Equality Without Reservation Campaign: A renewed impetus for gender equality in the MENA region
Interview with leading Moroccan women’s rights advocate, Rabéa Naciri
By Lina Abou-Habib, Executive Director, CRTD-A, Lebanon
More than two years after the launch of the Equality Without Reservation Campaign in Morocco, King Mohammed VI, on the occasion of the 60th celebration of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, declared in his address to the Moroccan Human Rights Consultative Council that Morocco has lifted its reservation on CEDAW. The Campaign calls for Arab States to lift their reservation on the Convention and ratify without further delay the CEDAW Optional Protocol. Arab States have expressed numerous reservations particularly on Articles 2, 9, 15, and 16, rendering its implementation in most Arab countries virtually impossible.
Speaking about the Equality without Reservation Campaign, Rabéa Naciri, the former president of Association Démocratique des Femmes du Maroc (the regional coordinator of the Equality without Reservation Coalition) indicated that "Arab states’ ratification of treaties is essentially aimed at improving their image to the external world. The Campaign was therefore necessary to ensure that Arab States honor their commitments vis-à-vis their citizens."
Naciri explains that "the importance of CEDAW is that it is a common and coherent tool for implementation [of women’s rights] and for measuring progress. Thus, women and human rights organizations need to mobilize to ensure that CEDAW and other Human Rights conventions are duly and truthfully implemented within each country. This implies that positive changes and transformation are brought in at the level of women's lives, conditions and positions."
Naciri points out that Arab countries have made headways in bringing about certain changes in specific sectors such as the penal code, social security, access to education and health services. For Naciri, CEDAW provides, at this point in time, a comprehensive framework for measuring overall progress in moving towards equality as well as for strategizing the way forward towards a more comprehensive reform of the laws and their enforcement mechanisms. CEDAW is also a useful tool for countries where limited progress has been made towards protecting women’s rights, by providing a tool for activists to hold their states accountable for commitments they made on paper.
By being regional, the Equality Without Reservation Campaign allows activists to transcend national differences, join forces, and undertake joint lobbbying activities such as addressing the Arab League of States and the United Nations Human Rights Council, and other regional and international bodies.
Historically, CEDAW has elicited criticism and opposition from various conservative groups, both political and religious. Arab States have done little to counter such opposition. Women activists hope that by working collectively, they will be able to pressure their governments. This strategy seems to have borne fruit in Morocco.
Morocco is indeed under the watchful and hopeful eye of several women's organizations in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. After the euphoria caused by King Mohammed VI's address to the Human Rights Consultative Council in Morocco, activists are demanding that mechanisms for implementation be put in place immediately. The Equality without Reservation Campaign and the recent changes in Morocco have already inspired women’s organizations from various Arab countries to demand similar actions from their government. On the occasion of Arab Women's Day, Collective for Research and Training on Development-Action (CRTD-A) organized a national event at the United Nations House in Beirut demanding that the Lebanese State follow suit and lift its reservations on CEDAW, notably on women's right to transmit her nationality to her spouse and children.
Jordan for its part has lifted its reservation on Article 15, paragraph 4, of the Convention. Jordan will be hosting the second regional conference of the Equality Without Reservation Coalition in mid 2009. This will be an opportunity for activists from the MENA region to get together, some three years after the launch of the Campaign, to review changes, assess challenges, and plan together the way forward.ShareThis