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We are Active Citizens



Working with the Centre for Transnational Development and Collaboration (CTDC)

By utnvmab, on 5 June 2018

Authors and group members
Lizzie Richards, Sydney Alexander, Diogo Vaz, Ruslan Seletskiy

About our organisation-

We are currently working in collaboration with the Centre for Transnational Development Collaboration (CTDC), which is an organisation that promotes gender equality, women’s rights, the rights of sexual minorities and marginalised groups. They have a particular focus on Arabic speaking countries such as the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. They are committed to having a non-imperialist approach in their work, and often try and support already existing grass roots organisations in their regions of interest. Their ultimate vison is a world where discrimination in regards to any aspect of individual identity (gender, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, age and disability) cease to exist.

Our experiences so far-

Last Wednesday we had our first placement at CTDC! We met the three people that work within the CTDC office, including the two women who set up the organisation Dr Nof Nasser-Eddin and Dr Nour Abu-Assab, and their projects assistant Aydan Greatrick. Their office is in the Arab-British Centre, and once we had arrived we all introduced ourselves briefly. They then outlined their organisation and some of its key goals/previous research. They explained to us that as well as the video that we are creating as part of the UCL programme, they would like us to do research for them specifically regarding laws and practises that restrict women’s gender, sexual and bodily rights in parts of the MENA region; they said that they would hope to use this research when talking to policy makers, outlining contexts of countries and to find any existing research gaps regarding this topic.

One of the most interesting discussions that came out of this day was regarding the term ‘LGBTQ’ and its lack of applicability in many Arab speaking countries. They explained to us that not only does the term segregate individuals into categories that they may not necessarily relate to (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer/Questioning) despite being somewhere on this spectrum in most western definitions, but the term can imply western imposition. When these terms are used in English in Arab speaking countries (done because of lack of translatability of many of these words into Arabic) they often appear westernised, and can thus be criticised by conservative opponents within said countries, and create friction within the community at large and the ‘LGBTQ’ community itself. They noted that to avoid such semantical issues, they tend to refer to ‘non normative’ sexualities and gender identities, as this provides an umbrella term that most individuals could relate to. This was a pretty enlightening talk about the problematic nature of a commonly used term in the west, and sparked ideas for our video, which we begun to plan properly the next day, the premise regarding people “getting out of a box” as a metaphor for the restrictiveness of labels.

In the days following this we have continued to outline our video, conduct research individually (that we split on the basis of countries), and attend the morning lectures, including a workshop with Amnesty international where again the concept of western imposition and cultural imperialism was debated extensively.

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