17th Karlsruhe Dialogues – Speakers

The ‘In-Between Society’: Tradition and Modernism in Conflict

Francesca Caferri



In her journalistic work, Francesca Caferri covers several topics considering world affairs, specialising in development issues and major international events, with an emphasis on the Middle East. She has worked for different Italian newspapers including Milano Finanza (1998) and Bloomberg Investimenti (1999) where she focused on international economics and finance. From 1999 to 2001, she covered humanitarian and European issues at CNN Italy.

From 2002 to 2006, Caferri was professor of international organisations and foreign affair politics at the ‘Istituto per la Formazione al Giornalismo’ in Urbino, Italy.

Since 2001, she has been taking charge of the world affairs section at La Repubblica in Rome, covering major international events in the Middle East, USA, Africa, Europe, and Latin America. Caferri is vice editor at La Repubblica.

During the last years, she has reported – among other locations – from Sri Lanka during the tsunami crisis (2005), from Lebanon during the Israel war (2006), from Pakistan in the aftermath of Benazir Bhutto’s killing (2007 and 2008), from Iraq for the fifth anniversary of the war (2008), and from Afghanistan in 2009. Caferri has travelled extensively in the Middle East, Asia, and Africa interviewing leading figures in the political and social field (most recently Shimon Peres, David Petraeus, Asif Ali Zardari, Desmond Tutu, Shirin Ebadi, Wangari Maathai, and the Dalai Lama).

In 2005, Caferri was awarded with the highest prize for Italian journalists (the Saint Vincent journalism prize) for reporting from Cuba during the first meeting of the Cuban opposition.



Our society stands between traditional values and local everyday routines on the one hand, and between rapidly changing attitudes and behaviours on the other hand. What is the role of women concerning these processes of change in the realm of civil society?

Let me talk about the Middle East and the broader Muslim world, as this is my area of knowledge. In these countries, the role of women in the process of change has been very important. They were in the front line of the revolutions that have shaped the new face of the region in 2011 – and they still are in these difficult moments, when some of the achievements of those revolutions are at risk.

But they have been out there for much longer than we think. They are at work in offices and in universities, in the squares where they demonstrate, and in the parliaments where they have managed to make laws more favourable to women. Not all these laws are applied, but now they have been written down on paper. And compared to the past, this is already a step forward. This movement can lay claim to its own origins, its own traditions, its own religion, and does not merely ape the Western world. Women are at the forefront of a movement that has many faces, but one that is succeeding in changing the face of the Muslim world, and will do so to an even greater extent in the future. Their challenge is to do it without losing their souls and traditions. I think it will be an interesting development to look at in the coming years.