Name: Sarah Vaill
Telephone: +1 323 251-6521
AMMAN, JORDAN, 8 March 2011—A groundbreaking new research entity, the Think Tank for Arab Women, officially launched over a three-day conference starting 31 January 2011, aggregating the knowledge and expertise of 33 female academics, parliamentarians, and leaders of non-governmental women’s organizations from 14 countries, including conflict-affected areas in the region. The Think Tank will be concerned with influencing national policies related to women’s empowerment and gender equality in the Arab region.
The Think Tank members have committed to collect data and analyze Arab women’s realities, study the impact of armed conflict on women’s everyday lives, and write a comparative study of women in Egypt and Tunisia in light of the recent revolutions. Going forward, the Think Tank will monitor the role of women in new governments emerging across the Middle East region, and the developments of National Action Plans for the implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 1325 to increase the role of women in armed conflict resolution. These efforts will ultimately form the basis of campaigns used to influence policymakers to adopt recommendations for legislative, political, and institutional changes. The data compiled will also help inform and guide policymakers on how to develop effective, action-oriented policies that will provide long-term impacts in the lives of Arab women.
The new Think Tank’s impetus and central focus is to promote gender equality through research, knowledge and best practices, advocacy, and new analysis to improve policies affecting women in the Arab countries. It has been founded in response to a detrimental gap in data reflecting the situations for every day women as a result of regional issues including war, violence, harassment, and discrimination that effects their ability to enjoy rights to healthcare, education, participation in decision-making and politics, economic participation, and social and cultural autonomy and freedom. Current data is difficult to interpret and access, and does not present information in a useful, action-oriented way. Moreover, it neglects to explore comprehensive causes and effects, and thus, advocacy based on what is currently available will fail to develop long-term, targeted reforms.
Additionally, policymakers need guidance on how to navigate women’s issues through development of new policies and reform of old policies. They are open to this guidance, however, it must come from a diverse collective that can support such a large responsibility. The Think Tank for Arab Women will bring together a wide range of perspectives from within the region and outside of it in order to ensure that information and recommendations provided to policymakers takes into account the full scope of factors effecting success in addressing any given issue it is working on and thus, is a significant resource to lawmaking and decision-making bodies.
“The best public policies are evidence-based,” remarked Hibaaq Osman, CEO of the NGO Karama, one of the Think Tank’s founders. “The Think Tank will not deal with women as if they are a homogenous group, but will take into account their complex realities. We will look at differences among different groups of women which affect their accessibility to education, employment, health care, and so on.”
The Think Tank for Arab Women will be an independent, volunteer-driven network committed to achieving Arab women’s full participation and involvement in the development of their countries and region. It also aims to help define the most significant emerging issues related to women’s empowerment and gender equality in the Arab region, such as poverty alleviation and economic empowerment. Through events, conferences, and engagement of new media, including the Think Tank’s website, which will feature research and discussion on these topics, the Think Tank for Arab Women will play an integral role in linking academia, research, donors and NGOs.
As the coordinator of these entities, the Think Tank will also be a tremendous resource for serious news outlets, facilitating the development of broader, deeper understanding and awareness on the state of women’s affairs in the region. For years, support for projects implemented within the region has been limited and the perception of women activists and victims alike has been one-sided. The Think Tank will prioritize accurate depiction of Arab women in the West through this communications link. In turn, the media will play a pivotal role in informing and influencing policymakers in the West.
Co-founded by Karama and members of the Think Tank and the Swedish Institute of Alexandria, the Think Tank for Arab Women convened in Amman on January 30 – February 1, 2011, at the invitation of Jordan’s National Council for Family Affairs. Over three days, experts from the Middle East, North Africa and Europe, joined by women activists from conflict-affected countries Iraq, Lebanon, Palestine, Sudan, and Yemen, developed the Think Tank’s inaugural research topic focusing on the impact that war and conflict has had on women in the Arab region.
Few substantial research studies have been conducted on women and conflict in the Arab states. Existing accounts specific to this issue in the region do not address war’s cross-sectoral impact on women’s lives, nor make the link to policymaking. The Think Tank’s research will begin to fill the crucial gap in representation of women’s realities under conflict situations and will generate recommendations for public policy to address. More specifically, the study will elaborate on and analyze women’s experiences with education, health, political participation, economics, the environment, and cultural frameworks during and after times of conflict.
“Women in the Arab world have been forced to endure the repercussions of conflict that touch every aspect of civil society and daily life, yet they have had little say or consideration in peace negotiations, security measures, and post-conflict reconstruction policies,” remarked Hibaaq Osman of Karama.
For more information, please visit www.el-karama.org/projects/think-tank-for-arab-women.