WLP Joins International Peace and Human Rights Activists in Marrakesh, Morocco, and San Diego, California

In November 2014, WLP took part in two international conferences focused on advancing human rights: the World Forum on Human Rights, in Marrakesh, Morocco, and “Defying Extremism: Gendered Responses to Religious Violence,” in San Diego, California.

From November 27-30 more than 6,000 people gathered in Marrakesh, Morocco, for the 2nd World Forum on Human Rights. WLP Morocco/Association Démocratique des Femmes du Maroc (ADFM) hosted the international conference, which focused on creating a universal platform for dialogue among governments, national human rights institutions, and civil society organizations working to advance human rights.

With the Moroccan National Council on Human Rights, UN Women, and the Equality without Reservation campaign, WLP organized a plenary panel during the Forum on “From Rhetoric to Effectiveness: Assessing Change 20 Years After Beijing,” which examined the main obstacles and challenges to gender equality and the new approaches and tools that are making change possible. The panel featured Rabéa Naciri, member of Morocco’s National Human Rights Council and co-founder of ADFM; Soon-Young Yoon, First Vice President of CoNGO (Conference of NGOs in consultative relations with the UN) and Chair of the NGO Committee on the Status of Women (NGO CSW) with the UN; Joanne Sandler, former Deputy Executive Director for Programmes with UNIFEM, Moez Doraid, Director, Coordination Division of UN Women; Yakın Ertürk, former UN Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women and current WLP Board Member; and Lina Abou-Habib, WLP Senior Advisor for International Partnerships.

Spring of Dignity, a campaign of WLP Morocco/ADFM, held a plenary session on “Combating Violence against Women: Stakes and Challenges for Effectiveness,” with several speakers from WLP, including Lina Abou-Habib and Yakın Ertürk. The panel stated that violence against women is one the most significant challenges facing society today and that it requires a global response. ADFM also organized a panel discussion on Soulaliyate women and their advocacy efforts to secure land rights in Morocco. The discussion was followed by a play showcasing the struggles of Soulaliyates in Morocco.

With NGO CSW/NY, WLP participated in an advocacy training that highlighted the CSW process and how NGOs can engage on the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). Rabéa Naciri and Anne Guyaz, NGO Coordination Post-Beijing, Switzerland, led the training for 35 people, which will be used a model for national trainings that WLP will hold in Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, and Morocco.

The “Defying Extremism” conference, held November 19-21 at the Joan B. Kroc Institute for Peace and Justice at the University of San Diego, brought together scholars and advocates who are working to build peace in the face of violent conflict. WLP was a co-convener of the international working conference which featured panels, testimonials, and working sessions with 49 speakers from more than 25 countries, including Yakın Ertürk, Lina Abou-Habib, and WLP Program Associate Allison Horowski. Ertürk facilitated a panel on “Realities behind the Headlines,” which highlighted how women are targeted by extremists and the opportunities for civil society to respond. Abou-Habib facilitated a panel on “Building Effective Policies: Frameworks, Collaboration and Action,” which discussed the importance of the human rights framework in advancing women’s rights and the need to support women leaders on the ground who are working to resist extremism. WLP also organized a working session on “How can individuals and communities move past conflict to build a more peaceful, compassionate society?” The session’s discussion and subsequent interviews with conference participants brought up many themes and strategies that will inform a peace-builiding training toolkit WLP is developing (to be published in 2015). The conference also featured a lecture by Karima Bennoune, who recently received the 2014 Dayton Literary Peace Prize for Your Fatwa Does Not Apply Here: Untold Stories from the Fight against Muslim Fundamentalism.

In the current context of rising extremism and backlash against women’s rights activists globally, the discussions at both the World Forum on Human Rights and “Defying Extremism” highlighted key challenges and opportunities for advancing women’s human rights, which is critical to the development of equitable and peaceful societies.

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