The Coalition, in cooperation with Equality Now, organized a workshop on “Legal Discrimination against Women and Girls in the Levant and the Arab Gulf: Future Priorities and Mechanisms” A number of representatives of civil society organizations from Kuwait, Bahrain, Kurdistan, Iraq and Palestine participated in the workshop, in addition to Judge Mounia Ammar, counselor at the Court of Cassation in Tunisia. The workshop was opened with a speech by MP. Wafa Bani Mustafa, Chairperson of the Coalition of Women MPs from the Arab Countries to Combat Violence against Women, where she assured the attendees that the Coalition is aware of the importance of the role of civil society organizations that are considered the artery of the legislative and observatory work of the parliamentarians, and provide parliamentarians with information and statistics. She pointed out that, according to a World Bank study entitled (Women, Business and Law 2020), women obtain three quarters of the legal rights granted to men in the world. She pointed out that despite the signing by the majority of Arab countries on CEDAW convention, the challenges facing women defenders of women’s rights in the Arab region are still great, among them: the prevailing view of society towards women, the regional challenges and conflicts that the region is going through, in addition to the economic recession that contributed to dealing with achieving justice for women as a secondary issue. She stressed the importance of the participation of the State of Tunisia in the the workshop, as Tunisia has made progress in the field of women’s rights. She indicated that, according to an evaluation presented by ESCWA in cooperation with UNWomen, UNFPA and UNDP in 2019 on laws affecting gender equality in 18 Arab countries, entitled: “Justice and gender equality before the law”, Arab countries need 153 years to bridge the gender gap completely.
Dima Dabous, the Director of MENA Office at Equality Now, pointed out that the aim of the workshop is to identify laws in participating countries that need to be modified or repealed, challenges facing the process of changing laws, partnerships or networks in the region, challenges facing civil society, and come up with proposed recommendations to work more effectively on changing discriminatory laws.
His Excellency Eng. Musa Al-Maaita, Chairman of the Inter Ministerial Committee for the Empowerment of Women, pointed out that Jordan is the first to adopt the quota system, where the percentage of the quota for women in the parliament is 15%, and the percentage in municipal councils is 25%. He pointed out that in the Local Administration Law, the law is being amended so that the quota for women becomes 50%, stressing that this matter is still a proposal and has not yet been approved by the Council of Ministers.He also pointed out to the presence of 178 female judges until the end of 2016.
On the economic empowerment of women, he referred to recent amendments to some laws including the retirement and Social security laws, enacting a flexible work system, and mandating the establishment of nurseries. He referred to the work on compulsory bank transfers for teachers salaries, to ensure that private schools abide by the minimum wages.
Senator Haifa Al-Najjar, Rapporteur of the Labor Committee in the Senate, pointed out the importance of involving youth in meetings related to women’s issues. Her Excellency Mrs. Rabha Al-Dabbas, Chairperson of the Women’s Committee in the Senate, stressed the importance of starting hard work and taking practical steps and said: “We are convinced of women’s issues but we must work to influence those who are not convinced, “she said, stressing that the media plays a major role in highlighting women’s issues. H.E. Asma Khader, President of Tadamon, indicated that the time has come to find solutions and search for factors and strategies through which solutions can be found and said: “Amending laws helps us to modify the conditions of women.”
Judge Monia Ammar pointed out the need to start strategic planning and said: “We must stop extrapolating what is there and start thinking about strategic planning.” Stressing that the impact of feminist movement started in the past is weak in reality. On the Tunisian experience, she indicated that Habib Bourguiba relied on the reform movement in Tunisia on women as an element in the reform of society. “He forced families to educate women compulsively and for free, made the school a big vital cell in which food, clothing and treatment were secured, and he worked on educating families regarding birth control as he made the social workers visit each family to guide women on this matter.” She explained.
Participants concluded focusing on the importance of forming sustainable alliances and networks to exchange experiences, the importance of involving youth in meetings related to women’s rights, the importance of working to educate the society regarding the need to eliminate forms of discrimination against women, the importance of the role of official and private media in removing the forms of discrimination and bullying, the need to amend personal status laws, especially the issue of divorce and the sharing of property after divorce, and the importance of networking with stakeholders who advocate for women’s issues, including politicians, clerics and the media.
The attendees indicated that the challenges facing civil society organizations in the Arab region differ from one country to another, but the most prominent in all countries is the difficulty in obtaining funding resources and the complex procedures by ministries to obtain them.