Karama’s policy paper, fact sheet, and press release presented its solutions to the lack of net growth of women’s seats in governments noted between 2007 and 2008 in the Arab region, giving it the lowest global standing with regard to women’s equal representation in decision-making. Karama organized formal and informal communications and interventions at CSW to share its approach and to encourage high-level support of proposed initiatives.
To address the 2009 CSW Review Theme of equal participation in decision-making at all levels, the Karama delegation of 13 women from Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Somalia, Lebanon, and Morocco released a practical policy paper “Toward an enhanced participation for women in decision-making positions in the Arab World” that offered concrete strategies for governments, international agencies, NGOs and the private sector. Recommendations included adoption of political quotas for women accompanied by parliamentary and technology training, reform of electoral systems and party lists, allocation of resources to NGOs for leadership training, gender-sensitive budgeting, protection for women during the electoral process, enhancing women’s participation in non-governmental organizations represented at the UN, and launching national efforts to eradicate illiteracy and increase formal employment.
The strategies were discussed and debated at a high-level speakers’ panel co-sponsored by Karama and UNIFEM, an international press briefing, and meetings with the Special Advisor to the Secretary General on Gender Issues, the head of the New York Office of the UN High Commission on Human Rights, the UN Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women, and the Chair of the UN CEDAW Committee. The strong and diverse panel attendance—which included over 100 parliamentarians, NGO leaders, and representatives from government ministries and UN missions, plus two women from the Institute for Women’s Policy research who flew up from DC for the particular purpose of attending Karama’s panel—heard Karama explore solutions to women’s low political participation, including overturning discriminatory laws against women, offering an empowering education and training, providing security for women candidates, and enlisting the support of political parties through their women’s committees to unify for a quota or a law against domestic violence.
At CSW, Karama also targeted inequality between men and women in caretaking roles. To address the priority theme of the equal sharing of responsibilities between women and men, including caregiving in the context of HIV/AIDS, Karama collaborated with the Western Asia NGO Caucus at CSW to deliver an oral statement to the governments present at CSW. Read by Karama partner Azza Kamel of ACT Egypt, the statement proposed additions to the Agreed Conclusions to repeal discriminatory laws that hinder equal sharing of responsibility in caregiving, ensure that HIV-positive women are treated with dignity, and remove the stigma associated with HIV/AIDS; and to reaffirm Security Council General Resolutions 1325 and 1820 to ensure the protection of women living under armed conflict and occupation.
Karama’s approach in addressing CSW 2009 themes reflected its unique strategy of investigating and analyzing how all factors of society and levels of advocacy (local, national and international) can affect progress of the women’s movement in the Arab region. Successful in communicating the urgency of action and importance of employing a comprehensive set of approaches to address CSW themes, Karama now looks forward to following up on meetings and strategies devised at CSW and to broker new partnerships and sustainable initiatives.
Specifically Karama’s meetings with Yakin Erturk, UN Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women, and Rachel Miyanga, Special Advisor to the Secretary General on Gender Issues (OSAGI), as well as the International Women’s Tribune Center (IWTC) promoted future collaborations, events and interactions that will be supported by Karama and Karama partners.
Karama was invited by Yakin Erturk to take advantage of the UN’s procedural approach to ending gender discrimination by sending cases of specific laws that are discriminatory to her. The Special Rapporteur will then write formal complaints to the governments of concern and share the complaints with relevant committees on children’s rights, the convention against torture and human rights, the human rights committee, the CEDAW Committee. The Special Rapporteur also encouraged Karama to invite her to its 2009 regional meeting on the impact of armed conflict on violence against women, providing an opportunity for further exchange of support and information at the regional level. Finally, Karama is energized to disseminate her 2004 report on Violence against Women in Palestine via its websites, its partners, and through media contacts.
Karama’s meeting with Rachel Miyanga, Special Advisor to the Secretary General on Gender Issues also helped identify key action areas to be pursued over the next few months. Karama requested a female appointment to the Board of Inquiry for fact-finding mission on the invasion of Gaza that the UN is assembling. Karama will also work with OSAGI to pursue having a greater number of Arab women from the NGO sector represented on the Human Rights Committee, CEDAW Committee and government missions to CSW, Universal Periodic Review, and CEDAW sessions.
With regard to UN Security Council Resolution 1325, Karama will seek the adoption of national action plans by governments to implement the objective: increasing women’s role in peacemaking and conflict resolution activities. Karama will use Liberia’s action plan as a template of collaboration between government and civil society to develop concrete measures and steps to put Res. 1325 into its mandatory effect, including women in peace process. In support of OSAGI’s commitment to Res. 1325 and its tenth anniversary in 2010, Karama will support a mini campaign developed by OSAGI to take UN Security Council Resolution 1325 into action at national, regional and global levels. OSAGI is also coordinating the Security General’s UN-wide campaign to end violence against women, which spans 2008-2015. Karama will link its activities to the UN’s five outcomes of the campaign, such as ‘all countries should have national laws again violence against women by 2015.’ Finally, Karama will support OSAGI’s initiative to organize a high level ministerial dialogue for the MENA region on Resolution 1325.
A meeting and dialogue with the staff of the International Women’s Tribune Center helped Karama identify strong areas of very useful collaboration. Karama has the opportunity to contribute to a ‘women peacebuilders community of practice,’ gaining access to information from the UN’s permanent working group on Resolution 1325. Karama will share research from MENA region to be disseminated through the IWTC network and peace libraries.
Looking forward to CSW 2010—important because of the Beijing + 15 forum—Karama has identified additional resources and tools at the UN level. Through its meeting with IWTC, Karama learned of a little-used intervention called the ‘communication procedure’ which serves as a means for women who are from countries that have not ratified CEDAW or Optional Protocol in effect to submit complaints directly to the CSW on individual cases and discriminatory laws. The Division for the Advancement of Women will then raise these complaints directly to the governments present at CSW. Each region has a representative for the communication procedure, so Karama laid out a strategy to meet with the representative for the Arab region in advance of CSW 2010, following the protocol for submitting the complaint.
In their review of the CSW53 session, Karama delegates felt ready to target government missions to the UN and government delegations to CSW in order to influence their negotiations on the language of the Agreed Conclusions. At CSW54 in 2010, Karama will focus its efforts on the government delegations from Morocco, Jordan, Algeria or Lebanon, reaching out to them in advance of the session and seeking an open dialogue during the negotiations for the Agreed Conclusions on the 15th anniversary of the UN World Conference on Women.
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Supplemental materials presented by Karama at CSW53: