Middle East: Arab women want 'Arab spring' to provide space for their rights

world | May 18, 2012 | By Asia News

Beirut - Women's rights activists from around the region ended a two-day conference in Beirut yesterday agreeing that the focus should be on enshrining women's rights in national constitutions and having women sit in constitutional committees.

More than 50 participants from Egypt, Lebanon, Tunisia, Yemen, Iraq, Sudan, Morocco, Jordan, Libya and Palestine came together in Beirut to share strategies on social media, setting up networks among women's organisations and discussing areas where activists should target their focus: constitutions, grassroots outreach and education systems.

Participants discussed "the challenges facing Arab women through this transition period, especially with the increasing role of the fundamentalist movements," said Azza Kamel, president of Appropriate Communication Techniques for Development, an Egyptian NGO that focused on women's political development.

For many of those present, the most interesting aspect of the conference was the possibility of sharing experiences and learning from other women on how to face problems in different contexts.

"Even if we're from different cultures, even if we have different levels of power, we are all here because we want change," said Safa Rawieh, one of the conference presenters from Yemen who runs the Youth Leadership Development Foundation in Sanaa.

"When you hear how people in Morocco managed to change things or how people in Libya managed to do it, it's very good because you get ideas," she explained.

A participant from the Cairo-based New Woman Foundation, Amal Hadi, was especially interested in political activism and political parties.

 "Political parties are something we never had [in Egypt], so we are learning what to do from scratch," she said.

"After Tahrir, [. . .] "there is no turning back." Even though they may use "sexual violence against women, virginity tests and sexual harassment when they deal with protesters," women "are still going out on the street," she explained.




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