On December 13-14, in Cairo, Egypt, the Alliance for Arab Women, Karama and UNIFEM held a regional consultation meeting to evaluate the achievements and challenges faced in the Arab region since the adoption of the Beijing Platform for Action in 1995 by 185 states at the UN World Conference on Women. The regional meeting included 235 women’s rights leaders and civil society representatives from fourteen countries and concluded by outlining future priorities in the Arab region towards the fulfillment of the Beijing Platform for Action.
Fifteen years later, the Beijing + 15 regional consultation convened to issue a Regional NGO Shadow Report evaluating the Arab states’ fulfillment of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action.
Dr Hoda Badran, Chairperson of the Alliance for Arab Women, characterized the NGO Shadow Report as “a reflection of civil society’s visions” and an important counterpart to the formal report submitted to the United Nations by Arab governments. “There have been achievements at the state level but civil society is closer to the communities, so we know the obstacles that remain and the needs for the future,” she stated.
At the regional consultation held in Cairo civil society representatives charted progress, challenges, and recommendations in the Arab region on women’s poverty and economic participation, involvement in decision-making and leadership processes, maternal and environmental health, girls’ education, family relations, and violence against women and armed conflict. Although advances were noted in many areas such as education and political participation, the experts called for further enactment of equal citizenship laws and modernization of personal status codes, as well as laws that criminalize violence against women.
Dr. Haifa Abu Ghazaleh, Senator to the Upper House of the Jordanian Parliament and Secretary General of the National Council for Family Affairs, asserted that “it is important to look at legislation, especially the penal codes and personal status laws in the Arab region concerning marriage, children, and divorce. Our problem is implementation and the mechanisms for following up legislation.”
Dr. Abu Ghazaleh also singled out violence as a key area of concern, “I believe a lot of issues still remain to be done for Arab women concerning the violence they face on different levels. We need to follow up on issues like honor killings, and change cultural attitudes that are still on the ground.”
The event’s honorary speaker was Ambassador Gertrude Mongella of Tanzania, who prominently held the post of Secretary General of the 1995 UN World Conference on Women. Ambassador Mongella seized the opportunity of her presence in Cairo to recognize the contributions of civil society leaders in the fifteen years since Beijing: “Without these women’s groups, the Platform for Action would have died the day after Beijing ended. It is the women’s groups who worked so hard on its implementation.”
The Beijing+15 Regional NGO Shadow Report will be presented at the 54th Session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women in New York, where Beijing+15 will be reviewed globally.
The Regional Shadow Report will be translated into a five-year plan with recommendations and targets related to the Millennium Development Goals, which all UN member states adopted in 2000 and will continue to pursue through 2015. The UN Millennium Development Goals remains a mechanism to continue enacting the Beijing Platform for Action, as states report their annual progress.
Karama (meaning “dignity” in Arabic) enacts initiatives supporting women leaders and activists from eleven countries of the Middle East and North Africa building a movement to end violence against women and girls. For more information on Karama, visit www.el-karama.org or contact Zahra Radwen at +202-25272372.
Alliance for Arab Women: contact Dina Abou Elamiem, Media Manager, at +202-393-9899 or visit www.theallianceforarabwomen.org.
UNIFEM Egypt: contact Dr. Maya Morsy, Country Coordinator, at +202-25748494 or visit www.unifem.org.jo.