The Coalition of Women MPs from Arab Countries to Combat Violence against Women, in cooperation with the Westminster Foundation for Democracy, organized the third roundtable: (Opportunities and Recommendations for Achieving Electoral Success for Women). The roundtable hosted current and former female parliamentarians from Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, Iraq, Egypt, Jordan, Palestine and Lebanon, and a number of coalition members. At the beginning of the session, the head of the coalition, H.E. Wafaa Bani Mustafa, welcomed the attendees and reviewed the main themes of the session and the purpose of its convening, stressing that “all women’s issues are not the issues of a particular group, but rather are the issues of nations, especially when it comes to their political participation.” Bani Mustafa also welcomed the Minister of Culture, H.E. Haifa Al-Najjar, who stressed that “politics do not exist in isolation from culture and education and that culture and education cannot be separated from politics.” She indicated that “we must not engage in political action in isolation from our creative, cultural and innovative programmes.” She indicated that women should be trained on innovative and intellectual programs to help them invent new thinking patterns.
It is worth noting that this round table is the third, as two previous roundtables were held that hosted speakers from the regions of North Africa, the Levant and the Gulf to discuss the challenges and opportunities for women in elections. These roundtables will also enable the coalition to identify areas of focus in its future work plans.
The session dealt with three main topics: women’s challenges and their participation in political parties, electoral programs and their impact on women’s participation, and the role of the media in supporting women in elections. A number of participants presented their recommendations, which included the importance of providing incentives to political parties and the importance of equal access to resources and leadership positions within the parties. With regard to the quota, some of the attendees were with having a 50% percentage in the elected councils, while some supported the importance of the quality of women representatives rather than their numbers. The speakers also addressed the importance of adopting electoral programs that touch on major issues pertaining to marginalized individuals in the society and women’s issues, in addition to the importance of exploring the reasons behind restricting women to committees concerned with their issues only and banning them from other important committees. The attendees also stressed the importance of amending Curricula and the importance of changing the stereotypical image of women in the media and showing the image of strong women as decision-makers, combating cyber bullying and the importance of focusing on social networking sites. The attendees stressed the importance of building regional networks to train and support women in elections and to develop their skills.