Under the patronage of Her Excellency Wafaa Bani Mustafa, Minister of State for Legal Affairs and on the occasion of the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence campaign, the Coalition of Women MPs from Arab Countries to Combat Violence against Women and UN Women organized a roundtable to discuss the challenges facing women in leadership positions in the Middle East and North Africa entitled: (Violence against Women in Politics) with the participation of speakers from Jordan, Palestine, Egypt, Tunisia and Morocco .
Dr. Salma Al-Nims, Secretary-General of the Jordanian National Comission for Women’s Affairs, indicated that the Arab region recorded the lowest participation of women in political life in the world, where the percentage of women’s representation in the region is only 15.2%, bearing in mind that the global average is 22.1%. She also praised the efforts of the Coalition of Women MPs from Arab Countries to Combat Violence against Women as a pioneer in facing political violence against women, where the coalition launched a campaign and a guide and formed a team to combat violence against women in public life.
Mr. Ziad Sheikh, Representative of UN Women, said: “UN Women will continue to support the Government of Jordan’s priorities to strengthen national protection mechanisms and advance policy reform.” “Likewise, UN Women will continue to work closely with civil society to build, at the community-level, responses that promote women’s meaningful and fair participation in public and political spaces.” He added. He stressed that women play a key role as candidates, leaders, voters and drivers of change, and that only through women’s meaningful political participation we can build a more equal society for all.
S.G. Ali Al-Khawaldeh, representing the Minister of Political and Parliamentary Affairs, stated that it is important to work on addressing the challenges facing women as candidates and in election, especially at the present time, and in line with the recommendations emanating from the Royal Committee to Modernize the Political System. He pointed out that there are many legislation that dealt with political violence against women, but it is necessary to raise awareness in society to confront these problems. Al-Khawaldeh pointed out that the challenges that women face in political life are similar in most Arab countries. He stressed the importance of having training and awareness programs for both men and women, in addition to the role of civil society and political parties in facing these issues and finding solutions and mechanisms for them, which enhances women’s participation in political and public life. Al-Khawaldeh pointed out that the ministry has many programs and future plans, including meetings and workshops in all governorates, in cooperation with many civil society institutions, which aim to increase women’s participation in political and public life and how to confront violence. He indicated that there will be awareness and educational publications on the importance of the participation of women and finding solutions that limit the phenomenon of violence against women in political life.
H.E. Wafa Bani Mustafa, affirmed that there is no real democracy without the full participation of women, and said: “A society that tries to move forward without benefiting from the energies of women will lose the race because it will not achieve by continuing jumping on one foot.” She indicated that we cannot move forward with our efforts to promote political participation without paying attention to violence against women in politics. She added that the Committee on the Status of Women, at its meeting in 2020, highlighted violence against women in politics. She emphasized that failure to address the issue of political violence will threat global efforts to bridge the gender gap in political empowerment, and it constitutes a more challenging environment that imposes additional costs on women, leading to the withdrawal of women from their positions and the alienation of future leaders.
H.E. Dina Al-Bashir, Member of the Jordanian House of Representatives, indicated that violence does not happen to elected women only, but also on female voters, as they are subject to pressure to choose candidates and during voting. She indicated that the challenges that women face before, during and after running for candidacy are intersecting and are represented in the absence of women’s political education and the lack of effective participation in parties, in addition to cyber bullying. She also stressed the importance of empowering women economically to be empowered politically, and referred to stereotypes related to women’s roles as one of the challenges women face in politics.
Dr. Sahar al-Qawasmi, a member of the Palestinian National Council, indicated that the patriarchal system still dominate the world and impose itself in the world of politics on both males and females alike. She indicated that what the Palestinian woman suffers from is multiplied due to the presence of many players, led by the occupation. She pointed out that when women want to enter the world of politics, they enter out of a desire to bring about change, while men enter with a desire to gain power.
Magda Al-Nuaishi, Vice-Chair of the Coalition of Women MPs from Arab Countries to Combat Violence against Women, confirmed that women face 3 challenges in political parties, which are the weak empowerment of women in the parties, as there is a weak representation of women in leadership positions within the parties. Secondly: the tendency to nominate female members of parliament from relatives of party leaders, which leads to the lack of qualified women in parliament, and third: the weak financial support to female party members. She indicated the importance of amending party laws, obligating parties to a percentage of no less than 35% of women representation, preventing the nomination of first-degree relatives for party leaders, and that parties should support female candidates at least 25% in the electoral campaigns.
Her Excellency Leila Haddad, from the Tunisian Parliament, indicated that the civil society in Tunisia played a major role in achieving legislative gains for women and that the representation of women at the parliament level declined from 2014 to 2019, where the percentage of women in 2014 was 33% whereas in 2019 the percentage of women Women was 26%. She referred to Law 58 of 2017 on eliminating violence against women, which contains Chapter 18 on political violence, its inclusion as a form of violence against women and its criminalization. She pointed out that there is no equal opportunity for men and women in electoral campaigns, and said: “Violence is directed against women in political positions, especially those who defend human rights and the gains achieved by women.”
H.E. Ibtisam Al-Azzawi, an elected member of the city council of Rabat and a former parliamentarian in Morocco, confirmed that the issue of violence against women in politics did not receive attention in the media like other types of violence. She added that there are those who are trying to block the way in the face of political actors, who gained their positions due to their status and achievements in their constituencies. She said:” This balance is difficult to reach and is built up by accumulation, but it may be ruined in a moment through malicious rumors and systematic campaigns, especially on social media.” She said, “There is still an important need to intensify efforts to make our political spaces safer for women.”