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Real Talk: The Lives of Arab Women

Sydney-based author Amal Awad was fed up with the cliched depictions of Arab women by Western writers, so she travelled across Australia and the Middle East to speak directly with women of Arab heritage from all over the region about their own lives and their own opinions.

The result is a book, Beyond Veiled Cliches: The Real Lives of Arab Women, containing interviews with 60 women from very different backgrounds: lawyers, professors, ambassadors, activists, physicians – even a Lebanese clown. The women spoke about all sorts of issues affecting their lives from justice to history to sex and, yes, the veil.

In a culturally diverse region, what experiences do women across the Middle East have in common? How do both Muslim and non-Muslim Arab women feel about stereotypes of the Middle East? What kinds of progress are being made to improve the lives of Arab women by Arab women and how do these advancements look from the perspective of the women living them? With interviewee Joumanah El Matrah, Awad will discuss her travels and the candid and creative women she met along the way.


Portrait of Amal Awad

Amal Awad

Amal Awad is a Sydney-based writer, journalist, author and public speaker. Amal is a regular contributor to SBS Life, and has written for ELLE, Frankie, Daily Life, Sheilas and Junkee. Amal is also a casual producer for ABC Radio National.

Amal’s fourth book is called Beyond Veiled Clichés: The Real Lives of Arab Women, a work of non-fiction that explores the lives of Arab women both in Australia and in the Arab world.

Joumanah El Matrah

Joumanah El Matrah is the Executive Director of the Islamic Women’s Welfare Council of Victoria and has published a number of works on Muslim women in Australia. Trained as a psychologist, she's a community development worker and has been active in the community welfare sector for ten years. She was a member of the Ministerial Advisory Council for Cultural and Linguistic Diversity, Department of Human Services, Victorian Government and one of the directors for the Victorian Women’s Trust.

She was also an invited participant to the Ninth Annual Global Women’s Leadership Institute; Realising the Vision of Women’s Human Rights: Understanding the Intersections of Racism, Sexism and Other Oppressions.  Ms. El Matrah is also a Churchill Fellow, researching the impact of the human rights movement on Muslim women internationally. She has been a member of numerous committees and boards, and recently she co-chaired the Muslim Reference Group’s subcommittee, Education and Training of Clerics and Lay Teachers and Leaders.

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