eNews 34: Meeting the Backlash against Women Head-on + Powerful New Film

May 22, 2013
eNews 34

Meeting the Backlash Against Women Head-on + Powerful New Film 

Dear Friends,

The first part of 2013 has witnessed both positive and negative developments for women's rights across the Partnership. We rejoiced over the passage and implementation of important legislation in partner countries – a new law against domestic violence in Pakistan, compensation for women's land rights in Morocco, and advances in ensuring gender justice in government agencies, such as WLP Lebanon's Gender Audit for the country's Ministry of Social Affairs. At the same time, women's human rights are being denied by regressive forces at both the national and the international levels – from blocking women's right to vote in parts of Pakistan in May, to the unsuccessful attempt to thwart a strong resolution on gender-based violence at this year's Commission on the Status of Women in March. However, despite the attempts to exclude women from political decision-making and to discourage women's activism, women, youth, and progressives have refused to be silent.

We know that women's rights and participation are indispensable to the formation of just and democratic nations, as well as the achievement of security and peace across the world. We also know that, while much work remains to be done to move us forward to our goals, we must also confront those who seek to take us backward. To meet this challenge head on, this summer we will launch the global campaign Stand with Women Who Stand for Democracy to raise awareness of the inseparable link between women's rights, democracy, and security. The campaign will provide opportunities for supporters across the globe, in part through the use WLP's new documentary Because Our Cause Is Just, to raise awareness and inspire action online and offline in support of women's rights and full political participation in the MENA region and beyond. We hope you will join us.

Mahnaz Afkhami
President and CEO


Engaging in policy dialogue on gender equality with a public institution: Thoughts and reflections from Lebanon

**WLP interviewed Lina Abou Habib on CRTD.A's Gender Audit of the Lebanese Ministry of Social Affairs. Listen to the interview here.**

During the past two years, CRTD.A concluded a quite interesting and rich gender audit exercise in collaboration with the Ministry of Social Affairs. This initiative came some time after CRTD.A had provided training on gender and leadership to most of the Ministry's staff holding various positions within the institution.

The Gender Audit was designed as a research and knowledge activity with direct policy implications and consisted of a comprehensive and unprecedented in-depth organizational review of a public institution using the gender audit methodology.

This case study represents a case in point in best practice in engaging with state actors for effectively mainstreaming gender in practices, programs, and policies. It shows specifically that state actors are not uniform or homogeneous in their positions and dispositions vis-a-vis gender mainstreaming. This is an important consideration for gender and women's rights activists as it is imperative that such entry points be found and used in a constructive and positive way. This example is also an interesting illustration of how complex the process of policy dialogue is,   the various inter-related elements that it carries, and the protracted time needed to establish trust and collaborative engagement. Read the full article here.

After years of struggle, a timely victory for women in Pakistan
Passage of the Sindh Domestic Violence Bill

By Masuma Hasan, WLP Pakistan/Aurat Foundation

It was a great day for Aurat Foundation. Not only because 8 March was International Women's Day but also because the Sindh Assembly unanimously passed long-awaited legislation against domestic violence. In its dying days, the Assembly adopted the Domestic Violence (Prevention and Protection) Bill 2013.

Aurat Foundation worked relentlessly for the passage of this legislation against domestic violence by the Sindh Assembly in collaboration with jurists, lawyers and human rights activists. They were supported by the women legislators of the Sindh Assembly. Aurat Foundation regularly releases data on violence against women and also organised awareness raising seminars on this issue.

The young lawyers representing Aurat Foundation, Maleeha Zia Lari and Rubina Brohi, discussed and debated the legislative provisions clause by clause and, led by Mahnaz Rahman, resident director of Aurat Foundation in Karachi, Shireen Ejaz, Farida Tahir and others, tirelessly lobbied with the Sindh lawmakers for more than five years. They all entered the stern environment of the Sindh Secretariat to literally win the hearts and minds of the members of the bureaucracy. It was patient and sustained team work. The effort and contribution of Aurat Foundation was acknowledged from the floor of the House by the lawmakers when the provincial legislation was tabled and passed yesterday. Read More.

New Film on the Backlash Against Women's Rights Post-"Arab Spring": Because Our Cause Is Just

Because Our Cause Is Just is an eye-opening documentary about the struggle of women in countries experiencing the so-called "Arab Spring". Begun as a civil movement of women and men seeking human rights and justice after decades of dictatorship, the revolutionary wave has not yielded justice for all. Instead, the political openings caused by these revolts have been exploited by Islamist groups who seek to not only exclude women from the political process but to remove them from public life through intimidation, oppressive legislation, and even physical violence.

Produced by Women's Learning Partnership, the film reveals how women in the Middle East-North Africa (MENA) region are continuing to fight for the right to be part of their countries evolving political systems. Award-winning filmmakers Deb Bergeron and Kim Connell conducted powerful interviews with women who are defending human rights and working for progress on the ground in Egypt, Morocco, Libya, Lebanon, Iran, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia. By examining the consequences of inequality, the film underscores the connection between the fate of democracy and the future of global security in the post-9/11 era. Because Our Cause Is Just ends with a way forward: the realization of men and women in the region that democracy without rights for women and minorities is not real democracy, and that only real democracy will bring dignity and peace to their nations and to the world. WATCH THE FILM HERE.

***In conjunction with the release of the Arabic edition of Because Our Cause Is Just, WLP is launching the campaign Stand with Women Who Stand for Democracy in July 2013. The campaign, which will include online and offline activities, is meant to raise global awareness that democracy will not be achieved – in the MENA region nor elsewhere – without full participation women, who are half the population. WLP is currently seeking Stand with Women Who Stand for Democracy Campaign Ambassadors to help support the campaign launch. If you are interested in being a Campaign Ambassador, please contact Catherine Harrington (charrington@learningpartnership.org) by June 10.***

CSW 2013

This March, WLP joined women's rights activists and government representatives from across the globe for the 57th Commission on the Status of Women in New York. During our main public event, "Human Security: The Missing Link between Women's Rights, Conflict, and Peace," held at The New School on March 6, leading experts and activists focused on the intersection of gender, security, transitional justice, democratic development, and peacebuilding, and discussed the need for a holistic understanding of security to advance peace and meet the challenges of the 21st Century. Click here to watch the discussion.

The event also included the world premiere of our new documentary, Because Our Cause Is Just, on the backlash against women's rights in the MENA region post-Arab Spring. (Please see above for further details.) International activists, students, UN officials, and representatives of donor agencies and inter-governmental organizations filled the auditorium, and contributed to a lively Q&A following both panels.

On March 7, WLP convened a small group of local and international activists, scholars, and former high level government officials – including cabinet ministers and former Prime Minister of Canada Kim Campbell – for an intensive brainstorming and strategy session on the future of the women's movement. This conversation, building on previous meetings convened by WLP over the past year, provided an opportunity for this diverse and highly experienced group to consider the achievements, lessons learned, and challenges facing the women's movement, and, in light of today's rapidly changing environment, strategize on how to energize a new generation of activists and most effectively advance women's empowerment and social justice in the 21st Century.

Happy News for Women's Rights in Morocco: Kesbat Mehdia Women Become First-time Landowners!

By Ouafaa Amdaou, WLP Morocco/Association Démocratique des Femmes du Maroc (ADFM) 

*ADFM has played a key role in supporting and building the capacity of Soulaliyate women to advocate for their rights, conducting leadership and political participation trainings using WLP curriculum.

Since 2007, Soulaliyate women have been fighting for their rights and campaigning hard against the exclusion and discrimination they face living on their tribes' collective lands. For years, they engaged officials and supervisory authorities at the local, national, and international levels in dialogue; held interviews with national and international media; organized key protests and sit-ins; prepared slogans; and mobilized other women's groups in a movement of collective empowerment, experience sharing, learning, and solidarity to bring about change.

Soulaliyates have managed to break free from invisibility, silence, and injustice and helped shape a favorable public opinion that greatly influenced (and continues to influence) political decisions. Since 2009, Soulaliyates have made significant legal gains, with Morocco's Ministry of Interior issuing three rulings (ministerial decrees) on the issue and urging local authorities to ensure that gender equality is observed in compensations relating to land sales. Soulaliyate women are now advocating for a law that will institutionally ensure that the provisions in the three ministerial rulings are guaranteed and implemented.

This March – for the first time – after 6 years of continuous struggle and relentless advocacy work, Soulaliyate women of the tribe Kesbat Mehdia in Kenitra finally became landowners. Following a land sale by the tribe to a condominium developer, women have been compensated in the form of plots of land. Read More. 

Other News:

This week WLP travels to Malaysia to participate in Women Deliver 2013, a global conference on the health and empowerment of women and girls taking place May 28-30. Prior to the general conference, WLP is partnering with Women Deliver and the American University of Beirut to hold the Middle East-North Africa Regional Consultation, May 26. Follow WLP via Twitter or facebook for updates on conference discussions and WLP activities, and watch the conference livestream from the WLP homepage.

After participating in WLP's Regional Training of Trainers Institute on Women's Leadership and Political Participation in Shymkent, Kazakhstan, a citizen journalist from Kyrgyzstan , an activist and OSCE staff member from Tajikistan, and a PR expert from Uzbekistan all blogged about their experience and the impact of the Institute.

WLP Turkey/Foundation for Women's Work (FSWW) was recently highlighted on the PBS television program Newshour, "In Turkey More Economic Opportunities for Women Coincide with More Domestic Abuse." In the episode, FSWW work to support women's participation in the workforce through trainings, childcare provision, cooperatives, and other capacity building activities are presented as effective, sustainable interventions to support the economic empowerment of lower income women.

Partner Lina Abou Habib, Executive Director of WLP Lebanon/CRTD-A, blogs on "What do women want in the post-Arab spring era?"


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