Sunday 27, March 2016

Geneva – MENA Herald: The Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue, a non-governmental, non-profit organization based in Geneva, Switzerland, hosted a panel discussion on “The Advancement of the Status of Women in the Arab World” in collaboration with the UNESCO Office in Geneva. Held at the United Nations Headquarters in Geneva on the sidelines of the 31st session of the Human Rights Council, the panel offered an excellent platform to discuss and exchange insights on the progress and challenges in promoting gender equality in the Arab World. The enriching discussion witnessed a remarkable participation from various diplomatic missions, intergovernmental and NGO representatives.
The event focused on the advancements for women’s rights and empowerment achieved in the Arab world, particularly from the standpoint of access to education and women’s political and economic active participation. Panelists highlighted the key challenges hindering achieving improvement in Arab women status and outlined strategies and plans aimed at reinforcing the status of women in the Arab region and advancing towards gender equality.
His Excellency Dr. Hanif Hassan Al Qassim, Chairman of the of the Geneva Centre’s Board of Directors stressed that women today are expected to play a more critical role in their communities as suggested by the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. He also pointed that Arab women are today more empowered to improve their status and establish a new status that complements their cultural and social environment with no external pressure. Al Qassim attributed this progress to higher education rates and participation in labor force, in addition to the governments’ efforts in this regard and the increased awareness of civil society organizations on the need to empower Arab women and reinforce their role in the society.
“This panel comes in the framework of the Center’s commitment towards monitoring all facts related to women’s status in the Arab world because we can best understand and analyze our issues within the special cultural factors that dominate our region, and therefore we can make better recommendations in international forums.” H.E. Al Qassimi explained.

“Held in the framework of our strategic partnership with the UN organizations, governments and civil society organization, this panel gains special significance as its recommendations will be addressed by United Nations Human Rights Council in its 11th session, and it comes as a result of a series of initiatives and studies launched by the Center on issues related to Arab women’s rights,” he added.
The panel reviewed the Emirati experience as well in women empowerment and highlighted the prominent role played by Emirati women in society through facts and statistics that reflect their great achievements in various areas. During the discussions, Ambassador Obaid Salem Al Zaabi, the Permanent Representative of the UAE to the United Nations highlighted UAE’s achievements in women empowerment providing some strong examples of what the UAE has done recently to reinforce the role of women in society.
Mrs. El-Khouri, the chief of the UNESCO public policies and capacity building section, confirmed the progress achieved over the past few years with regard to the status of women in the Arab region. However, she expressed great concern about the delay in the process of progress in the status of women in some Arab countries, and indicated how culture plays a big role in hindering the process.
Panelist Mrs. Fawziya Al Ashmawi, the president of the Muslim European Women Forum, focused on the role that Islam played since its inception in preserving women’s rights. She established a comparison between Western and Arab women in pointing out the enhanced right of the latter to manage their own wealth long before this right was recognized to their western sisters.
The Panel’s moderator Mrs. Patricia Schulz, Rapporteur of the UN Committee on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women, and Former Director of the Federal Office of Gender Equality praised the achievements that some Arab countries made to develop and advance the status of women, whether through their legislation, domestic laws, or through conforming to international covenants.
The panelists concluded their discussion with a statement from the representative of the Geneva Centre who stressed the importance of acknowledging the achievements made in the advancement of the status of Arab women in the past few years, and reviewed some recent examples from Arab countries.