Arab women encouraged by Arab Spring: Activists

This article was originally published by Ahram Online.

Marrakech, Morocco – (January 21, 2014) The Arab Spring has inspired women in the Middle East to obtain greater rights, according to participants in a regional training in Morocco aimed at furthering women’s rights and gender equality.

Latifa Jbabdi, a Moroccan activist for human rights and women’s rights, gave a presentation on the struggle of Moroccan women in light of constitutional reforms. A speech by Moroccan King Mohammed VI on 9 March 2011 brought with it sweeping reforms, especially for women. Women rights groups and organizations quickly formed a broad coalition called the Feminist Spring for Democracy and Equality Coalition. Through the coalition’s work, Moroccan women effectively pressured the government to put international conventions into law and to hold the state responsible for safeguarding and implementing them. Women have also fought discrimination and violence, and to call for equality in civil, political, social, and environmental circles.

Jbabdi added that the ripple effects from the upheavals in the region are still being felt, and could lead to the liberation of women and have put them in the forefront of important events.

Forty activists and women rights experts from Egypt, Libya, Morocco and Yemen attended the training organized by Karama, a regional NGO, in collaboration with the UN Fund for Gender Equality, in order to share experiences and open a dialogue about advancing women’s emancipation and rights in their own countries.

The regional training consisted of a workshop and a roundtable, and ran from 9 to 13 January.

Jane Connors, president of the special procedures branch of the Office of United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), urged the revision of the United Nations Universal Periodic Review that require a periodic review of the human rights records of all UN member states. She said doing so would push states to meet obligations toward human rights.

With regards to Egypt, President of the Complaints Office in The National Council for Women Fatma Khafagi floated a demand among Egyptian women to revive a women’s front founded by Egyptian feminists in 1923.

The Egyptian constitution must include articles on improving the status of women, Egyptian Lawyer Aida Nour El Din added, especially that women are facing troubles with personal status laws. One of law states that a woman must prove through witnesses that she has been abused, which is overly difficult in most cases.

El Din also spoke about the importance of the including all international agreements that Egypt has signed into the constitution and that the Egyptian government must enforce them.