Beginning in 1998, WLUML has organized a series of six Feminist Leadership Institutes. These Feminism in the Muslim World Leadership Institutes – held in a number of countries, including Turkey and Nigeria – were developed as an international program to bring together groups of young women leaders from various Muslim countries and communities: to enhance the effectivenes of the participants’ local organizing, to contribute to building the capacity of the transnational solidarity network, and to break isolation and reinforce solidarity. The Institutes were dedicated to the enhancement of women’s human rights and emphasized networking as a strategic tool to achieve effective feminist mobilization and promote gender justice.
Since the inception of the network, one of WLUML’s aims has been to challenge the misleading rhetoric of those who claim that feminism is a Western issue, concept and project. Through the Institutes, participants sought to reclaim feminism, looking at the history of feminism in Muslim countries and communities and examining the wide scope of feminist initiatives that currently exist in various Muslim contexts. These Institutes were also organized at a crucial time, given the rise of extreme politico-religious movements worldwide. This growth in fundamentalist ideologies, practices and power reinforces the crucial need for WLUML to link women from Muslim communities and countries, who are otherwise often isolated in their respective contexts.
Participants in the Institutes explored the ways in which women in Muslim contexts have engaged with varied traditions and cultural practices, and focused on feminist organizing for human rights education in Muslim countries and communities; the issues of diversity and commonalities within the Muslim world; and global solidarity and networking. At the same time, the Feminist Institutes emphasized leadership enhancement and human rights training.
WLUML collaborated with a number of local and global organizations in developing the series of Feminist Institutes, including Women for Women’s Human Rights (Istanbul, Turkey), the Center for Women’s Global Leadership, and BAOBAB for Women’s Human Rights (Lagos, Nigeria). Later Institutes evolved into a three-level program: national, regional and transnational/global.