Global Life Stories Project

Picture: Launch of Women stories, Women's lives: Male authority in the Muslim contexts, Rabat - Morocco (2016)

Musawah believes that the production and sharing of knowledge should be participatory, recognise non-traditional forms of expertise, and begin from contexts rather than texts.


Musawah's Global Life Stories Project, part of the Knowledge Building Initiatve on Qiwamah and Wilayah, is a participatory research project to document and analyse women's and men's life stories in relation to qiwamah and wilayah.

The project documented the lifes stories of Muslim women in ten countries (Bangladesh, Canada, Egypt, Gambia, Indonesia, Iran, Malaysia, Nigeria, Philippines and the United Kingdom) over a period of three years (January 2011 through December 2013).

The objectives of the Global Life Stories Project were to:

  • Better understand how women experience qiwamah and wilayah, to what degree there is a disconnect between textual (religious or legal) constructions of the concepts and lived realities, the range and multiple ways in which this disconnect is manifested in women's lives, and how it affects women's life choices and experiences.
  • Highlight the voices of Muslim women from different walks of life and diverse national contexts in order to reveal insights they have gained from their life experiences, recognise the alternative knowledge they can offer, and reflect their concerns and interests.
  • Collectively build alternative knowledge and develop a methodology that reflects our understanding of Islamic ethics and feminism as one way to counter patriarchal ethos that continues to inform Muslim family laws, practices and methods of scholarship.
  • Collectively learn and build capacity for all of the participants in the area of Muslim legal tradition, and particularly in new kind of Islamic feminist knowledge that revisits patriarchal interpretations and engages critically with the tradition.
  • Produce knowledge that would contribute to social change in the participating countries and to Musawah's activities and advocacy at a global level.

The project was guided by a set of Islamic ethics and feminist research principles that are consistent with Musawah's knowledge building approach: it was appreciative of alternative forms and sources of knowledge; focused on building relationships of trust, respect, care and reciprocity; participatory on multiple levels; reflective; and transformative.

An Indonesian team comprising of five activists from Alimat, an Indonesian coalition working on reforming religious knowledge to advance gender equality and justice, undertook a pilot documentation project in 2011 to develop and test the methodology. Musawah Advocates from the 10 participating countries further developed this methodology and framework during a Methodology workshop in April 2012. Over the next two years, the 10-country team implemented the project in their national contexts. Throughout the duration of the project, the methodology and the framework for analysis were further developed collectively through a series of workshops and regular Skype sessions. The country teams submitted their final reports in 2014. A Global Report that features socio-economic data, legal information, and life stories excerpts from each country will be finalised in 2015.

The main organisations, institutions and individuals that participated from the ten countries are:



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