Arab revolutions: A window of opportunity to use for women

The Konrad Adenauer Stiftung (KAS) held this Wednesday, Sept. 7 a dinner on the theme of women’s political participation and democratic transformation process in North Africa. Aside from the fact that none of the speakers were of North African origin, their interventions have found some interesting points about the wider subject of Arab revolution and the window of opportunity they represent to strengthen the role of women in society. However, it is an opportunity not to be missed.

In fact women are at the forefront of the revolutions as highlighted in the editorial of last March 11. Unfortunately, their participation in the revolutions does not constitute a gained participation in the transition process. Indeed, no woman is member of the Egyptian Constitutional Committee set up at the departure of Hosni Mubarak.

Mona Al Alami, director of the Jordanian Center for Civic Education Studies (JCCE) who spoke Wednesday at the KAS, underlined that the Tunisian and Egyptian examples are very important for all women in the Arab world. As with all other aspects of the revolution, successes in Tunisia and Egypt would be likely to encourage positive developments in other countries in revolution. While in Egypt, no significant improvement appears considering the status of women, the Tunisian electoral law designed to elect the Constituent Assembly introduced quotas of women on the lists. Roula Mikhael, director of the Lebanese Center for Civic Education, underlines that changes in the law do not necessarily change attitudes.

It is for this reason that women and all those working to strengthen their role in society must seize today’s opportunity. Arab societies need women in their democratic efforts. How can a society be called democratic if it does take into account half of its population?

At the KAS on Wednesday, the participants noted the importance of economic empowerment of women. Without financial independence, they will find difficulties to exercise a proper role in society. But prior to their financial independence, women’s access to education is also an essential element of their emancipation. Or as presented Suzan Aref, women living in the countryside do not have the opportunity either because of their remoteness, or because of tradition or religion often more present in rural areas. To overcome this obstacle, the Women Empowerment Organization (Iraq) which Susan is the Director of, has undertaken to train preachers, so that they could encourage women to undertake training. Thus religion which was a blocking factor has become a factor encouraging the education of women.

So many channels exist today and are run by organizations such as Mona, Suzan and Roula to strengthen the role of women. However women still have to struggle to reach the dividends of the revolutions that shook the Arab world. It is therefore essential for the organizations mobilizing for the rights of women to worki in networks, to exchange good practices and to reinforce each other, whether in the Arab world, but also between the two shores of the Mediterranean.

Nathalie Janne d’Othée