As we turn to another year, we at Karama would like to celebrate accomplishments of the past year and share our inspirations for the future. In so many ways, 2010 has brought our vision of advocacy to fruition, from the implementation of local initiatives funded by Karama to regional and international consultations gathering experts, activists, and changemakers to develop strategies and long-term plans that reinforce and empower the rights of women. We have watched our network grow, our partners take ownership of international advocacy mechanisms, and women throughout the region gain confidence, dignity, and power in their daily lives as community members, leaders, educators, innovators, entrepreneurs, activists, and mothers.
We remain proud of the uniqueness of Karama’s approach and framework for addressing violence against women. In addition to activist organizations, Karama continues to engage men and women from varied sectors and areas of the region, including parliamentarians, experts, academics, lawyers, law enforcement, doctors, counselors, community leaders, women survivors of violence, and most of all, ordinary women. Through creation of dialogue between diverse groups of people, we have been able to develop thoughtful, comprehensive interventions which acknowledge the inherent complexity involved in changing discriminatory policies, infrastructures, and ways of thinking. This dialogue always begins with grassroots activists, who present the priorities and concerns for Arab women on the ground, and is elevated to fuel strategic coordination at the regional level, and exert collective pressure to lobby for reform in international fora, which in turn influences policymaking at the national level.
International Advocacy Mechanisms
Karama increased the international advocacy opportunities for its partners to elevate the meaning of written commitments and ensure these international agreements deliver real impact. Thirty-nine partners participated at the UPR and CEDAW Review Sessions in Geneva and the Beijing+15 session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) in New York. Delegations to the UPR and CEDAW review sessions supporting stakeholder reports submitted by partners in Egypt and Iraq earned notable results.
Our UPR stakeholder report for Iraq helped escalate priority-concern on women and girls and was adopted into the UN’s compilation report which Member States used to form their own recommendations to Iraq’s government. In Iraq’s response, state officials announced that Iraq would remove its reservation on Article 9 of CEDAW, which promotes the equal rights of women to pass on nationality to their children and helps prevent discrimination and statelessness of children born to foreign fathers. Karama has followed up with the CEDAW Secretariat and the Human Rights Council to monitor fulfillment of this promise.
In late February through early March, the UN’s 54th session of CSW provided Karama partners and staff a benchmark opportunity to further engage international mechanisms on gender equality. The historic anniversaries of the MDGs, CEDAW, and the Beijing Platform for Action invited strategic reflection and analysis of key articles, challenges to implementation, progress within the region, and opportunities to advance implementation of these key conventions. Thirty-two women from 10 countries of the Arab region participated as delegates, winning approval to present the Middle East Caucus’ Oral Statement to the assembled Member States in session at CSW, presenting discussion of women in conflict and refugees during the high-level plenary, and taking meetings with the Special Advisor to the Secretary General on Gender Issues and with officers of the Special Rapporteurs on Trafficking and Violence against Women. Delegates also exchanged strategic information on the status of women and laws within the Middle East and North Africa at Karama’s one-day conference convening nearly 100 activists, leaders, members and advisors of governments, and press from across the globe. Speakers included women leaders of UN agencies including ESCWA and UNESCO, leading NGOs from Arab states, and several female parliamentarians. The event also included presentation of the Regional Beijing+15 Shadow Report, adopted at the 2009 Regional Consultation on Beijing+15 organized by the Alliance for Arab Women, Karama, and UNIFEM Egypt in Cairo with assessment and recommendations from 250 current NGO leaders on the 12 critical areas of concern.
Implementing Locally-designed Solutions Alongside Our Partners
Karama supported partners in the implementation, completion, and launch of major initiatives and their results.
Project highlights from some of our partners:
- 80 women victims of violence gained legal and psychological counselling and support through Karama partner, the El Nadim Center
- Karama’s Media and Culture realms, led by ACT Egypt and the Heya Foundation respectively, utilized popular theatre and film to debunk violence stereotypes and combat negative images of women victims of violence, specifically through adaptation of a traditional puppetry format and production of a vivid docudrama film. In addition to sharing the film, the media realm will publish its script to further engender dialogues and combat cultural stereotypes and stigma on violence against women.
- Sixty-seven Egyptian NGOs were surveyed for a statistical database of adult education programs and services provided by these organizations, documenting their needs as well as their reach. Twenty-seven program officers responsible for literacy projects, adult education in nine governates participated in a workshop launching a lifeskills training manual which was held by Karama’s education realm, coordinated by the Women and Society Association.
- The legal realm, coordinated by the Egyptian Association for Family Development, engaged 448 women and men in awareness-raising seminars focused on the legal dimensions and impact of VAW in Cairo and Alexandria, organized roundtables for 31 lawyers, and compiled surveys on 100 cases of VAW in Cairo and Alexandria from 10 support centers.
- The Egyptian Association for Community Participation Enhancement headed the economic realm in launching research on the economic cost of violence against women. Roundtables and trainings were held to identify researchers and build their capacity for data collection. The completed study and analysis of its results will be published in 2011 and will serve as the basis for policy recommendations, media outreach, and awareness-raising.
- New instruments with which to protect women from continued family violence were shared and discussed using tools such as posters and brochures, developed as part of the Karamati ‘My Dignity’ campaign in Jordan. Materials were translated into Braille for accessibility by blind women, who shared their unique experience with abuse and violence. The corresponding workshops were held for those with a direct role in handling cases of family violence, such as activists working in the field of human rights, land awyers, doctors, and police officers working at the Family Protection Department. The trainings were publicized in local communities through media including The Jordan Times The Jordan Times and six6 other newspapers.
- Jordan’s political realm, led by the Arab Women Association, published a landmark field study of women citizens married to non-Jordanians, The data refuted the government’s stated concern that a high number of these marriages are to Palestinian men, and exposed a critical mass of stateless children living in Mafraq Governorate. In the study 65.96% of respondents expressed their belief that depriving their children of Jordanian nationality is a form of discrimination and violence against women and children, calling on the Jordanian government to lift its reservation on Article 9, paragraph 2 of CEDAW.
- Two hundred women developed greater awareness of their rights conferred by CEDAW and national legislation, such as the Labor Law and Social Security, and the importance of women’s participation in vocational training programs through trainings and seminars held by the Economic realm. A brochure on women’s rights under Jordan’s Labor Law was printed and distributed.
- A study in Jordan surveyed 300 women victims of abuse and discrimination, to identify the extent of economic violence among what they faced. The statistics showed that women who were housewives or without higher education were more likely to have experienced economic violence and abuse: deprivation of personal expenses, inheritance, work, wages, property; denial of alimony or right to work; forced to work, abuse of hours, poor workplace, extortion. Nearly one-third of the women interviewed indicated that they wished to pursue redress or remedies. The coordinating organization of Jordan’s Economic realm, Families Development Association, is developing plans for a counseling center to help women make legal claims against these forms of work/labor discrimination and economic abuse in the home.
Raising the Profile of Arab Women at the Global Level
Karama has sustained its full commitment to engage global activists, experts, and leaders in order to share our approach, elevate the priorities of Arab women and locally-designed solutions, and raise the profile of Arab women as activists and leaders in the women’s movement in 2010. Karama and our partners participated at regional and international fora, identifying new potential partners, networks, and strategies to leverage activism for change. Among others, Karama and our partners participated at Clinton Global Initiative, TEDWomen, and the Regional Consultation of the International Criminal Court Coalition last year, ensuring an Arab and female presence and perspective in high-level, international discussion.
Sharing Regional Perspectives with International Stakeholders and Communities
Also, in pursuit of this goal and to maximize the potential impact of our work, Karama’s communications and press arm escalated this year with over 30 pieces on Karama and our partners featured on the web, broadcast and print outlets, radio, and listservs in both the East and West. Major pieces included an in-studio interview with Hibaaq Osman on Al Jazeera to comment on the International Day Against Violence Against Women and the creation of UN Women, a feature about Karama’s largest-ever CSW delegation published in IPS (Italy), interviews from Karama’s one-day conference broadcast by Moroccan TV and UN Radio, and op-eds released through Bikya Masr, Common Ground News, and The Guardian’s websites discussing Arab women’s role at the UN, women judges in Egypt, and the successfully-held provincial election in Somaliland in the summer of 2010.
Karama also launched a blog in 2010, and redesigned Karama’s website to provide greater access and transparency for our partners and donors. We have also joined the Twitter community, building awareness on VAW issues in the Arab region and Karama’s approach with our global followers.
The year culminated in a great holiday-season celebration of our efforts and our partners. Linked organizations and staff gathered for Karama Day in late December, sharing with each other lessons learned, research and understanding gained, and both long and short-term victories celebrated.
Mahfoutha Award and Ceremony
We also used this opportunity to highlight the work of three individuals as part of a joint annual award presented by Karama and Arab Women’s Fund—the Annual Mahfoutha Award. Each year, this prize symbolizes the power of one person to make an impact, honoring the courage, bravery, and fortitude required to change entrenched ways of thinking. This year’s honorees represented the personal impact of programs and initiatives we support and believe in, demonstrating that with training, community, and collaboration, woman participants gain empowerment, become agents of change, and restore freedoms they’ve been stripped of for generations.
The past year has been exciting for the future of women and girls, who have finally begun to receive the priority attention and funding they deserve. We have already embarked on new initiatives for 2011, including a think tank for Arab Women, a research initiative examining war’s impact on women, and a training institute for government and policymakers, which we look forward to presenting to you in further detail in the months to come.