Algerian women in movement: Three waves of feminist activism
The Middle East and North Africa region is better known for its authoritarian forms of governance and for Islamist movements than it is for women’s movements. Yet the region is rife with women’s organizations, from development-oriented nongovernmental and service organizations to policy institutes and women’s rights groups. This chapter examines three waves of Algerian women’s collective action since the 1980s: against the new family code in the immediate post-Boumédienne period; against the Islamist movement and le terrorisme of the 1990s; and for gender justice in the new millennium. Little known outside a relatively restricted francophone community of scholar-activists, the Algerian women’s movement not only undermines continued stereotypes about the absence of independent mobilizations in the Arab region but also confirms the main postulates of social movement theories. The chapter elucidates the links among demographic changes, the “political opportunity structure,” the articulation of grievances, and the emergence of women’s mobilizations. Characteristics of the Algerian women’s movement include a propensity to build and sustain organizations and networks; effective coalition-building, both within Algeria and transnationally (especially within the Maghreb); engagement with government, domestic policies and laws, and the global women’s rights agenda; and a rather remarkable fearlessness.