In January 17, 2014 I, Laila Dhaifallah, attended regional meeting arranged by the Palestinian Women’s Affairs Technical Committee (WATC) in Jordan, to promote and support women participation in peace building in accordance with the UNSCR 1325. The participants came from Jordan, Palestine, Iraq, Egypt, Lebanon, Yemen and Libya. The meeting addressed the situation for women’s rights and women’s important role and efforts to build and maintain peace in these countries.

Read this article in Arabic: مدافعات عن حقوق المرأه

Women from Iraq addressed the continuation of widespread violence, and the very challenging conditions for peace building and reconciliation at national and local level. There is a growing violence towards women, violent sectarianism and intolerance. It is urgent to improve the situation of women in Iraq, as well as enable them to participate in political and social life to rebuild Iraq in accordance with UNSCR 1325 and CEDAW.

In Libya, women are preparing for the a process of National Dialogue but there are real concerns that extreme religious and fundamentalist views, both from women and men, will constrains the women’s rights agenda in this process. As my Libyan friend recently said “women are harassed just because we are women, some men are annoyed that we are in the society, going to restaurants and living our life in public”. For this process to be sustainable women must be secured participation in the national dialogue conference equally with men, and contribute to the development of new constitution and government policies and laws that protect women rights.

In Egypt, the women have played a crucial role in mobilizing and participating in demonstrations towards political change, but continues to face severe sexual harassment, sexual abuse and being excluded from political life and decision-making. We can only hope that a new constitution will ensure support for women, gender equality and safeguard women rights. Egyptian women are calling for the government to protect women activists and ensure their representation in political life.

The situation for women in Yemen is the same as before 2011. We have the same political system, the same laws and policies and nothing has changed apart from the increase of extreme religious and tribal groups declining the concept of a civil state. There continues to be a lack of equality between men and women, and women have not gained more access to decision-making positions. Not surprisingly, the provincial mayors, the presidents of academic institutions or the officials of the security sector do not involve any women.  Yemen has gone through a process of national dialogue to feed into the new constitution. One woman has been appointed to the Supreme Committee for Elections and one as the advisor of women affairs to the President. Suggestions from the national dialogue include constitutional clauses to safeguard women’s rights and ensure women’s participation but it can easily turn into just another piece of paper. Strong pressure is needed to ensure that steps taken in the national dialogue is respected, implemented and promoted – both politically and also in the communities to ensure equal economic, civil, political and social rights. It requires continuous dialogue and pressure to ensure Yemeni women are safe in their role as women’s rights defenders. Now, we are witnessing increased attacks on women, detentions, disappearances and killings quickly closing the door for any progress on women’s rights and their safety.

Finally, there are common challenges for women in the Arab region at the same time as there are contextual differences.  The women are continuing to struggle for a better future with strong participation for women in the political, social, economic sphere. They will continue to engage on local and national peacebuilding, and will tirelessly work to ensure the role of women in the transitional stages and the future of their countries.

Read this article in Arabic: مدافعات عن حقوق المرأه