As part of the renewal of its cultural programming in connection with the vast movement of citizen mobilization born on October 17, the French Institute of Lebanon organized, at the end of February 2020, during four days, with Lebanese partners of the civil society and with the support of the French Institute (Fonds d'Alembert) and several French Institutes of the region, the first edition of an "international festival of feminisms" in Beirut

Bringing together, for 4 days, at the French Institute of Lebanon in Beirut, feminist activists, thinkers and artists from the Arab world, France and Canada, and an audience of over 1300 people, the International Feminism Festival provided a public forum for the debate on women's rights and a showcase for the young Lebanese artistic scene, in a festive and committed form. The festival was co-organised with actress and feminist activist Joumana Haddad, as well as three other Lebanese partners (Lebanon Support, The Arab Institute for Women, the Institute of Political Sciences of Saint Joseph University).

The participation of a dozen guests from the academic world and civil society, mostly from the Arab world, made it possible to deconstruct a certain number of preconceived ideas, to exchange on the ways and means implemented in the different countries of the region to deconstruct societies that are still strongly patriarchal and to create links between feminists of the region.

Through round tables, conferences and workshops(full programme here), this first edition, deliberately generalist, allowed to come back to three themes:

1) the rich and plural history of forms of feminism, with a focus on the Arab world;

2) the means used in the world and particularly in the Arab world to challenge the legal and societal foundations of patriarchy ;

3) the diversity of forms of contemporary feminist engagement, in the context of the Arab springs and counter-springs.

The round tables covered a variety of topics:

  • Feminisms - One hundred years of protest: continuities, divergences and mutations
  • Breaking out of patriarchal societies: cross-fertilisation of experiences, instructions for use
  • Feminism and human rights: a common struggle?
  • Men & feminists: an unlikely commitment?
  • Feminisms in the performing arts
  • Contemporary challenges: the role of women in revolutions and social movements today

They were complemented by a series of workshops addressing sexism in media vocabulary and legal tools for gender equality.

An exceptional artistic programme punctuated the four days of the festival with, among other things, artistic impromptus presented by Lebanese artists (readings, theatrical performances), the preview screening of the documentary event Women by Anastasia Mikova and Yann Arthus-Bertrand, the one-woman show "L'événement" by Annie Ernaux performed by Françoise Gillard, a member of the Comédie française, a conference and an exhibition by the internationally renowned French artist ORLAN .

Some fifteen media partners contributed to the attendance and media visibility of this first edition, including ARTE, which came to make a report on Joumana Haddad. This event has also already acquired a good visibility on social networks.

As with the Night of Ideas, this event allowed for a profound renewal of the audience of the French Institute of Lebanon: many women, young people, non-French speakers, in addition to the usual audience.

Due to the success of this event, the French Institute of Lebanon has decided to continue it. The second edition is scheduled for November 2021 and will focus on the situation of women in times of crisis and on the issue of the female body.

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Project leader: Alexandre Lemasson, Attaché for books and debate at the French Institute of Lebanon