Middle East and North Africa

Beijing+20 in Middle East and North Africa

Middle East and North Africa at night from space. Photo: NASA@flickr. Creative Commons License LogoThis image is licensed under Creative Commons License.

"I support the uprising of women in the Arab world because for twenty years I was not allowed to feel the wind in my hair and on my skin," wrote Dana Bakdounis from Syria on her facebook page in 2012. Since then a lot has happened in the region, but the Arab Spring has not brought a real breakthrough for women's rights. 20 years after the World Conference on Women in Beijing the social position of women in the Middle East and North Africa is still contested.

Although the protests of 2011 and 2012 were significantly driven by young women, the ensuing political transition processes have not led to a sustainable strength of women's rights. In some cases the situation has even worsened, as in Egypt, where the number of female parliamentarians was lower after the revolution than under former President Mubarak. Particularly in the context of the conflicts in Syria and Iraq sexual violence against women and girls remains a major challenge that has taken on a new dimension in the prevailing situation of change. Only in Tunisia women have successfully fought for a better establishment and implementation of their rights, for example by the new electoral law that requires equal representation of men and women on the party lists. But even here the women's movement always has to avert attacks from conservative powers. Throughout the region Islamist forces are on the rise who want to curtail women's rights or prevent them from gaining more rights.

 

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Last December, the Israeli Government decided to establish a governmental committee to create a National Action Plan in the spirit  of UN Security Council Resolution 1325. The resolution calls on UN member states to protect women from violence, increase the participation of diverse women in decision-making bodies, and for the prevention of armed conflict. This video and the text that follows tells the story of the journey of civil society NGOs to create an Action Plan for Israel.

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While legislative and institutional progresses have been made in Morroco, the implementations of Beijing +20 often remain inadequate and below the citizens’ expectations due to a lack of budgetary resources or political willingness.

CSW59 Closing Session
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The exceptional status of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict (which is one of the longstanding issues on the UN agenda) is one of the intriguing puzzles of current global feminist politics. Could it be that the situation of Palestinian women and girls under Israeli occupation is the most extreme breach of the Beijing Platform of Action?

Participants at the expert discussion on "Giving women a voice in peace talks - negotiating towards ending sexualized violence in the conflict regions of Syria and Iraq"
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“There is no plan” to involve women in peace talks – no plan and also little interest. Simone Habel gives a report from the international expert discussion on "giving women a voice in peace talks" on 27th November 2014.

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In the early 2000, the Collective for Research and Training on Development – Action, CRTD.A, and its network of feminist allies in the Arab region identified the denial of Arab women’s right to nationality to be a resilient form of state driven discrimination against women. How this reality changed during the last decade and what are the needed actions?  

Women celebrating
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During the Arab uprisings, an unprecedented number of women took to the streets, paving the way for a more important role in politics. However, in the transitional period that follows, they now have to fight against their exclusion from the political arena.

Cover-photo of "Perspectives #2 Mai 2011 People's Power - The Arab World in Revolt
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The Open Society Foundations’ Senior Program Officer on Women’s Rights in the Arab regional office in Amman in an interview on the role of women in the arab revolutions, their issues and needs, their ability to position themselves in the decision-making process, their main concerns and about fears and the role of islamists.

Good to Know

  • Progress of the World's Women 2015/2016: detailed report by the UN Women on the economical barriers facing women, and strategies of improving the political participation of women on a global scale. more>>
  • Beijing Platform for Action
    Read the 1995 Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action here
    [PDF].
    An overview the Platform's 12 critical areas of concern by the UN Women. more>>
  • Women in Armed Conflicts: in the context of the CSW 59, the GWI co-hosted an event at concering a pressing issue for the Platform - women in armed conflicts. more>>

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