The Coalition of Women MPs from Arab Countries to Combat Violence against Women and the Westminster Foundation for Democracy organized the second roundtable on opportunities and challenges for women’s political participation in the Levant and the Gulf regions. Speakers from Qatar, Lebanon and Iraq participated, and the session was moderated by H.E. Reem Abu Hassan, Former Minister of Social Development.
Abu Hassan indicated that this is the second roundtable, as the coalition held the first round table in November of 2021 on the opportunities and challenges facing women’s political participation in the North African region, and hosted speakers from Egypt, Morocco and Algeria.
H.E. Wafaa Bani Mustafa, Minister of State for Legal Affairs, indicated that the Secretary-General of the Inter-Parliamentary Union announced in a press conference ahead of the International Women’s Day on March 8, 2021 that women, for the first time, represent more than a quarter of parliamentarians around the world, with a percentage of 25.5%.
She indicated that the numbers and statistics are still modest in terms of women’s political representation.
She pointed out the importance of reviewing electoral systems, regulating women’s participation in parties, and relying on clear bases when selecting women candidates to ensure that qualified women are not excluded. She indicated that the presence of positive discrimination is important, but the existence of such measures without a democratic law will not help women reach leadership positions. Regarding the latest constitutional amendments in Jordan, she indicated that Jordan enabled women to be included in the constitution for the first time by adding Jordanian Women to the title of Chapter Two, and that the state guarantees to enable women to play an active role in the society and protect them from all forms of violence and discrimination. She referred to some legislative amendments proposed by the Royal Committee to Modernize the Political System in Jordan, including recommending that the founders of the party should include 20% women; the party guarantee its affiliates of youth and women access to leadership positions; and enable young people, women, and persons with disabilities to access the party’s available resources in an equal and fair manner, especially during election campaigns.
H.E. Paula Yacoubian, a former member of the Lebanese Parliament, pointed out the importance of the presence of men in all activities related to discussing women’s rights, and stated that there is no way for women to reach leadership positions except through gender quota. She indicated that the quota corrects a historical mistake and thousands of years of discrimination represented in restricting women to stereotypical roles.
From Qatar, H.E. Sheikha bint Yousef Al-Jufairi, a member of the Shura Council, indicated that the Qatari constitution treats women and men equally in terms of their rights and duties. She pointed out that Qatari women contributed to indirect political action through active participation in public life, as they participated in all sectors of production and services. She pointed out that the active role of women in Qatar is due to the wise political leadership of His Highness Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, the Emir of the country, His Highness the Father Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani and the efforts of Her Highness Sheikha Moza bint Nasser.
She also indicated that thanks to the wise political will to empower women, two women were appointed last month to increase the number of women ministers to three. She pointed out that in the latest Shura Council elections, 28 women ran for elections and didn’t succeed, but according to the constitution, 15 members should be appointed by the Emir, as she was appointed together with Mrs. Hamda Al-Sulaiti, who won lately the position of the Vice-President of the Shura Council.
She indicated that she was a member of the municipal council and that the reason for her success in the municipal elections was her belief that there is nothing to prevent a woman from being a member of the municipal council and that the culture of society and their view of women must be changed. She emphasized that men’s view contributes to enhancing the role of women, and that adherence to laws, communication with constituencies before and after the electoral process, and solidarity among members are factors that contributed to her success.
She pointed out that the challenges are represented by the stereotypes associated with women’s role, and said, “The experience of women in politics is still shrouded in doubts in terms of their capabilities and eligibility.” “Even when it comes to voting, women tend to elect men.” She added.
She pointed to the importance of promoting the concept of citizenship and emphasizing that women’s political role is a duty and not an intellectual luxury. She provided a number of recommendations, including the need for specialized centres and media outlets to disseminate sound religious teachings that are consistent with the true Sharia rulings; the need to enact legislation that provides for positive discrimination for women to ensure the minimum level of representation in legislative, executive and judicial institutions; and the need to empower women professionally so that they can pay attention to public matters through assisting them in reconciling their family responsibilities and their job duties; and the need to supporting women in decision-making positions by providing them with information and advice. She added that gaining the support of the Qatari Businesswomen Association and involving them in public feminist activities to contribute their expertise and financial support is highly recommended besides eliminating the causes of competition and jealousy among pioneering women, and intensifying the punishment of those who bully women as public figures.
Her Excellency Rezan Sheikh Dler, a former member of the Iraqi parliament, indicated that the quota for women in Iraq is 25%, and that the number of women has increased from 86 to 97 in the current Iraqi parliament.
She indicated that among the opportunities for women is the existence of the quota, and stressed that the presence of a number of women is important, but the presence of women who work seriously and realistically and can legislate laws is also important. “This will enable them to remove discriminatory articles in the laws.” She said
The attendees expressed the importance of cooperation and solidarity among women’s networks to find out the challenges facing women in the elections. They pointed to the importance of changing the parties’ structure and changing the presence of women in party work, the importance of the media’s role in covering women candidates news, and the importance of benefiting from countries that have legislation that enhances women’s political role. The importance of emphasizing the complementary role of women rather than the competitive role with men, the importance of changing the societal culture, and the importance of enhancing the leadership image of women in the curricula.