I have been an observer and student of politics, including theories and ideologies, for several years without feeling a belief in or belonging to any of them, or a ‘cause’ for that matter. I was a typical victim of blind ambition so to speak. In this sense, my internship at Kayan was a somewhat selfish experiment: could I see myself as a ‘feminist’ – a term so ‘outdated’ and frowned upon in Europe that even my own relatives omitted it from the address when sending me letters to Kayan?
It turns out I believe in feminism and am very proud to say that I have learned about it in the most colourful and inspiring way: I have learned about it from Palestinian, Jewish, and Bedouin women with diverse family, political, and religious backgrounds as well as sexual orientations. I believe I understood the goal of feminism; to remove gender as an obstacle of any form of human agency. However, I had little awareness of the dire need to mainstream this idea and its realisation not only in specific regions but across the globe. What I did not know and what struck me most from my conversations with feminist friends and colleagues is that feminism, when practised truthfully, means the removal of any kind of obstacle of human agency.
Feminism, to me, which reflects Kayan’s feminism, is this type of mindset and the actions that come with it. Naturally, the details vary. We are still individuals, with the freedom and responsibility to pick and chose the ideals we feel are appropriate from certain belief sets, be they of religious, ideological, or other nature. In fact, anything else would make paradigms a dull and even dangerous endeavour. Ideally, we both personalise them, on the one hand, and improve and strengthen our own personalities by adopting certain ideals provided by them, on the other. Feminism certainly is a two-way street at least.
In addition to learning about civil society work in the fields of feminism, development and public outreach, working with Kayan has allowed me to conduct research on the topic of Palestinian feminists’ perceptions of citizenship in Israel – a topic very close to my heart, which I will continue to explore within the framework of a PhD. Something I learned from Palestinian feminism in Israel is that true liberation of a people can only be realised on both the national and social level.
Personally, academically, and professionally I have developed a deep-rooted respect and admiration for Palestinian feminists’ inexhaustible drive to change society (including themselves and each other) for the better. Despite the fact that, personally, I lack the strong local sense of physical belonging to one family, place, or community, ‘Haifan feminism’ has come to feel like a safe haven for me and it has opened my eyes to many noble pursuits which I’m sure I will continue to support in the future.
Kim Jezabel Zinngrebe has interned with Kayan in the field of Development and Public Outreach from September 2011 until February 2012. She holds an MSc in ‘Politics and Government in the European Union’ from the London School of Economics and an MPhil in ‘Modern Middle Eastern Studies’ from the University of Oxford. Her research interests include the perception of citizenship among Palestinian feminists in Israel, a subject which she plans to explore further in the framework of a PhD in Gender Studies at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London.