HE Queen Rania of Jordan president of Arab Women’s Summit Improving the lives of Arab women is focus of summit [Archives:2002/46/Reportage]

November 11 2002

Under the theme “Arab Women, New Vision”, the second conference of the Arab Women’s Summit took place in Amman, between the 3rd and 4th of this month. The organizers of this conference were the Jordanian Preparation Committee for the Arab Women Summit, and the Arab Executive Committee for the conference. Among the organizers are HE Queen Rania Al-Abdulalah, Mrs Laila Sharaf, Women’s People’s Council (Egypt), Alhariri Institution (Lebanon), of the Arab League Mrs. Hana Masroor, and the coordinator of the conference.
HE Queen Rania headed the Summit this year, which was attended by Their Excellencies Mrs. Suzanne Mubarak first lady of Egypt and president of the First Summit, Mrs. Fatima Albasheer first lady of Sudan, Mrs. Indirah Lahood first lady of Lebanon, and Princess Lala Mariyam of Morocco. Mr. Amr Musa general secretariate of the Arab League also attended the conference.
Representing their countries, high level delegations participated in the summit as well; from Jordan, Egypt, Lebanon, Morocco, Sudan, Mauritania, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Djibouti, Oman, Yemen, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Iraq, Kuwait, Syria and Palestine.
The conference
The conference took place in the Information Palace and the Intercontinental Hotel in Amman. It was well attended by thousands of intellectuals and media representatives. It was inaugurated with reciting of the Holy Quran then speeches by the first ladies took place, followed by a speech delivered by Amr Musa general secretariate of the Arab League, then Mrs. Bahiya Alhariri of the Alhariri Institute and finally Dr. Farkhinda Hassan of the People’s Council.
In the second session of the first day, chairs of the delegations presented their speeches as well as the international communities.
This conference was aimed to follow the great efforts made in the first summit in 2000, and the five intellectual forums which were conducted since then. These forums discussed vital issues regarding Arab women where the first forum was under the title “Woman and Law” in Almanama- Bahrin, the second forum was titled “Woman and Politics” in Tunisia, third was regarding “Woman in Foreign Countries” in Amman – Jordan, fourth discussed “Woman and Media” in Abu Dhabi – UAE, and the last was conducted in Kuwait taking the issue of “Woman and Economics”.
The conference presented the following objectives:
– To build on the previous achievements.
– Use and approve strategic mechanisms that highlights women role in the Arabic Society in all aspects.
– To concentrate on the urgent high priority issues affecting the Arab Community generally and the Woman in it especially and to conduct a number of effective forums relating to the theme of this conference, “Arab Woman, New Vision”.
The second day was dedicated to discuss the outcomes of the preparation committee’s meeting and the Intellectual Forum which took place on the 2nd.
The conference was concluded by producing three main documents:
“From Summit to Summit” Report, “Strategies for Advancing of Arab Women” and “Amman Declaration”.
The Yemeni delegation:
The Yemeni delegation was headed by Dr. Wahiba Fare’a Human Rights Minister. And the delegation consisted of 6 more members: Mrs Hooria Mashhoor deputy of the Women’s National Committee, Mrs. Ramzia Aliryani of Ministry of Foreign Affair- Women Union, Dr. Aisha Mohammed Ali Mohammed consultant in Education Ministry, Mrs Maha Alburahi producer and presenter in channel-1 Yemeni TV, Miss Muna Alawi of the Human Rights Ministry and Nadia Alsakkaf of the Yemen Times.
In her speech, Dr. Fare’a thanked the organizing committee of the conference and especially HE Queen Rania of Jordan. She presented HE President Ali Abdulla Salih’s regards to the organizers and attendees and congratulated the committee for it’s efforts and achievements.
She proceeded to talk about the Yemeni Woman’s experience and the difficulties and achievements she has come across. Dr. Fare’a emphasized on the importance of combined work between all Arab nations in order to enhance and promote development in the Arab world, and she pointed out the importance of signing international agreements such as CEDAW, which relates to the elimination of discrimination against women, which Yemen had already signed and hence took a step forward in the advancing of the Women’s situation in Yemen. Dr. Fare’a said that the revising of many of the laws lately has helped in avoiding many of the legal problems women were suffering, especially Nationality, Prison laws, and a few articles in the personal status law. Also she stated that woman’s participation in most of the vital roles in the society has been concentrated on in Yemen, and that the Yemeni woman is on her way in achieving equity with her male partner, especially after the agreement on establishing the Arab Woman Organization by the Council of Ministers.
She highlighted the large number of female participation in the election registration currently taking place in Yemen. With this, following the promising examples of having 37 female members in the local councils and two members of parliament, a government minister, an ambassador and a number of under secretaries in different miniseries and leaders.
In her final statements Dr. Fare’a said that we need an active stance and not just to conduct conferences if we were to enhance the situation of women in all our countries. She pointed out that there are many unutilised resources available for our societies, and women being more than 50% in most of the Arab nations should not be ignored as productive agents. She also backed the initiatives taking place in this field and urged the unity in stand against internal and external threats. She finally saluted the Palestinian woman and reviled what is happening in the occupied land of Palestine and in Iraq and criticized the UN and American reaction towards the issues.
About what she hopes from the conference, Dr. Wahiba Fare’a told the Yemen Times that she is optimistic about the outcomes of the conference, and that she as a representative of Yemen supports such initiatives. Dr. Fare’a told the Yemen Times that she met with all the delegations on bilateral basis and discussed issues that concern the Arab world and Yemeni woman especially. She said that in her meeting with Mrs. Randa Barri, wife of Lebanese speaker of parliament, there has been a tentative agreement to send a number of trainees in physotherapy and handicapped treatment to Lebanon and benefit from the Lebanese experience in this field. She also met with the Jordanian Minister of Social Affairs and discussed topics of concern to the two countries.
Preparation committee meeting for the II conference:
The preparation committee of the conference chaired by Mrs. Laila Sharaf met one day before the conference so as to discuss the agenda and issues of the conference. There were three main themes discussed in the meeting: the “From Summit to Summit” report, “Strategies for Advancing of Arab Woman”, and “Amman Declaration” project.
The meeting was attended by Dr. Firkhinda Hassan representing the first summit and general secretariate of the national council in Egypt, who talked about the founding of the Arab Women Summit idea and creation of an Arabian institution to follow and execute the recommendations and decisions of the summit.
The first theme “From Summit to Summit”, conferred the results of the five intermediate forums. Revising the recommendations coming from the forums, the “Woman and Law” forum in Almanama- Bahrain April, 2001, recommended that personal status laws and regulations should be developed so as to protect women interests and rights, and removal of discrimination in the nationality and elections laws. And in the second forum “Woman and Politics” which took place in Tunisia, May 2001, recommendations were to increase woman representations in decision making positions and providing quotas for them in such fields. The third forum was regarding “Woman in Foreign Countries”, Amman – Jordan in September-October 2001, recommended strengthening migrated women’s relation with mother land, and building a complete information database about Arabs abroad and their details. Results of the fourth forum “Woman and Media” in Abu Dhabi – UAE, February 2002, stated that a correction of woman’s image in the media should be done, and more focus should be given to the Arab Woman achievements and promoting positive role of the Arab woman. The last forum “Woman and Economics” conducted in Kuwait in April 2002, recommended enhancing women’s role in education through rehabilitating them and abolishing illiteracy. It also stressed on true estimation and appreciation of woman’s contribution in local production. And participation of the civil societies in the economic development especially that concerned with women.
The second theme: “Strategies for Advancing of Arab Woman” was based on several aspects:
– Education
– Heath and environment.
– Media.
– Social spheres.
– Economic Spheres.
– Political Spheres and
– Legal Spheres.
The Arab Woman Organization which is currently under establishment is considered the key executing factor of these strategies.
The third theme being “Amman Declaration” and the “Concluding Statement” was a production of both the preparation committee meeting, and the recommendations from the Intellectual forum which took place on the sidelines of the conference. The declaration was submitted to a phrasing committee before it was authorized in the final sitting of the conference.
Amman Declaration concentrated on four points:
1. Current situation of the Arab woman and the instability of the political environment.
2. Condemning the Israeli occupation and highlighting the magnificent role which the Palestinian woman plays.
3. The civilized and humanitarian method of solving the conflicts and crises in the region comes only through abiding by the UN regulations and International Law with no bias or favoring.
4. The American Congress decision to approve Jerusalem as a capital for Israel is against the international laws and the UN regulations and is seen as an unaccepted breaching of human rights laws.
Of the recommendations which came in the Concluding Statement:
1. Approving the “From Summit to Summit” report.
2. Approving the “Strategies for Advancing of Arab Woman”.
3. Stressing on the importance of funding women development programs.
4. Correcting the Arab woman image in the media.
5. Enhancing and developing legislations which are to protect women rights and assure their role in decision making positions.
6. Encourage and facilitate woman’s representations in the parliaments.
7. Eradication of illiteracy and increasing awareness among women.
8. Creation of Fund for the Palestinian woman.
9. Calling on the UN and the Arab Social and Economic Development Fund to establish projects that aim to enhancing woman’s situation and providing her with abilities to take role in the advancing of the society.
Intellectual Forum
and the UNDP Report
Prior to the conference and simultaneously with the preparation meeting, an intellectual forum was conducted to discuss the UNDP Arab development Report. This forum took place one day before the conference and was headed by Dr. Reema Khalaf. It was divided into three topics: Building Human Capabilities, Utilizing Human Capabilities and Liberating Human Capabilities.
Presentations in this forum were delivered by several specialists and activists in Human Resources and development. In the first section of the forum, Miss Nada Alnashif of UNDP whose presentation stressed on health, environment and education as three pillars which any human development must be based on. Dr. Klovis Maqsood Arab League representative at the United Nations also delivered a speech on this topic saying that this UNDP report could be considered as an alarm bell in the Arab society and we must pay attention to the subjects approached in the report.
The second topic; “Utilizing Human Capabilities” was discussed through a presentation by Dr. Ghieth Hamdi Freez of UNDP, who talked about the importance of research and development and continuous development of science. He commented that in the Arab world, unfortunately so far very less importance given to these issues. He ventured then discussing the meaning of Humanitarian poverty, a concept which is now followed in UN assessments of societies. And he presented a number of solutions regarding these issues.
In the third session, “Liberating Human Capabilities”, Dr. Nadir Farajani preferred to call it Liberating Women”, because he insisted that the essence of a free society is free women. He discussed Human freedom from four aspects: Political freedom, economic freedom, social freedom and security. Talking about drawbacks of the Arab society as a whole he condemned the Crises in Palestine and Iraq. And the situation of women in the Arab world in general, “slaved mothers can not bring free children” he commented.
Among the participants in the forum, Mrs. Amat al-Aleem Alsusowa Yemen’s Ambassador to Holland and Belgium and post information minister was present. Miss Amal Albasha of the Arab Sisters Forum also attend the conference.
Mrs. Alsusowa participated with a statement in the forum in which she emphasized that knowledge of our deficiencies will not make a difference unless coupled with the will to change. She remarked that the report did not pay attention to the Arab nations individually but to the Arab society as a whole, which is a disadvantage if we were to analyze particularities of nations. She also pointed that in all the outcomes of the report, it seemed that the woman factor was always proved under developed. Taking the political situation in view, she encouraged a united stand where no internal conflicts should pose against humanitarian development, concluding that the Arab existence is actually threatened by not only external factors, but because of the holes within.
In an interview with the Yemen Times Mrs. Alsuswa welcomed the Arab Women Summit initiative and the institutional evolving of it. However, she accentuated that if these recommendations were not translated into action, then this conference and forum would be just another intellectual change of views gathering and they would not produce the results aimed at from it. When asked what she thought about this summit, she said mentioned that a good thing about it is that it discusses national issues which concern the local people. She was impressed by the large number or attendants and participants in this summit, and said that this is a good sign. “It is comforting to see so many women activist from all around the Arab world, this is a good sign”, she told the Yemen Times.
Talking about her personal experience as an activist from Yemen and the first female ambassador she said that it was tough to become what she is now, and tougher than that to keep going on, but she remarked that when discussing these woman development issues she can speak from her personal experiences and not second hand information. That is to say that these topics present themselves in her everyday life concerns in the work place. “I know what it means when women are not given their fair chance to produce, but I want to comment that it’s not just a woman’s concern, because the society is not built on one gender without the other.” She said.
The forum came out with many recommendations; which were presented as an input in the preparation committee meeting of the conference.
The recommendations were encapsulated in the three titles discussed in the forum:
Building capabilities:
* Reforming the educational system and expanding compulsory education to 10 years.
* Enhancing the quality of education and caring for the young talents.
* Concentrating on childhood and supporting children rehabilitation.
* Constructing and maintaining scheme which focus on health and environment
* Special catering to issue of minorities, especially children and women and guaranteeing a better social, economic and political environment for them.
* Creating an Arab Fund to support women activities and mini-scale projects.
* Stressing on the importance of Zakat (Islamic donations to the poor) in the social reforming.
Utilizing Capabilities:
* Importance of serious commitment from the decision makers.
* Encouraging scientific projects and investments.
* Spreading quality education and with highly advanced tools.
* Creating a technical and information system base and network for sustainable development.
* Activating economic growth in both private and public sectors and encouraging return of migrated capitals.
Liberating Capabilities:
* Expanding rights and freedom domains under the guidelines of laws and regulations.
* Honest and transparent representation of the public in the governments and parliaments.
* Demolishing all types of discrimination against women.
* Fighting the Israeli occupation in the Middle East.
* Allocating special quota for woman in the various sectors.
* Liberating media and providing access to information to all.