Women’s rights: From words to deeds [Archives:2005/900/Front Page]

December 5 2005

SANA'A, Dec. 4)A conference on the Women Rights in the Arab World: from Words to Deeds, concludes on Monday. The conference, which lasted for three days, involved 300 Arab and world women personalities interested in women and human rights. Among the attendants were ministers, MPs, civil community women leaders and representatives from academic institutions.

Women leaders from the European Union and the U.S. took part in the conference, which was also attended by Arab and European countries and ten European and western non-official organizations. The conference involved participants, women workers in the political or voluntarily works at the official and private levels.

In a statement to the Yemen Times, Ms Amatalalim Al-Soswa confirmed that the conference was held in coordination with the Yemeni Minister of Human Rights, the United Nations Development Program and some donor countries such as the Kingdom of the Netherlands.

The conference aimed to focus more on the status of women in the society and convey a picture about the nature and reality of women's situations in the Arab region, as well as enabling women to obtain their rights.

The conference covered three main themes, the first of which discussed women's political participation and the barriers that hinder the full participation of women in drawing identities of policies in the Arab world, whether this matter is related to elections, everyday life or issues of violence against women and how such violence can be stopped.

The second theme focused on legal support for women's participation in the judiciary as lawyers, judges, prosecution officers or beneficiaries of services of law and judiciary and how they can get these services easily. More emphasis was placed on greater barriers in the Arab countries that deny women the right of equity.

The third theme concentrated on the enhancement of women rights in the development process and economy and discussed the role of the Arab League in supporting and consolidating women rights in development and economy.

From the three themes, participants recognized the current situation in Yemen and the other Arab countries and how women's empowerment can be enhanced to obtain their rights. “By the end of the conference, we expect the issuance of the Sana'a declaration on woman rights, which is due to advocate empowerment of the Arab women to obtain their rights”, al-Soswa added.

Papers presented in the conference discussed a number of important issues concerned with the development of women and tackling obstacles that hinders women's participation in everyday life. They also reviewed successful experiences of women development in Europe, how these experiences can be utilized and how the concerned parties can bring more comprehensive relationship for enhancing woman rights.

Some of the papers focused on education in Yemen, the development issues and the indicators that lead to women's involvement in development.

One of the conference papers was presented by Ms. Haifa Abu Ghazalah, Regional Manager of the United Nations Woman Development Fund. In her paper on women's security and safety in the Arab region, she pointed out that the human security includes security, human rights and development. In the Arab region the human security falls into the political, social and economic securities, and that the political security requires the provision of safety at the national level and providing wider scope for the freedom of expression and women's participation in the political life.

According to Ms. Haifa Abu Ghazalah, women's political participation in the judiciary helps overcome discrimination against women and create a suitable climate to push women to the status of decision making. The millennium development goals stressed on gender equity and the empowerment of women through increasing representation of Arab women in parliaments and involving them in the political work as an integral part in the political reform process, she said.

The current situation includes a number of problems and obstacles that hampers improvement of women's situations, in addition to the conventions that restrict women's participation in the political life and the negative view born in the minds of party leaders on women's effective participation, poverty and the daily economic pressures. Overcoming these obstacles requires the integration of woman rights in different areas, and not only on the level of democratic countries.

The paper emphasized the social security is one of the human security components and it is not merely the provision of basic services for people, and it is insuring the ability to get these services.

The researcher affirmed that the economic security was subjected to several risks, one of them is the influence of globalization on the unequal economic opportunities, which have their impacts on women. Poor women suffer a lot due to the rapid economic changes.

The Arab region suffers from a shortage in the basic financial resources (oil and development assistances). The region also suffers from the falling demand for workforce, and the policy of privatization in the Arab countries at the expense of the public sector that cannot provide jobs for the increasing numbers of women workforce, and that women usually pursue activities, which are not lucrative.

The work paper made a mention of economic challenges that face women, such as the shortages of job opportunities and the weakness of women's participation in the public workforce despite the fact that there is a new generation of educated women. Additionally, lack of equity between men and women has its effects on the production of successful projects.

In her work paper on the role of the Arab League in supporting and enhancing the Arab women rights, Ms. Wadoda Badran, General Manager of the Arab Woman Organization in the Arab League, stressed the Arab League works, through several institutions and parties, on deepening women rights and empowering her.

She mentioned the Arab League has the view that achieving the comprehensive reform and suggesting solutions to social and economic issues in the Arab society stipulates the participation of women in different areas of development. She added there should be a number of suggestions, strategies and plans to upgrade the status of women, activate their role and make them equal to men. There should be coordination with a number of governmental, international and regional organizations and civil community organizations to specify the work mechanisms and improve their performance.

Many activities for activating women role have been implemented such as the issuance of a unified Arab report to record the situations of Arab women. This report is due to have the function of a database on the Arab woman and efforts pursued by the Arab countries to implement the Arab work plans and international work requirements.

An Arab conference on woman and poverty was held through the joint cooperation of the General Secretariat, the United Nations Development Programs and the United Nations Population Fund. Besides, there was the issuance of a guide on woman situation in the Arab legislations. This guide review the legal situations of the Arab woman in order to be a basic database and reference for the Arab countries when they want to suggest, modify or unify any women-related legislations.

The Yemeni papers and studies revealed numerous challenges and obstacles facing the Yemeni woman. A field study by a number of researchers on Yemeni woman rights in development diagnosed the current situation of the Yemeni woman and its role in development in many areas such as education, economic empowerment, the health situation and family planning.

Despite the Yemeni efforts for achieving better education for girls, assessing the reality of girl's education in Yemen reveals the existence of a sharp ambivalence between males and females enrolled in different educational stages in favor of the males. This means the gap is still big between the two genders, which is attributed to the influence of the traditional culture based on the discrimination between the two genders. This culture separates females from the everyday life, particularly in the rural areas.

The high illiteracy rate among women is attributed to numerous factors, among them the depriving Yemeni women of their rights, the spread of poverty among women in the rural areas, the pursuit of social traditions, conventions and concepts that hinder women progress in education, early marriage and housewifery.

Researchers explored that the sector of agriculture is the most important one to women, and that factors, which affects women economic contribution are reflected in the high fertility rate. Early marriage has its effects on woman's participation in the economic activities.

The conference has been regarded as an important step for discussing the issues and problems that face women in the Arab world, while some donor countries hold the view that their help will be confined to key factors such as the empowerment of women in different areas and respect for rights and freedoms.