“Kolena Laila” (We are all Laila) is an online initiative that aims to spread awareness about the Arab woman's state in the Middle East and North Africa. It started in Egypt four years ago, where bloggers devoted one day each year to talk about the subject. In its fourth year, it spread to include the Arab countries like Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Palestine, Morocco, Tunisia and many others. The blogosphere of each country addressed the problems and issues of their “Lailas” for a week spanning from December 24 to 31.
Below are some of the Lebanese bloggers’ contributions:
The real enemies are oppressive regimes, ignorance, harmful practices, intolerance. It is the man or government forcing women to cover themselves, otherwise they would be labeled as a “sluts” and punished, and it is the man asking his wife or girlfriend to dress in a very sexy way so he can show her off. The real enemy is simply not something that covers women’s heads.
من دون شكّ، إن خطايانا في العالم العربي لكثيرة، لكن خطيئتنا بحقّ الأنثى في مجتمعنا هي أسوأها. فنحن لا نعرف حلولاً وسط، فإمّا نريدها مريماً عذراءمسجونة بقماش أسود لا ترى النور ولا البشر، وإمّا نريدها مجدليّة عارية وSoit belle et tait toi على حدّ تعبير المثل الفرنسي (كوني جميلة واخرسي). وفي الحالتين، تبقى الأنثى بالنسبة لنا مجرّد جسد ولا ترتقي إلى رتبة إنسان. وفي الحالتين كذلك، يكون الذكر الذي يقف مشجّعاً لهذا الواقع رجلاً يخاف من الأنثى لأنه لا يرى أبعد من شهوته من دون أن يدري أنّه في هذه الحالة يعامل نفسه كذلك على أنّه مجرّد جسد لا يرتقي إلى رتبة إنسان.
Here it is, success measured in this society. But beware, for it is not by finding yourself just any husband. You needn't look for the love of your life, you needn't take too long at the risk of drying up your eggs, you needn't look for someone of another religion or another nationality no matter how compatible you might be. You need to look for money. Marry money. Yes, if you're a Lebanese woman, it's not enough to make your own. This can actually turn out to be a source of utmost pity. “Haram she's so career oriented, she's never going to find a husband!”
I thought social pressure for marriage starts for women in their early 30’s. But guess what! From the moment girls are born, they are brought up to “hope” and “dream” of the day they will get married (most women I know dream of this day). Marriage & childbearing is still regarded as the most rewarding achievement in the life of a woman, while all the other “career-related” achievements are only secondary and should be avoided if the financial situation allows it.
وبينت أرقام سوء معاملة العمالة الأجنبية في لبنان، حسب تقرير منظمة “هيون رايتس ووتش” نشر العام الماضي، عن أنّ عاملة أجنبيّة على الأقل تنتحر كل أسبوع لأسباب تعود إلى ظروف العمل وقساوته. وأشار التقرير إلى وجود 100 ألف عاملة يتعرضن للقدح والذم، 60 ألفا إلى 70 ألفا يتعرضن لعقاب جسدي، و10 إلى 20 ألفاً يتعرضن لاعتداء جسدي وجنسي.
Yes the “Lebanese Leila” gets a lot of laughs and criticism from us women for being silly, superficial, unambitious, short-sighted… But then again, doesn’t Laila always get what she wants effortlessly? And isn’t that what everyone, not just a marketer, wants? … Now you’re listening? Well, take notes…
My participation to Kolena Laila focuses on the double social pressure that every woman in our surroundings is faced with at some point in her life. Should she focus on her career and be a successful money-maker in a world where wealth is measured in cash? Or should she make herself pretty, find a husband and raise children? In most cases, women end up having to juggle between both aspects, making it an almost impossible mission.
Nadine rewrote the famous story[Ar] of “Little Red Riding Hood” (Her name is Laila in the Arabic version). In her version, Laila is the Arab feminism and the Media is the big bad wolf trying to suppress her ideas and freedom by manipulating the facts.
ليلى القرن الواحد وعشرين، صار مطلوب منّها اكتر بكتير، كان كل شيء لازم تعملو من قبل هوي تطبخ، تهتمّ بالبيت، وتربّي هل الاولاد، هلئ صار عندا “كرّير”، يلي هو شي ضروري لتنمية المرأة من الناحية الفكرية والشخصية.
Assaad participated by writing a poem entitled “بلادٌ تغتال الحب..”(Killing Love Countries)[Ar]:
أينَ للحبّ أن يعيش في بلادٍ تحترفُ قتل المشاعِر..
أينَ لعِصفورينِ أن يغرّدا سويّة..
بين قضبانٍ تملء البيوت والقصور والأكواخ.. والمحاكم والمخافِر..
في بلادٍ صار فيها الحبّ حراماً ..
وليس للعشقِ فيها سبيلاً سوى أن يُهاجِر..
بلاد تتزوّجُ نساؤها قسراً، وتنجب قسراً..
وتعيش في عبوديّة الزوجيّة قسراً… ولا تُكابِر..
Where can two birds sing together…
Behind bars in the houses, castles, cottages, courts and police stations..
In countries where love is a sin..
Where passion has no other choice but leaving…
In countries where women get married and have children against their wills..
Women who are treated as slaves in their marriage..and do not complain…
Ms. Tee gave her readers a recipe on how the Lebanese Laila can give her children the Lebanese citizenship should she get married to a non-Lebanese:
By a fluke of the system, I happen to be one of few Lebanese women who has a khanah of her own. A few years ago, I was discussing with a friend what might be a possible way to maintain this institutional independence should I get married to a Lebanese. Eventually I did not, so now I am extending the solution we came up with into a generic recipe for my other, new problem: giving the Lebanese citizenship to my future children.
Layal at “lebanese nightS” wrote how she's never good enough in the eyes of her society no matter how hard she works, just because she's a female. She blamed the women too for accepting this reality and not believing in themselves saying:
It’s not only me. It’s what every female goes through in our male dominant societies. The problem is that most of these women believe that. They accept being not good enough. They accept being treated as objects or even sex slaves. And they raise their girls to accept that too!