مذاکره در مورد وضعیت زنان عرب در خاورمیانه و آفریقای شمالی

بازدید : 5,192
۱۳۹۲ چهارشنبه ۶ شهريور

Arab Women in the Middle East & North Africa


TAMARA COFMAN WITTES- FMR. ASST.SEC OF FOR NEAR EASTERN AFFAIRS: Welcome to the Saban Center for Middle East, very glad to have you here. I'm Tamara Cofman Wittes, director of the center. And I'm truly delighted to our stage this morning Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public affairs, Tara Sonenshine. We are just- - almost exactly on your one year anniversary, joining the State Department as Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and what we wanted to do today was really have an opportunity to delve into a particular aspect of the sweeping change that's taking place in the Middle East today. The Arab awakening has brought tremendous opportunities and openings.


It's also bring anxiety and questions and I think on no issue is that mix of hope and anxiety more prevalent than around the status of women, women's equality, women's empowerment, women's rights in the Middle east. I could not be happier that to have my friend Under Secretary, Tara Sonenshine here with us to help us address these questions. Tara is a longtime Media professional. But she is also somebody who throughout her career has worked on and has written about has spoken on issues of women's empowerment and women's inclusion here in US and on foreign affairs and she brought that deep concern and commitment to the issue of women's empowerment with her to the state department.


TARA SONENSHINE: As we meet here this morning 50% of that region's population, those many of whom run the front lines of democrat change in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya they are denied equal or even remotely equal roles after the revolution. But (inaudible) not, I'm not going to deliver the speech you have heard a million times before about the importance of women. Now I think we are moving beyond that speech in to what I think as the post (inaudible) stage of this issue.


Instead I want to ask you a few provocative questions. Should we really care about the increasing role of women in Arab world? I mean beyond just feeling good about ourselves. If so, why? Really will the full inclusion of women, practically speaking, politically speaking, economically speaking, is it really going to make a difference amid this uncertain even (inaudible) transition? And how we know what success even looks like? So let me break it down.


On the first issue, why care? Yes, fairness and human dignity are universal values. But, you know I noticed we tend to embrace those values very strongly when it comes to talking about like the global economy, level playing fields, open rules, fairness, transparency, essential. So man and women can compete on the basis of their talent and economic drive. What about in the broader sense of human rights? This week former secretary Hillary Radhom Clinton came to the stage of the Kennedy center. And we were all reminded of her remarks 20 almost 20 years ago in Beijing. Can you believe that was almost 20 years ago. And remember how she put it so memorably and I quote her human rights are women's rights and women's rights are human rights, once and for all.


There is a common set of liberties to which all human beings are entitled and yes government must protect and enforce those liberties. So everyone is represented all citizen treated equally under law regardless of (inaudible) color or gender. But it`s almost 20 years later. And what is new to say under the sun? What is new under the sun is actually a lot of data and research. We now have an evidence based reality on this subject. Study after study has confirmed that any country or region that ignores half of its population well undercut its chance of success politically, economically and democratically, fact. Another fact there are some democratic realities in the Arab world. Young people including young girls are. Young people are at this proportionate majority.


Youth unemployment is among the highest numbers globally and I see people shaking their heads because they know and you know that the youth bulge is going to continue until at least 2030. These facts put empowering young people of both genders at the top of every single agenda. Let's stick with facts here. Young women are the largest cohort in higher education in many countries and many regions and they are the next generation of human capital. If we limit that poll of emerging problem solvers, we will limit unique perspectives, experiences, skills and solutions. We have to keep sighting studies, statistics and facts. According to a world banks study, women in the Arab world have the lowest rates of employment of any region. The economies of the Middle East will never reach their potential without women playing a significantly more active role in the workforce. Ok, we have done the economics. Let's go beyond the economics. Let's talk about extremism. That gets people sitting up higher in their chairs. Women are frequently the ones most intimately connected in the community with families and neighbors. They are uniquely positioned to prevent extremist ideology from creeping in their communities. They are the most frequently teachers of respect and tolerance. And they can bring their attributes to more than the so-called women's issues space.


They are good at conflict resolution, economic management of a household income and political leadership. All cross the region we are seeing women taking the initiative. Women like Tawakkul Karman a 34-year-old mother of 3 from Yemen, a co-recipient of Nobel Peace Prize in 2011 for nonviolence efforts to enhance women's safety, human rights and peace building. The UAE minister of development and international cooperation, Lubina Al Hashemi. Scientist like (inaudible) who has a science camp "go girls" bringing education opportunities and scholarship to girls and women in the Palestinian territories. Can you please help imagine an entire region if the Tawakkul's the Lubina's the (inaudible) are no longer just a short list of individual exceptions but regular citizens building structure of democracy, freedom, dignity, prosperity and innovation.


It is essential in today's Arab world that women actually govern. In Yemen you could say that 28% of the delegates at the national dialogue are women but the truth is they hold very few of the real decision making seats. Women have three out of 72 seats in the new Syrian opposition coalition. Egypt- - historic important Egypt. Only about nine women legislators one seats in the parliamentary elections. Women are needed in decision making circle to bring about political change but until there is political change women have difficulty attaining influential political positions. Women are the bellwether, the barometer and the building bricks of greater economies, democracies and countries. So yes we should care because they care and because they and us are in charge if building a safer and more secure world. Here is what happens when they retreat. Failed expectations, violence, and suppuration of rights. The cost of systemic discrimination and a failure to harness the contributions of women will have consequences. I had the chance to speak with these women.


I have good news too, one Moroccan women told me she is the youngest female parliamentary in Morocco. She was the first girl in her village to go to school to attend university become elected to public office. She said she is determined to make sure her exceptional story becomes every Moroccan girls quote normal story. Another woman wants you to know she is now a political advisor in the Iraqi government. A Libyan woman wants you to know that she has joined the education ministry. Two women, Fatima and Nadia are out in Yemen today teaching technology to poor students who have never seen a computer. It's time for your questions.


A MALE QUESTIONER: My question is from the state department's activities, what can we do to influence the men? Because the men are the ones who are having the problem. Supporting the women is great but the thing that we really have to change is the men's behavior.


TARA SONENSHINE: I'm glad that you are here because this audience used to be 80%-90% women. That has really changed. I think we have to have conversations and as these conversations expand, it's going to be mindset around this issues. It's hard but it's where it begins.


TAMARA COFMAN WITTES: Tara thank you so much for being with us and thank you for all of the work you do. 


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