Leading Middle East and North Africa women’s rights NGO Karama has announced the launch of their European branch. Based in Cairo, the Karama network is the main platform for women’s rights organisations in the Arab region, from Libya, Yemen, Syria, Iraq, Palestine, Sudan to Morocco, it operates across thirteen countries. Karama Europe will be headed by Elisabeth van der Steenhoven, formerly the director of Europe’s largest network of women’s rights groups.
Karama Europe is based in Brussels and supports Karama’s core aims of greater participation of women in the Arab region, and providing support for women facing conflict. The European office will function as a regional hub, liaising with the EU, its member states, institutions as well as activists across the Europe.
Hibaaq Osman, CEO of Karama said:
“We are delighted to announce the launch of Karama Europe, and there is no one better suited to leading it than Elisabeth van der Steenhoven. Elisabeth has worked with us very closely for 5 years, through extraordinary times for women in the Arab region. During this time, Karama and Elisabeth have have helped women working on the ground in Libya, Syria, Tunisia, Yemen and many other countries secure positive change. The only way to build sustainable and resilient change is by working at a grassroots level, Elisabeth has a proven track record in the Arab region and Karama Europe is the next step in this relationship.”
Elisabeth van der Steenhoven has worked closely with women’s networks in the Arab region and across the world throughout her career, most recently as director of WO=MEN Dutch Gender Platform. Under her guidance the platforms’s membership doubled it and co-cordinated the Dutch National Action Plan on Women Peace and Security. The platform launched innovative links with a broad array of actors, varying from development NGOs to entrepreneurs, academics, peace activists, military, migrants, police and human rights networks. By the same token, the network successfully supported the first Parliamentary Multi-Party Initiative on women’s rights; uniting as many as nine political parties from right to left.
Elisabeth van der Steenhoven said:
“I am very honoured to join the Karama network and lead the European hub. We have witnessed the decentralization of western NGOs and institutions, seeing them move from North to South, it is very exciting to pioneer the other way round. Women in the Arab region play a crucial role in the struggle for democracy and stability, let’s make sure their voices are being heard”.
Zahra’ Langhi, co-founder of the Libyan Women’s Platform for Peace and an advisor to the Preparatory Committee of the National Dialogue in Libya, said:
“I’m very happy to hear of the launch of Karama Europe, which will be led by Elisabeth van der Steenhoven. Elisabeth is known for her passion and genuine belief in the causes for which she advocates. Having worked closely with Elisabeth on several projects, I observed her relentless determination to bring voice and visibility to women in our region. Her nuanced understanding of the challenges facing women on the frontline renders her an invaluable expertise.”
Mouna Ghanem, Vice President of the Syrian political movement Building the Syrian State and a member of the Women’s Advisory Board to the UN Special Envoy on Syria, said:
“Elisabeth is someone who can transform activists into strong politicians, support them and even protect them if necessary. I’m lucky to know Elisabeth and to have worked with her; she and Karama have already done a great deal for women, and between us we can make the politics of the world a gender sensitive politics, and have a more peaceful world.”