Stronger alliances needed to advance women’s rights

On 22 March 2016, the UNESCO Liaison Office in Geneva, in cooperation with the Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue (GCHRAGD), organized a Panel Discussion on “Advancing the Status of Women in the Arab World”.

The event took place at the Palais des Nations in Geneva in the framework of the 31st session of the Human Rights Council. It brought together the representatives of Member States, International Organizations and the civil society.

The interactive debate, moderated by Ms Patricia Schulz, Rapporteur of the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, provided an excellent opportunity to discuss and exchange views on the progress and challenges in promoting gender equality in the Arab World.

Presentations by the speakers and the ensuing debate focused on a wide range of relevant issues, from the legal frameworks to promote women’s rights through to their political emancipation and the role of religion and traditions. The interventions highlighted the positive developments and best practices existing in the Arab countries, notably in Algeria, Lebanon, Morocco, Tunisia, and the United Arab Emirates, as well as enduring challenges for women in traditional societal contexts.

Speaking about UNESCO’s activities to promote gender equality as one of its global priorities, Golda El-Khoury, Chief of the Public Policies and Capacity Building Section of UNESCO, emphasized the key role of quality education, especially for women and girls. She elaborated on the structural forms of violence against women and stressed on the responsibilities of boys and men to combat against the abuse and discrimination.

“We need stronger alliances to advance women’s rights and gender equality in Arab countries”, said Ms El-Khoury. “While adequate legal frameworks and political commitment are important factors to improve the situation, the role of education remains primordial to promote inclusive societies where women can fully enjoy their rights”, she continued. Referring to the existing stereotype images on women’s role in society, Ms El-Khoury underlined the crucial role of the media in propagating proper understanding and relating values to change erroneous perceptions.

Opening and closing remarks at the meeting were delivered by Ambassador Idriss Al Jazairi, former Permanent Representative of Algeria to the United Nations at Geneva and Resident Member of the Board of the GCHRAGD.

Other members of the Panel included Ambassador Whalid Doudech, Permanent Representative of Tunisia to the United Nations at Geneva; Mr Zayed Saeed Alshamsi, Chairperson of the Emirates Lawyer and Legist Association; Dr Fawzia Al Ashmawi, President of the Forum for European Muslim Women; and Ms Lama Jbarah from GCHRAGD.