Call for gender equality, human rights

By Hibaaq Osman

Jordan, in partnership with UN Women, is hosting a three-day conference (February 10-12) titled, “The Arab regional consultation on gender equality — freedom, tolerance and solidarity: a call from the women in the Arab region”.

The meeting is held to shine light on the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which were first addressed in 2000, when member states resolved, as part of the Millennium Declaration, “to promote gender equality and the empowerment of women… and to combat all forms of violence against women and elimination of all forms of discrimination against women”, and to provide universal primary education, all by the target date of 2015.

Less than two years away from these goals, there remains a great deal of work to be done to ensure that women have an equal footing in all aspects of life.

Events in this region continue to dictate the need for women’s voices to be included equally in the transitional process.

Women make up 50 per cent of society, but we are still not where we need to be in terms of key decision making and equal representation.
In convening this meeting in Amman, we are ensuring that societies are more reflective of the mutual goals, respect and trust we all adhere to. That is why leading women activists from Syria, Libya, Jordan, Morocco, Palestine, Iraq, Somalia, Yemen and Egypt are among those attending this UN Women-sponsored event calling for tolerance and solidarity.

We are here to ascertain the precise indicators for more gender-inclusive MDGs in the Arab region, and in doing so, formulate a body of shared goals and indicators that we will lobby for with our governments.

We gathered in brainstorming sessions with participants which also include experts from civil society, academics, politics, business and other NGOs with expertise in gender quality and human rights fields.

The outcome will be a report on how women in the Arab region see a gender perspective best apply to the upcoming 2015 MDGs.

Issues addressed include: complete gender mainstreaming in all public bodies; equal pay for women; application of international standards, as stated in the UN and regional conventions; including women in sustainable-development management committees.

This is critical as we look ahead to ensuring that women and girls worldwide are afforded the same opportunities and rights as their male counterparts.

It is astonishing that we still need to solve some basic challenges to the goal of mothers, daughters and sisters being able to reach their full potential and having full control over their destiny at home, in their communities and beyond.

Linking gender equality to the MDGs, and specifically the “aid effectiveness agenda”, should ensure that there is adequate financing for programmes that respond to women’s needs.

There still needs to be equality with no discrimination, solidarity beyond borders and social justice to all.
Just consider these facts: women have not achieved equality with men in any country; of the world’s 1.3 billion poor people, it is estimated that nearly 70 per cent are women; and perhaps even more startling, between 75 and 80 per cent of the world’s 27 million refugees are women and children.

Holding this conference here, in Amman, is also symbolic, given that it is now home to thousands of Syrian refugees. Our meeting here is also timely, given that many of us will travel to New York next month for the 57th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women [CSW] at the United Nations. We will present CSW with many of the findings from this conference so we continue to set global standards to forming concrete policies for gender equality and women’s global empowerment.

We have seen great progress in recent years, but there is still a long way to go.

As Indira Gandhi, one of the best-known women leaders of our time, said, “people tend to forget their duties but remember their rights”.

It is time to give women the same rights as men. We, too, have a voice and now it is time to be heard.

Women’s rights are no longer the issue. The issue of today is the implementation of these rights, and this is where we should exert more efforts.

This article was written by Karama’s Founder and CEO and originally published in the Jordan Times.