On March 25th, WILPF organised a side-event during the Human Rights Council 25th session to discuss women participation in the constitutional reform processes at the MENA region.

The event involved women leaders from Tunisia, Libya and Yemen sharing their experiences, lessons learned and recommendations on participating in the constitutional processes and national dialogues in their respective countries.

The event engaged members from permanent missions, NGOs, stakeholders, and was chaired by Madeleine Rees, Secretary General of WILPF International.

Gender and State-building

Zahra Langhi, Co-funder of Libyan Women Platform for Peace, spoke about the gender dynamics and state building in Libya. Langhi advocated better inclusion of women and described the challenges they face due to intensive militarisation, as well as the absence of a comprehensive implementation of transitional justice and lack of gender sensitive law enforcement mechanisms.

Langhi called for prioritising women, peace and security challenges when addressing Libya’s critical transition by integrating the matters highlighted by women groups into the constitutional process and thus on Libya’s road map within a larger process of national dialogue.

“It is time women move from calling for numerical representation in the already existing political systems into shaping a new discourse on the politics of inclusion with new values of governance.”    Zahra Langhi

She also highlighted that women’s rights and security might be compromised for a quick and underprepared constitution-drafting process, while an inclusive national dialogue will give the space for civil society and women groups to set guidelines to insure protection, inclusion and equality.

She stressed the need for paradigm shift from a women empowerment approach into an inclusive, participatory, gender equitable approach. Only a holistic vision of gender equality will result in a meaningful participation of women in the political process.

Drafting of the new constitution

Radhia Ben Haj Zekri, the Former President and co-funder of Association of Tunisian Women for Research and Development (AFTURD), presented the Tunisian experience in drafting the new constitution. She highlighted the main role of women in the transitional period in Tunisia, and explained the manner in which voting took place to ensure that the new constitution included provisions on citizenship, equality, human rights, women rights and accountability.

Zekri stressed the importance of monitoring the implementation of the institute as well as integrating women’s rights and a gender analysis in shaping the security agenda in Tunisia.

She also highlighted the importance of economic empowerment of women and working to fix the big gender gap in the provision of education and minimise it by taking clear measure to decrease girls drop out of school.

Zekri accredited the common base that was created through the constitution towards solving these problems and enhancing the status of women in public and private spheres.

National Dialogue

Amal Basha, the Chairperson of Sisters Arab Forum for Human Rights, presented the lessons learned from the Yemen national dialogue process. Basha spoke about women participation in the national dialogue advocating equality and human rights and explained the process in which a 30% quota for women was achieved in all legislative, executive and judicial powers.

Basha said that we should capitalise on the positive participation of women in the national dialogue conference and their input to the thematic discussion on the functions of a civil state. However this can only be maintained by working towards full implementation of the national dialogue outcome and ensuring that the new constitution includes clauses to safeguard women’s rights and full participation in decision making.

“Before the revolution women were not seen, not hear, and not noticed but now the future is our… it gave us the chance to coordinate and continue.” Amal Basha

Basha stressed the importance of holding international institutions accountable for the resources they put in Yemen and monitoring that they apply a strict human rights and gender policy to all projects, employees and beneficiaries.

Further discussion on the role of social media in the transition period took place, Langhi said that social media was helpful in transferring young voices during the transition and as a result, this medium continues to empower women’s human rights.