Tuesday 9, February 2016

Rabat – MENE Herald: Over 150 women parliamentarians and international organizations representatives from twenty countries gather in a regional forum in Rabat (Morocco) on 9 and 10 February, 2016 to discuss a unified agenda towards a more gender-responsive policy in the region and the inclusion of women in politics. The Forum is organized by the Arab Women Parliamentarians Network for Equality “Ra’edat”, in Arabic (Pioneers), the European Union and UN Women, in the framework of the Spring Forward for Women programme.
With participants from parliaments, government, civil society, media and international organizations including the European Union, the Arab Parliament, UN organizations, the Forum is embedded in a global setting and support system. At this point of the region’s history, women have a real opportunity to push for equal representation in politics. Recently, women penetrated Saudi Arabia’s political scene with 17 women winning the municipal elections after Saudi women were allowed to vote and run for the first time in Saudi history. Across the region, women have varied access to politics. While Tunisia and Algeria have already achieved a 30% representation of women in parliament, other countries still lag behind with a participation rate as low as 2% for women.
“Advocating women’s right to equal representation in the decision making process is not only our duty towards women, it is our duty to our countries because women’s participation makes a difference and enhances the quality of policy making,” says Dr Rula Alhroob, member of the Jordanian House of Representatives and President of “Ra’edat” Network.
Several studies empirically show that the inclusion of women in political decision-making processes have a positive effect on the fields of education, infrastructure and health at the national level and correlates with economic progress and standard of living. Research from India showed that the quality of infrastructure projects female-led public councils was 62 % higher than other local councils led by men. In places as diverse as Timor-Leste, Croatia, Morocco, Rwanda and South Africa, an increase in the number of female lawmakers has led to significant legislative reforms related to anti-discrimination, domestic violence, family codes, inheritance, and child support and protection.
The wide range of representation in the Forum will allow for considerable exchange of experiences and good practices regarding supporting women in decision making positions and achieving equal representation of women in the political process. For the newly established “Ra’edat”, the Forum provides a unique opportunity to build on the combined expertise of its members to influence national policies with a unified regional voice for Arab women parliamentarians with considerable international support.
“A unified voice of Arab women parliamentarians who stand for hope and change in the Arab region will play an important role in the development, stability and democracy-building in this region,” said H.E. Rupert Joy, Head of EU Delegation to Morocco.
For countries in transitional, an equal representation of women in peace-building processes plays an even more important role. Analysis of recent peace agreements show that local women’s participation in peace negotiations increases the probability of violence ending within a year by 24%. Academic studies from Russia and Uganda show that women are more likely to set aside ideological differences on issues that are important for society, peace and stability In Tunisia, the National Dialogue Quartet that won the 2015 Nobel Peace Prize had a woman member. In Libya, Syria and Yemen, while opposing factions failed to start a dialogue, women representing these factions successfully engaged in negotiations and built unified peace agendas with the support of UN Women.
“UN Women’s experience in supporting women in politics and peacebuilding in the region has proved that women are capable of acting as brilliant agents of change and peacebuilders. Their right to build their nations is non-negotiable and their voices are instrumental for a better future for all of us,” said Mohamed Naciri, Regional Director for Arab States, UN Women.