Lebanese American University


LAU ‘moves’ to combat gender inequality

The Institute for Women’s Studies in the Arab World joins forces with the Keserwany sisters to raise awareness about gender inequality.

“If you’ve seen injustice and you did not move, then through the years, what will improve?” This line is Lina Abirafeh’s favorite from the lyrics of ‘In My Hand’ by LAU student Lynn Jbeily, sung in the Lebanese dialect, about gender equality and female empowerment.

Speaking at the official launch of the song and the animated video that accompanies it, Abirafeh, director of LAU’s Institute for Women’s Studies in the Arab World, beamed with pride as she introduced Michelle and Noel Keserwany, the sisters who wrote the song and designed the illustrated characters used in the animation.

“We want to engage youths in a positive way without being dramatic or insulting anyone,” said Michelle, explaining the jovial music and humor that dominate the song and video clip despite the seriousness of the messages concerning harassment, unequal pay and discriminatory family laws, among others.

“We also wanted to highlight that women are already equal to men but it is the law that is flawed,” added Noel, referring to the use of both female and male characters supporting equality and the focus on the power of the ballot box. “No matter your passion, nothing will change without a change in the law.”

The Keserwany sisters have produced a number of videos promoting social change, all of which consisted of humor and satire. Their most recent and notable success was ‘Zaffatleh El Tarik’ (He Tarred My Road), a song about blind loyalty to political leaders. The video clip went viral, gaining over 40,000 views in its first two days online, and earned the “social change sisters” a strong following.

Their various videos have alluded to gentrification, machismo and political inertia, among other hot topics, but despite the strong messaging, the sisters have not received negative reviews or comments. “We work in a soft way, to avoid bringing out the Hulk in men,” laughs Michelle, the older of the two.

The sisters’ lighthearted approach to controversial issues is in fact what drew IWSAW to work with them. “We are so proud of this wonderful product,” said Abirafeh at the launch, held only hours before clips of the video were aired on various national TV channels. “It is positive and engaging without re-victimizing.”

The video is not part of a wider campaign but rather a tool meant to inspire youths across the region. With bold English and Arabic words showing within the animation, and English subtitles included as part of the original video design, the product is also universally attractive, said Abirafeh. “Even if you cannot hear or understand the song, the characters, actions and words in the animation deliver the message clearly.”

Before working on the music video, the team sought out other Arabic songs that addressed gender equality. They found only three, all of which either adopted a sad defeatist tone, or were translations of English songs. “There was nothing homegrown, indigenous to the environment and positive,” said Abirafeh. “There is nothing truly international like it.”



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