Karama was honored at the 7th Annual meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) on Wednesday for progress toward its 2009 Commitment to Action on Building Constituencies for Equality in the Middle East and North Africa. Founder and CEO Hibaaq Osman, in the presence of former U.S. President Bill Clinton and Her Majesty Queen Rania of Jordan, reported on Karama’s achievements in its work to end violence against women, change discriminatory laws and demand equal rights for women. With Karama’s support, Ms. Osman shared, our partners lobbied governments from Bahrain to Brussels over the last two years and built coalitions and campaigns to enact priority reforms. They have succeeded in changing up to five discriminatory laws and continue to see the effects of their work at the local and international level not only to end violence and discrimination against women, but to empower women to implement solutions of their own design for their advancement.
In light of the revolutions, where equality and human rights have been a major theme, Arab women have proven to global audiences what they have long been demonstrating locally: their courage and persistence at the forefront of the fight for their rights. “Women were in the streets,” Ms. Osman said. “Their bloodstains are still in Tahrir Square.” Karama has been working within this new political landscape across the region to ensure that their sacrifices do not go to waste, and that women are an integral and influential part of the next phase of regional development. “The work of Karama and its partners is absolutely in line with the goals of the revolution, all of it for dignity and for equality,” she said.
The progress report opened CGI’s Special Session: Voices for Change in the Middle East and North Africa where six panelists joined President Bill Clinton on stage for a discussion on youth activism, employment and the labor market, training and education, and above all, the freedom of expression.
During the discussion, youth activists—who proved their determination to create a better future for themselves and their families during the revolution—and their invaluable insight were emphasized. Her Highness Princess Ameerah Al-Taweel, also Vice Chairwoman of the Alwaleed Bin Talal Foundation, told CGI members, “My generation is very powerful. We shouldn’t be looked at as a threat, but as an opportunity. We are not problems to be solved, we’re problem solvers.”
Along with other panelists, she emphasized the need not only to listen to voices of her generation that proved to be so powerful during the revolution both over social media and in the streets in protest, but also to provide them with what they needed to organize and to rebuild. Mr. Kazem Hemeida of Dreamers of Tomorrow Association echoed this in saying, “If we just provide them with the tools, they will be able to build their futures.” When asked what he felt was most needed to change the landscape, he reiterated that there was only one investment that would make a critical difference and that was one in education.
As a group, the panelists highlighted the urgent need for civil society and NGOs, locally and internationally, to listen to the men and women on the ground and work with them to advance the strategies that they have developed and in which they believe. Similarly, President Clinton expressed, “The rest of us should not presume what to do, we should help them [those on the ground] figure out how to do.”
The Clinton Global Initiative held its annual meeting in New York in September 2011, bringing together heads of state, chief executives of companies, directors of major non-governmental organizations, and other global leaders for four days to discuss strategies, lessons, and priorities with regard to global reform and advancement, and make connections to contribute to a global movement for change. Karama has been a member since 2009 and has made progress toward two major Commitments to Action, including Building Constituencies for Equality in the Middle East and North Africa and Capacity-building for Women, Peace, and Security.
In closing her verbal report, Ms. Osman reminded CGI members and global audiences watching live that women would continue to fight for the region and for their own revolution. “Women have no intention to go back to their homes,” she said. “They are going to change the landscape of the Middle East, they are going to fight for their rights.”
Photo courtesy of Clinton Global Initiative.