Tunis conference pushes for women's rights in Arab world
By Monia Ghanmi for Magharebia in Tunis — 29/04/10
The Arab world must empower women by eliminating discrimination, reviewing laws and using gender as a criterion in assessing plans and processes, said participants in a conference held April 25th-26th in Tunis.
The Tunis conference followed the 54th session of the United Nations' Commission on Women's Condition, held in New York last month. It also served as a 15-year review of progress, success and failures since the issue of women's rights was addressed in the 1995 Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action.
By supporting each other in the struggle for their freedoms and rights, women will be able to participate effectively in public life, said presenters at the "Beijing + 15 and Beyond" conference on the status of women around the world.
"In most Arab countries, women suffer from exclusion and political marginalisation," said Naziha Zarouk, who is in charge of women's affairs at the ruling Democratic Constitutional Rally (RCD) party. "Arab countries face many challenges to women's participation in the political process … these societies still belittle women, and are attached to the patriarchal values for traditional and cultural reasons".
The RCD leader called for creating a "cultural and social environment" that would help guarantee "equality and equal opportunities for men and women".
Representatives from Tunisia, Palestine, Egypt and Syria participated in the conference.
Participants recommended creating a database on women's skills and a commission tasked with conducting strategic studies on Arab women's economic empowerment and strengthening their access to information technology.
Other recommendations to emerge from the conference included a call to boost rural women's skills and to create bodies for listening to, orienting and guiding women, especially in urban areas, TAP reported.
"The insignificant participation of women in politics is caused by legislative constraints in some Arab countries, and the existence of gaps between legislation and practice," said the secretary-general of the Arab Family Organisation, Houda Ben Youssef.
"In addition, women are victims of a stereotype of inferiority promoted by the media" which sees them as the first target for publicity and marketing, added Ben Youssef.
The head of the Tunisian Mothers' Association, Saida Agrebi, told conference participants that "most sociological studies and regional reports show that Arab women are falling behind other women in the world in terms of their rights, freedom and independence."
At the Beijing Conference in 1995, the Arab region was ranked last in terms of improving the status of women, she said.
Tunis has hosted previous events aimed at promoting women's rights, including a workshop last year on the topic of stopping violence against women.
However, according to Agrebi, the picture is not all that bleak. Their status has "improved due to the many reforms and changes that have evolved in the meetings of Arab leaders who've insisted on many occasions on the need for women's rights legislation," she said.
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