requested for so much reporting and information to be given. But I don’t mind if the government or anybody looked into the files, you know? They’re welcomed to come and check the files but not the pre-approvals that we’re doing, because you lose a good amount of your energy and good amount of your thinking and your passion in doing these pre-approval things and in meeting these laws and regulations. But since we were working, since twenty years, our files are open and they are there for whoever were to look for anything, I mean. We work in a transparent way; we work in a good way. On the contrary, in our beginnings, we were… we ourselves were giving money to the organizations so we could start. We didn’t have money to print anything. We didn’t have money to have any lectures, so we were volunteering our time, our money, our everything, to start good thing for our societies. But after that, you know, like fifteen years later, the work started to be much more difficult for us, you know? Difficult with the government, difficult… also we faced few issues here and there, as if we were dealing with they, but who are they, sometimes we face problems, we face some difficulties, but believing in serving our society, believing in serving women in general and Jordanian women and girls in particular, I’m going full force, no matter what. These obstacles or challenges we feel that they are a part of the work of the challenges, and we’re going full force, or I am going full force in serving society and the Jordanian girls and ladies, and even foreign ladies, because I look after few problems for… for domestic helpers, Seri Lankans and Filipinos for (12:10??? Inaudible) in prison, even if they are not Jordanians, serving humanity in general.
NP: Is there any sensitivity about some of the issues that you deal with from the governments’ point of view? Do they have sensitivities because of some cultural issues or religious issues or political sensitivities?
LD: All what you mentioned has a role, all of it. Sometimes it’s politics, especially when we have the Arab spring, which I don’t call it a “spring” with the fundamentalists. Sometimes I understand when with a government , have specific fear or specific concern about few issues, which is understandable, but sometimes it’s not. What if we work freely, if we get work without approvals. And I open my financial files, reports, other reports for whoever wants to check from the government. Because, as you know, all founders need to know each penny, each JD, how it was… given or spent. So whenever we have funders, we have very detailed… you know! What you call them? Detailed financial reports for our spending and for everything, so it would be pleasure if the government want work before anything. I understand that some of the other organizations are not working properly, maybe they have some corruption, and it’s Ok. But I think about it like we have an accident in a road; will you close the roads to prevent accidents? It’s impossible. The road will still going, but we have more precautions, we have to make the roads more … better way to serve people, and to find the people who are not using the road properly, but you cannot close all the roads because you have accidents. It’s the same way, you have some corruption and some corrupt people, Ok. But also in our penal code you have some laws that are dealing with such people. You don’t have to put so many constraints, so many details for working with the organizations with the civil society organizations. So what I say is it’s too much, it’s really too much, and it’s not getting any better. Before that they said things will get better, but it’s not. I understand they have some challenges as governments, and their concern is my concern too, because I will not love to see Jordan or Syria or any other places are… Jordan is invaded by some stupid conservatives from whoever and from wherever. But they have some issues that this people will not be involved in societies that could do terrorist issues in our country, I understand, but because of some people, as I understand also our intelligence department is so much effective which I respect. We could deal with issues hand in hand. We are not their enemies, we are not working against the government, on the contrary. It’s my role be their messenger, you know? Whenever I see something which does not feel right or does not smell right, it’s my responsibility to give this news to whoever is responsible so that they could keep Jordan clean from terrorism, clean from corruption, clean… on the contrary, as a human rights defender, I would love to see the best practice dealing with all aspects of life in Jordan. But sometimes I feel it’s too much to put such challenges or such rules or regulations for NGO’s in general.
NP: Do you think that the… are there particular allies that you and other people working for human rights or women rights that they have within society within the government another particular enemies or people who are hostile to human rights and women rights?
LD: Yes, we face them, we face them sometimes in shari’a courts, sometimes in our normal courts, and sometimes we face them in different places. That is why sometimes we feel things we cannot explain why this is happening. Sometimes it’s not explainable. So we think that there is something that is working underneath, that it’s not seen but yet it’s affecting the work. But again, we encourage each other and we support each other, ok. We feel that the passion of supporting our women, supporting our society, because women are half the society. Having this passion for having a better society for our children to live, keep us going. This is the only thing that keep us going, because, believe me, in these three organizations, I give so much of my expertise and so much of my time, that is affecting my work. Because when we go full force and you spend a good time of your day doing volunteer work and when you have the passion you will not think of the materialistic. After a while you will not understand that it is affecting my income. Even if it’s happening, it’s ok, when you see that you’re going and you’re serving… for me specifically, my husbands’ income is good, so it did not make me stop and reevaluate, but maybe sometimes I should’ve done that. Because, again, when I empower women, I would like to see myself empowered economically. At the end, I feel that giving is my pleasure, In giving and in supporting and in having these ladies some of the energy to keep the energy to do a better life for their homes and for their lives.
NP: You mentioned before, when we were talking before the recording started, how you go to the families of the women who are involved in Izdihar project. You talked to them to persuade them to let their daughters join with the program. What sort of arguments do you use to persuade them?
LD: It was difficult because they have the belief that the girl has one thing to do in life which is her house, her husband, their children and this is why women were born. So taking some of their attention to other great women that they did things in history, and we are doing this and giving examples for them, like if you have an airplane with two wings and one wing is working full force and it’s beautifully working while the other one is not working, would the plane be flying properly? What would happen? This is our society, this is what should happen, and when you are raising a girl, you are raisin… we have some proverbs and some sayings from Islam, that if you raise your daughter in a good way, this is where God will bring you to heaven, this is where you put a place for you in heaven. Sometimes, small little sentences and details. During the argument, you will decide how to go about it. Sometimes we used to invite them to the association and we would have like a lecture in some way or another, and we will have the discussion, and when you have women at these discussions and sometimes we invite the parents and women, and when they see that life is wider than keeping the girls… on the contrary, if you empower her, she will empower her children in the future, what if her husband died? Your child, she’s sixteen now, she will live with him for what? 5, 6, 7, 10 years? Then she will have few children, when her husband dies, what she will do with the children? If she’s an ignorant, if she does not have the education, what level of education she will give her children? How will she raise them? Do you think that the ignorant girl of 16 years old or 14 would raise the children the same as let’s say Diploma girl? Ok, she will hang, as you say, her certificate in the kitchen, I agree. Even though I don’t agree, I will tell them that I agree. But imagine the standard of education she will give her children. What if her husband dies? She will have something in her hand to fight for her living. She will work. She will support her children and family. But when she is ignorant and she is poor and has nothing, and after a while, if she is divorced or she became a widow, how would she do? What she will do? So, you know, you take it as it goes, step by step, and it is making the diversity. Especially that life is becoming very expensive and standards of living are becoming very high. The things that we used to say that they are not necessities of the life, is becoming a necessity. Things are becoming so much difficult for the men in general because earning their living is becoming difficult and they should work double the work and earn double their living to keep the same standards of life, whatever their standard is. We are trying to tell them that raising a good girl is much more important if not the same as raising a good boy, it’s the same. It’s the same for both males and females. It’s something very hard. It’s extremely hard, and sometimes it’s challenging and sometimes it’s frustrating, but when you have this passion, you can never stop, you should go full force all the time, yah.
NP: When did you first become aware of the concept of human rights, of women’s rights? Is this something that you heard about through your studies or from working?
LD: It’s by noticing few things as I told you and explained before, It’s noticing how sometimes cruel life is for few women and how… chances they have in life and how so many choices that they could have but they choose not to do them because it’s the instructions that they are getting from the men members of the family, you should do this and you should not do that. It was clear cut things that they should not do and they are so many. So I always thought Why to keep women in the box, you know? To keep them closed in a box and not to give them the freedom? And from there I felt that if you want to own her state from the beginning, if you want to own the woman, give her freedom. She will come to you like a free bird in her own well and full force, giving the man everything that she could have. But if you keep her in a prison and jailing her, you will jail her soul and you will have children that have jailed souls and the society will be jailed after that, you know? Because all the generations that would come they would have low standards of thinking, of following the whole sets of rules that we have from before. And life is changing, so I was waiting for an opportunity to bloom. That’s what happened in having some work, volunteer work at the beginning and then after having these organizations seeing the light, yah.
NP: The women that you helped from the beginning or, you know, from when you first started volunteering, these are women that you knew in your everyday life? I’m trying to imagine how you would have known these women, how you’d meet them, how you’d understand their situation?
LD: By… it’s not meeting them by living, like when you go to renew a passport, you would sit there with the women and maybe you will hear a couple of them talking, maybe you will hear her saying something and then try to bring something out of her, you would ask her about a question and then she will be open with everything that she has. Sometimes at the beginnings, I didn’t have the knowledge how to go about things, but sometimes I felt that only listening to them was so much support for them, listening to their lives, listening to what’s happening with their lives, listening to their problems, to what they face. When she hears herself talking also, it’s something for her to bring out, bring out some of the negative energy out, and then, she may reevaluate her situation, maybe she will have a thought, maybe I will think with her. It was not an organized thing to do, but it was like wherever I go, I keep searching for women in need.
NP: OK.
LD: Yah.
NP: I see, I see.
LD: Yah. It was not an organized thing to do. I always felt that hundreds of thousands of women are asking for some kind of help.
NP: Yah.
LD: Especially before, when I was a child, once I heard a lady burned herself, she put some gasoline or something and she burned herself because she had some problems with her husband. I thought that was so much cruel to put an end to her life in such a way because she has no right to have some kind of discussion or to have a conversation with a man.



TAPE 2

Lubna Dawanay: What kind of cruel society is that? Why won’t she leave him? Why she does not just shut the door and leave the house and go? Why did she stuck to him then she has to burn herself? So, that was something that triggered my thoughts from the beginning. It was so hard for a lady. I thought about that lady, you know? She was brave, I’m sure she was a brave lady but it was such a cruel environment for her to think that the only choice that she had was to burn herself. What kind of society we’re living in? So, you know? When you have a passion for something, you use your eyes and all your senses will try to attract all news about such issues, and they are plenty, believe me. Where ever you go you’ll find plenty of things that will break the heart. So, the need was there from the beginning, yah.
Nicole Pratt: Did your… did you have any role models that had been important to you in being… in giving service to other people and setting this example?
LD: No, there was no role model, but I worked with strong women that were a good support to give some kind of support and encouragement in keeping things going and knowing where we’re heading, so support was important as well. But no I didn’t have a role model since the beginning, no.
NP: How significant for you was studying and being at university? Did that have an impact on the way you’ve thought about things?
LD: Yah, I always thought that education is an important stop in human being that would give the base for a better sight of the future and where you’re heading. Maybe it’s not detailed, like, if it’s not law, it’s any other thing.
NP: Shall I pose? Sorry.
LD: Education is a very important factor in human life. It gives the energy, it gives the sight, it gives so much information about things, how it goes, but it’s not good enough. I mean, it’s a part of our lives; it gives us a base in our lives that you should continue and take the other steps following the education. So I thought it was an important thing to do, to start something that I would love to do, and I believed in continuous learning. I mean, it should not be for four years and that’s it, no, I think it’s something especially these days with the internet and all these humongous amount of information around us. It’s an ongoing process for all of us. I also encourage all the girls that I meat to keep… to keep their ongoing love for knowledge and information, even the poor ladies I gave lectures for in the association for Izdihar and other, even for the inmates. It’s something that you should keep; it’s a fire that you should keep inside you. Keep the fire of knowledge; keep the fire of enhancing ourselves by knowledge, by doing good things, by gaining always the right information. It’s good for women and for your children and for everybody. When you have the knowledge you have the power in fact. So this is something that I believed from the beginnings, yah.
NP: What is the thing that you like the most about the work that you do?
LD: I find my satisfaction in the diversity that happens in women’s lives. When I see that… when I speak and I look in their eyes, and after I see this look of sadness and brokenness, this look of… feeling that they are nothing, and then the sparkling of hope that I find in their eyes, even if it was a little thing to do, I feel “yes, we started the process”. Because the most important thing is that she feels that she’s empowered, she’s important, and she can do something, she could do something for her life. If she does it for her life and then everybody will benefit from enhancing her life, so this is really what I feel happy of doing. Sometimes I feel it with women in prison, and I know that they are helpless for some period of time, but I know that they have the positiveness in having something coming, they have the guts, they have the feeling that they will do something when they’re out, yah. I usually, these ladies, I see them in prison and I see them when they finish, and I do all what I can for their support to do something and to feel that there are people who would love to see you a better woman, see you in a better life, to see that you’re getting something from this life, it’s not only… life is not only about pain, about negativeness, about following the rules and regulations, about making the man happy when you follow the rules and regulations. There is something for yourself as a woman, as a creature of God, that God loves and respect. So, it makes a difference, making the difference is my pleasure.
NP: What’s the most difficult thing about the work that you do?
LD: When I’m helpless. When I see that the amount of traditions or the amount of poverty or the amount of negativeness in a woman that I cannot trigger anything in her in starting anything positive, it makes me sad. But I never stop thinking of how to go about it. There should be a way, there should be a key. Like every door has a key, every woman has a key. So I keep going, maybe talking to her, maybe asking about her, maybe, maybe I would have an inspiration of how to find the key to try with this woman or with this girl. Even the girls sometimes… in this organization also we have a class for the girls that left school from an early age, either with their own well, or from the family. I follow up with them in a way to keep a relation with them, to see if may be in the future they would need some kind of support or some kind of encouragement in a way or another. I always tell them that I am there if you need some kind of support. And… I think they would need it sometime, so I usually give them my phone number. Once in prison, we started a project in supporting inmates, and we have a big group of people from the ministries and from the NGOs, and I was talking to the inmates in front of these people, so the inmates asked me to give them my telephone number, mobile telephone number. And I said of course and I gave them my number. So one of them, one of the men, he came and he whispered in my ears “what you’re doing is very dangerous, you cannot do that”, “You cannot give your number, You give a number of a land line that they will not find anybody when they call”. Oh my God! This man was an employee in the Ministry of Social Development. I was shocked. Maybe I looked in his eyes for few moments, I don’t know how many moments it was, I didn’t believe it. You are a man who’s supposed to be the brave one. I am the woman who was usually less brave. You are the employee and I am an NGO Human right defenders. You are the one who have the prestige working for an organization which is the Ministry, and you can call whoever you want and ask for if you can call the prison, the police if some of them would call you. After all, I am a lawyer and I am… if any of them called me, maybe it will be harder for me to call the police. But you are whispering in my ears to give them a land line that nobody would answer! That was really shocking for me. You meat lots of people, sometimes you need the energy to convince these people of… being decent and believing in what you’re doing. Maybe they will not see it, but at least we should try, or I should say it loud and clear, yah.
NP: You mentioned before that your friends tell you you should take things easy now.
LD: Yes.
NP: Not give so much time and you must be so incredibly busy involved in three organizations and your law practice.
LD: yah.
NP: So, what is it that keeps you going, keeps you volunteering, being active?
LD: Yah, I cannot just drop what I’m doing, you know? I worked so hard to reach where I am. And I don’t mean where I am as a prestigious place, no. I reach where I am so the poor and needy would know me, I cannot just turn my back and relax and tell myself these are the good days that I should have some sunbath. No, I can’t. I feel that the need is there for so many people like me, tens if not hundreds of people, to make the diversity that I’m looking for, for my society, for women, for girls. So, it’s something that I didn’t think about, to stop doing it all, no. I take it as a joke when somebody tells me this, I laugh as it’s a joke. I hope that God will give me the energy and keep going for so many years to come to continue serving. Hopefully, thank you. Thank you.
NP: Is there anything that you want to tell me and I didn’t ask you? Anything that you think is important that I didn’t ask?
LD: No, I don’t have anything in mind, but you have my e-mail, you have my mobile, I have Viber. So, in case you have other questions that you did not have the chance to discuss, please don’t hesitate to come back to me anytime. Ok?
NP: Thank you.
LD: It was nice meeting you.
NP: You too.
LD: And I appreciate your work. It’s as important as well.