Introduction to NCWC

INTRODUCTION: The National Council of Women of Canada (NCWC) is an accredited NGO (Non Government Organization) with the United Nations. The NCWC has a long history of working internationally. NCWC has been a member of the International Council of Women (ICW) since 1897, and has consultative status at the United Nations, Category II. Each year we send a delegation to the meetings of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women in New York in March.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Women Farmers Are Key to a Food-Secure Africa

Busani Bafana interviews JANE KARUKU, the first woman president of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa

BULAWAYO, May 11 (IPS) - While women constitute the majority of food producers, processors and marketers in Africa, their role in the agricultural sector still remains a minor one because of cultural and social barriers.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), women are the majority of the world's agricultural producers, supplying more than 50 percent of the food that is grown globally. And in sub-Saharan Africa the number is higher, as women grow 80 to 90 percent of the food in the region.
FAO says that although across the globe women are responsible for providing the food for their families, they do this in the face of constraints and attitudes that conspire to undervalue their work and responsibilities and hinder their participation in decision and policy making. 

But it is a situation that the new Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) boss, Jane Karuku, says must change in order for Africa to feed itself.
Karuku, a Kenyan business leader with a career spanning over 20 years, became the first female president of the organisation in April.
AGRA is a partnership that works on the African continent to improve food security and enhance the economic empowerment of millions of smallholder farmers and their families. It does this through nearly 100 programmes in 14 countries. 

Karuku joins AGRA from Telkom Kenya, a subsidiary of France Telecom-Orange, where she was the deputy chief executive. 

She told IPS about her dream of seeing smallholder farmers become the drivers in Africa's quest for food security. Excerpts of the interview follow. 

Q: Do you see your appointment as a milestone for women farmers in Africa?
A: As AGRA’s first female president, it is a great honour to advocate on behalf of the tireless women who are sowing seeds and working in fields across Africa. They are the real heroines in this story, and I hope to highlight their important contributions for a food-secure future. 

Q: Do food security policies recognise the role of women farmers in the production, processing and marketing of food in agriculture?
A: Across Africa there are great signs of progress when it comes to smallholder farmers, the majority of whom are women who are building prosperous lives for themselves and their families. 

Success for smallholders, however, has been lopsided. Women smallholders and rural entrepreneurs on the continent are neither participating fully nor deriving benefits in equal measure in the agri-economy owning to gender obstacles driven by cultural and societal norms. This must change if Africa is to transform the capacity to feed itself and realise the quality of life envisioned for rural households and communities in sub-Saharan Africa. 

Q: In your appointment speech you said: "Smallholder farming is a way of life in Africa, full of challenges and equally full of huge opportunities." What will you do to strike a balance for food security? 

A: My focus is to work to remove the obstacles that prevent smallholder farmers across Africa from significantly boosting productivity and income, while safeguarding the environment and promoting equity. I am committed to ensuring farmers have a full range of choices when it comes to approaching their work. 

Q: Smallholder farmers hold the key to food security in Africa. What is your vision for improving their situation? 

A: My vision is a food-secure and prosperous Africa achieved through rapid and sustainable agricultural growth that is based on smallholder farmers who produce staple food crops. AGRA’s mission is to trigger a uniquely "African Green Revolution" that transforms agriculture into a highly productive, efficient, competitive and sustainable system to ensure food security and lift millions out of poverty. 

Q: Where do you see the role of AGRA in advocating assistance for smallholder farmers to cope with the impact that climate change has on food security? 

A: AGRA and its partners work together to determine the kinds of environmental safeguards farmers need to increase their yields and improve their livelihoods. By focusing on sustainable development practices, AGRA reduces environmental degradation and conserves biodiversity. 

Rebuilding soil health and enabling Africa’s smallholder farmers to grow more on less land should reduce the pressure to clear and cultivate forests and savannahs, thus helping conserve the environment and biodiversity. 

AGRA’s sustainable agricultural practices include improving soil health through integrated soil fertility management. We do this through using a combination of fertilisers and organic inputs, and techniques that are appropriate for local conditions and resources. Through advocating the use of agro- ecologically sound approaches to soil and crop management, such as fertiliser micro-dosing in arid areas, AGRA will guard against potential overuse of fertilisers that could harm the environment. 

Q: Research is key to food security; what is your take on the current investment in agricultural research in Africa? 

A: Research is critical to making the most of the full agricultural value chain – from seed to harvest. While food productivity has increased globally by 140 percent in recent decades, the figures for sub- Saharan Africa over the same period of time show a reduction. This is because farming across much of the continent has changed little in generations. The role of research is critically important. 

Q: What major impact has AGRA had in Africa, and how do you plan to build on it? 

A: AGRA takes a uniquely integrated approach to helping smallholder farmers overcome hunger and poverty. By focusing on seeds, soil, market access, policy and partnership and innovative financing, the programme is transforming subsistence farming into sustainable, viable commercial activities that will increase yields across the continent. I hope to continue to look for intersections and innovative opportunities to improve farmers’ lives.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Report on the 56th CSW, prepared by Elisabeth Newman, Board Member, ICW

New York 27th Feb – 9TH March 2012

Priority Theme: The empowerment of rural women and their role in poverty and hunger     eradication; development and current challenges.
Review Theme: Financing for gender equality and the empowerment of women
Emerging Issue: Engaging young women and men, girls and boys, to advance gender equality
This year’s CSW seemed to have a slightly different atmosphere than previous years. There was not the high level of frustration with registration and access to the UN North Lawn Building. Registration has been streamed lined especially for those of us who are regular attendees. The system of issuing secondary passes and special tags to side events within the UN had also been improved though we were down to one secondary pass per organisation but passes to side events were more readily available There were many more young people and first time attendees.

The opening Ceremony was held in the General Assembly. Speakers included Mdm. Michelle Bachelet with the Chair of CSW, the President of ECOSOC and representatives from various aligned groups of Member States. Speeches, focusing on the themes, highlighted the inequality suffered by women, especially rural women and girls, their needs and challenges of which rights ,empowerment and gender budgeting are high on the list.

The ICW-CIF side event was held on Monday 5th March .Entitled “Empowerment Finance Poverty: Challenges for Rural Women” it focused on the priority and review themes. Marion Bὂker, from Germany spoke from the European perspective and Rachel James from PNG spoke from the PNG/Pacific perspective. The presentations where followed by group discussions. The event was well received and well attended attracting about 60 attendees from diverse nationalities and backgrounds. (Papers and group discussion outcomes to be circulated once available).

ICW-CIF was also a co-sponsor to five side events.
1 The Huairou Commission: “Empowering Caregivers to Build Healthy Sustainable Communities”. From an African perspective, we learnt of the hardships/difficulties face by caregivers, not only due to lack of infrastructure but also lack of support from governments. Any available funding seldom reaches the caregivers. Rachel James was to have spoken for ICW-CIF from the PNG perspective but regrettably she was unwell.
.2. The World Federation of Ukrainian Women’s Organisations: .One paper gave an account of the rapidly declining conditions in the rural areas. Much of the agricultural work remains hard manual labour, a legacy of the Soviet period, performed by women who also care for their household as well  own vegetable gardens to feed their families and make a little extra money selling excess crops. Only 10.9% of rural women say their health is good. One frightening statistic is the high maternal death rate during child birth. In one year, 2008-2009, it soared from 12.9% to 32.9% (UNDP 2010). Villages are dying as have few young people. The situation for rural women in the Ukraine is bleak. 
3. National Council of Women of Korea: In this side event we learnt much is done for the rural population of Korea, Taiwan as well as Japan., quite a contrast from Ukraine
4. Mata Amritanandamayi Math: This event consisted of testimonies about Wangari Maathai and her work. It gave a good over view of what this great woman did for women and girls.
5.   I was unable to attend the CoNGO Committee on Mental Health and wellbeing of rural women.

 I attended a number of other NGO  side events and some CSW programmes where all aspects affecting the lives of rural women and girls were raised. The NCW USA workshop highlighted conditions for rural farmers which have deteriorated since the financial crisis. Conditions for rural women are not good in many developed nations. The higher instance of violence against women in rural areas than urban as was illustrated in an Australian Mission event.  Early and forced marriages were the topic of the three events held by Plan International; they were also mentioned elsewhere. A Japanese Human Rights group gave a graphic account of the situation in Japan following the tsunami and nuclear accident of one year ago.  Gender budgeting was the basis of an interesting side event at the Swiss Mission which was complimented  by “The Role of Business in Empowering Women” a part of the CSW programme in the UN building. BPWI, in talking about the pay gap had a short video showing women in a super market leaving behind 17% of each item they purchased and taking 17% off the bill. Throughout the two weeks it was well illustrated that with education and training, women can be empowered to take on leadership roles and so overcome poverty but there is still a very long way to go particularly in gaining equality for rural women and girls. Peace is also the process.

ICW-CIF was called upon to give an oral statement. One of twelve from 100 who submitted to present an oral statement.

International Women’s Day was marked a day early by the UN. On the actual day, the NGO /CSW celebrated with a march, the first they have organised. We were all issued with yellow sashes on which we wrote slogans before marching along streets near the UN.

Sadly the end of what had been a good CSW was most disappointing. There was no agreement to the outcome document. The main stumbling blocks were sections relating to reproductive rights, also “gender. equality” was disputed; with “equality” being problematic. Of the seven resolutions the one relating to women, girls and HIV/AIDS was not adopted. The resolution relating to maternal and infant mortality was adopted but only after fairly extensive re-drafting. These moves to weaken language, especially around women’s reproductive health, are very worrying and need to be watched.  The Commission is to re-convene, as yet date unannounced, to come to a consensus on the outcome document. The UN Secretary–General has agreed in principle to a Fifth World Conference for Women, this has yet to be agreed by the General Assembly. If it becomes a reality we will need to guard our hard earned rights. We will, however, have the opportunity further advance the equal rights of women and the general well-being of society as a whole.

CSW57 Theme is to be: Elimination and prevention of all forms of violence against women and girls.

My thanks to all who participated in the CIW-CIF programme at CSW56 and assisted in making it a success

Elisabeth Newman
Board Member                                                                                                                       March 2012


Oral Statement by the International Council of Women at the CSW

Oral Statement Submitted by International Council of Women
 to the 56th Commission on the Status of Women on 5th March 2012

Madam Chair, distinguished delegates.

The International Council of Women, an umbrella of National Councils of Women is a non-governmental organization representing millions of women from more than sixty countries.  We thank you for this opportunity to present this oral Statement.
We applaud the Commission for focusing on the empowerment of rural women at this 56th session and on the many challenges they face such as poverty and hunger eradication.

We urge the Commission to give due consideration to the recommendations from this session and use them as a basis to form a strong framework in the support of the empowerment of rural and grassroots women as agents of change.

With this in mind, ICW-CIF requests that UN WOMEN and Member States focus on the following issues:

1.     Statistics worldwide show that violence and discrimination against women and girls is higher in rural areas than urban. Therefore men and boys should also be included in training programmes.

2.     Education is a Human Right for girls and boys. In rural areas girls drop out of basic education with the result of no school, no scholarship. Available and free education is the key-stone to the empowerment of women and girls for the rest of their life.

3.     Rural women, as essential food producers, are central to a sustainable economy. Women’s land ownership and inheritance rights improve productivity and will reduce poverty and hunger. The taking over of land, so called land-grabbing by large companies, should be monitored and reported. 

4.     Financial obstacles for women, as seen in access to credit and market places, are well-documented challenges for rural women. The right to a good communication system, such as mobile phones, can upgrade the efficiency of their businesses and so reduce poverty and hunger.

5.     The effects of changing climate, rising sea levels and natural disasters will have the effect of migration of families, so called environmental refugees. Rural families, especially women and children, are the most affected because they lose their land. UN WOMEN and Member States are called upon to give full support in resettlement.

As we oversee these five issues of concern we conclude: Women are Agents of Change.

Thank you for your attention.

Friday, April 13, 2012


      To: UN, International Community, Governments, and CEDAW

·        Appoint a Special Representative on Widowhood (in Conflict Zones)
·        Commission a Special Report on Widowhood in Developing/Conflict afflicted countries
·        UN Women should establish a special section to address widowhood issues in context of human rights/VAW/poverty reduction/conflict resolution and peace building
·        Adopt a UN Resolution on Widowhood

·        Acknowledge rural widows as sub-sect of women experiencing special forms of abuse that require specific  responses and remedies
·        Support widows' groups through resources for their empowerment, and fill gap in data
·        Acknowledge that abuse of rural widows of all ages is one of root causes of poverty, hunger, homelessness and GBV
·        Address the impact of rural widowhood on the girl child
·        Address widow-abuse as a major issue in combating GBV

To: Governments and UN WOMEN

·        Mainstream widowhood issues in all gender/equality/Human Rights policies and laws
·        Ensure implementation of International and modern laws to eliminate discrimination against widows take precedence over discriminatory customs and traditions
·        Criminalise discriminatory and abusive practices perpetrated against widows
·        Provide for all land registrations to be in wives’ names as well as husbands’
·        Prohibit “land grabbing” by multinationals and industry, or “gifts” of land to political allies, where such land could be available to women heads of households.
·        Support widows’ to “band together” to form their own associations so as to have:
o       a collective voice to articulate needs and describe roles
o        fill gap in data through “mapping and profiling” themselves
o        access literacy, education, training, services, justice
o        be represented in appropriate decision-making committees
o        be consulted, and contribute to strategies to implement

        To: CEDAW; BPFA; UN SCR 1325; MDGs

·        Criminalise actions that deprive widows of their inheritance, property, and land rights: such as “chasing-off” and "property-grabbing"
·        Criminalise coercion of HTPs including harmful and degrading mourning and burial rites
·        Develop special “land allocation” schemes, and registration of title  to ensure rural widows can own and cultivate land for food security
·        Develop extension services and income-generating strategies that will enable rural widows to remain in their villages
·        Devise systems to ensure widows enjoy pensions, social security and micro- credit
·        Identify economic and sexual exploitation of widows and their daughters in rural areas and as migrants to urban centers
·        Protect widows from physical, sexual, and psychological violence.
·        Address the specific needs for resettlement and rehabilitation of conflict widows in IDP and refugee camps
·        Use all means to remove stereotyping and stigma of widowhood

Monday, April 2, 2012


The theme for this year’s International Women’s Day – Empower Rural Women, end poverty and hunger – highlights the need to tackle gender inequalities in the rural sector. Women living and working in rural areas are often perceived and treated as second-class citizens. Despite the low level of recognition given to their work, their socio-economic contribution to the welfare of their households and communities is immense. In this interview, ILO Gender Bureau Director Jane Hodges discusses the many facets of the plight of rural women.
Article | 02 March 2012

1. What is the situation of gender equality in the rural sector?

Some 70 per cent of the world’s poor are concentrated in rural communities. These are communities that rely on agriculture, forestry, fisheries and livestock to make a living. Within these communities, the poorest of the poor are often women and young girls who lack regular and decent employment, and who may face hunger and/or malnutrition, and poor access to health, education and productive assets. Although gender inequality varies considerably across regions and sectors, there is evidence that, globally, women benefit less from rural employment, whether in self- or wage-employment, than men do.

2. Why are women in rural areas generally poorer and face worse living conditions than men?

There are various reasons. For starters, women are disproportionately employed in low-quality jobs, including jobs in which their rights are not adequately respected and social protection is limited. Another reason related to the above is that women tend to get paid less than men (around 25 per cent less, to be more precise). That doesn’t mean they work less, on the contrary. The problem is that much of the work they do is not valued and remunerated accordingly. In fact, most rural women are unpaid family members. This not only lowers their labour income but also is likely to increase their stress and fatigue.

3. What are the causes of women’s disadvantaged position?

Gender inequalities in rural employment exist and persist because of a range of interlinked social, economic and political factors. However, there is a specific cause that outweighs all others: the invisible but powerful role of social institutions that disempower one sex above the other. These include traditions, customs and social norms that govern the intricate workings of rural societies, and which act as a constraint on women’s activities and restrict their ability to compete on an even footing with men. We’re not saying that urban-based women are not faced with poverty … but that the context of rural communities places an added strain on equal opportunities.

4. Can you give some examples of these traditions and customs?

Yes: here’s one example that will sound true to anyone who has lived and worked in isolated rural areas; the commonly held view that it is a woman’s obligation to work in the home, cooking, cleaning, and looking after children and the sick and the elderly. Here’s another: the belief that women are less able to manage assets. The idea that women have to obtain their husbands or guardians permission to leave the house. Or even social - sometimes legal - restrictions that do not allow women to have any property or inheritance rights. These practices are extremely difficult to eradicate and are detrimental to women’s capacity to develop as productive members of society; they stifle women’s economic empowerment.

5. Why does gender inequality in rural employment matter?

First and foremost, because not providing women with equal opportunities is a violation of their human rights. Second, because we will not eradicate extreme poverty (as called for by the MDGs) until we acknowledge the fact that women are disproportionately represented among the poorest of poor in rural areas. Third, and this is something that not only applies to rural areas, gender equality makes great economic sense. It is well established that educating and providing women with opportunities to take part in skilled paid employment provides benefits to their families and communities in the form of lower fertility rates, decreased child mortality, improved child health nutrition and levels of education. Finally, the fight against child labour will be almost impossible to win unless parents (mothers and fathers) can produce or earn sufficiently to ensure their family’s livelihoods.

6. Is the global economic crisis having a specific impact on women in rural employment?

The financial crisis arrived at a time when many people in developing countries were already facing hardship because of the food and fuel crises. It is hard to quantify the impact of the current crisis in terms of gender equality, but certain trends can be predicted. For example, it is plausible to anticipate that in most countries women will be expected to assume the primary responsibility for acting as safety nets of last resort and for ensuring that their families will survive. At the same time, rural women’s unpaid work burdens are likely to further intensify, especially in low-income households and especially when State-run facilities (even the few that actually reached rural areas) are cut as part of austerity measures. Also, it is possible that rural women, more than rural men, will be increasingly offered precarious employment with poor prospects and that their children’s health, as well as their own health will deteriorate. During Mexico’s 1995 crisis, for example, infant mortality rates increased most in the areas where women’s work participation increased, with girls being affected the most.

7. What is the ILO doing to promote gender equality in rural areas?

A lot! Women face inequalities in all the pillars of Decent Work: standards and rights at work, employment creation, social protection and social dialogue. That’s why for the ILO gender equality is a cross-cutting issue. The ILO has implemented a number of projects that promote gender equality in rural areas. One of them is the Cooperative Facility for Africa, which promotes cooperative development across the continent. The ILO recently organized a participatory workshop at the Cooperative College of Kenya to discuss strategies for encouraging women’s participation on co-operative boards. The ILO’s Women's Entrepreneurship Development Programme is in its third and final phase. The aim of this project is to enhance economic opportunities for women by carrying out affirmative actions in support of women starting, formalizing and growing their enterprises, and by mainstreaming gender equality issues into the ILO's work in enterprise development. In Timor-Leste, the ILO is supporting the Institute for Business Support (IADE) and the National Directorate for Rural Development (NDRD) of the Ministry of Economy and Development in boosting local economic development, enhancing government service delivery and creating quality employment in rural areas by expanding market access for MSEs, strengthening local contractors and improving the provision of business development services.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Feminist and women's rights organisations say NO to safeguarding "traditional values" at the expense of the human rights of women!

Call to Action: Click here to add your name to the endorsements

Deadline: 5 April 2012

This month the UN Commission on the Status of Women failed to adopt agreed conclusions at its 56th session on the basis of safeguarding "traditional values" at the expense of human rights and fundamental freedoms of women.

Together different feminist and women's rights organisations say NO to any re-opening of negotiations on the already established international agreements on women’s human rights and call on all governments to demonstrate their commitments to promote, protect and fulfill human rights and fundamental freedoms of women. 

We have outlined our concerns in the statement below, which will be submitted to UN Member States, CSW, the media and other relevant UN human rights and development entities.
Thank you for your support.
In solidarity,

Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development (APWLD)
Association for Women's Rights in Development (AWID)
International Women's Heath Coalition (IWHC)
International Women's Rights Action Watch Asia Pacific (IWRAW ASIA PACIFIC)
Women Living under Muslim Laws/ Violence is not our Culture Campaign


We, the undersigned organisations and individuals across the globe, are alarmed and disappointed that the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) failed to adopt agreed conclusions at its 56th session. This failure has diminished the considerable work, energy, time and costs that women all over the world invested on the 56th session of the CSW.  The advancement of women’s human rights should not be put on hold because of political battles between states.  We say NO to any re-opening of negotiations on the already established international agreements on women’s human rights and call on all governments to demonstrate their commitments to promote, protect and fulfill human rights and fundamental freedoms of women. 

We  are particularly concerned to learn that our governments failed to reach a consensus on the basis of safeguarding “traditional values” at the expense of human rights and fundamental freedoms of women. We remind governments that all Member States of the United Nations (UN) have accepted that “the human rights of women and of the girl-child are an inalienable, integral and individual part of universal human rights” as adopted by the 1993 World Conference on Human Rights in Vienna.   Governments must not condone any tradition, cultural or religious arguments which deny human rights and fundamental freedoms of any person.  After more than 60 years since the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) was embraced and adopted by the UN, the relationship between traditional values and human rights remains highly contested.  We affirm the UDHR as not only ‘a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations’ but a common standard of assessment for all traditional values.  The UDHR is an embodiment of positive traditional values that are universally held by this community of nations and are consistent with the inherent dignity of all human beings.  We remind governments that under the Charter of the United Nations, gender equality has been proclaimed as a fundamental human right.  States cannot contravene the UN Charter by enacting or enforcing discriminatory laws directly or through religious courts nor can allow any other private actors or groups imposing their religious fundamentalist agenda in violation of the UN Charter.  

“No one may invoke cultural diversity to infringe upon human rights guaranteed by international law, nor limit their scope.  Not all cultural practices accord with international human rights law and, although it is not always easy to identify exactly which cultural practices may be contrary to human rights, the endeavour always must be to modify and/or discard all practices pursued in the name of culture that impede the enjoyment of human rights by any individual.” (Statement by Ms. Farida Shaheed, the Independent Expert in the field of cultural rights, to the Human Rights Council at its 14th session 31 May 2010)

Amongst other things, it is alarming that some governments have evoked so-called “moral” values to deny women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights. Sexual and reproductive rights are a crucial and fundamental part of women’s full enjoyment of all rights as well as integral to gender equality, development and social justice.  Social and religious morals and patriarchal values have  been employed to justify violations against women. Violence against women, coercion and deprivation of legal and other protections of women, marital rape, honour crimes, son preference, female genital mutilation, ‘dowry’ or ‘bride price’, forced and early marriages and ‘corrective rapes’ of lesbians, bisexuals, transgender and inter-sexed persons have all been justified by reference to ‘traditional values’. 

We remind governments that the CSW is the principal global policy-making body dedicated exclusively to gender equality and advancement of women with the sole aim of promoting women’s rights in political, economic, civil, social and educational fields.  Its mandate is to ensure the full implementation of existing international agreements on women’s human rights and gender equality as enshrined in the Convention on  the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action, the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women, the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action and the International Conference on Population and Development Programme of Action as well as other international humanitarian and human rights law.  

We strongly demand all governments and the international community to reject any attempt to invoke traditional values or morals to infringe upon human rights guaranteed by international law, nor to limit their scope.  Customs, tradition or religious considerations must not be tolerated to justify discrimination and violence against women and girls whether committed by State authorities or by non-state actors.  In particular, we urge governments to ensure that the health and human rights of girls and women are secured and reaffirmed at the coming Commission on Population and Development and the International Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20).  Any future international negotiations must move forward implementation of policies and programmes that secure the human rights of girls and women.     

We call upon the member states of the UN and the various UN human rights and development entities to recognise and support the important role of women’s groups and organisations working at the forefront of challenging traditional values and practices that are intolerant to fundamental human rights norms, standards and principles.  


Download the full statement here

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Report on one day Conference - The Challenges and Prospects of Gender Equality in the Context of the Arab Uprisings

'Karama’ is the Arabic word for dignity, as well as an initiative fueled by a coalition of  partners as constituencies to build a movement to end violence against women in the Middle East and North Africa. Karama puts emphasis on women from the ground up, addressing violence as they define it, with solutions of their own design.
During the UN Commission on the Status of Women 56 in New York, Karama hosted a one-day Conference on The Challenges and Prospects of Gender Equality in the Context of the Arab Uprisings. 
Conference Summary: The Challenges and Prospects of Gender Equality in the Context of the Arab Uprisings

Panel 1: Are Arab Women Shaping the Future after the Arab Spring?
·        Success for women will come from how well we are organized, and what social and other resources women have. We must use our numbers to organize, to speak loudly, to counter what’s happening against women’s rights, to reach the political candidates, and to use the media.

·        Poverty and politics are the crux for women’s empowerment.  We must work at the level of the village and in rural areas to end poverty and illiteracy, so that not just the Muslim Brotherhood is recognized for this.

·        We have to play the game differently: we must build bridges around the different players, bring youth, progressive men, bring all who are for human rights, equality, justice, and freedom, and build a good connection to the religious men as well (e.g. developing their support for the women running for office). We have to know what is the language the Islamists’ are using to get in power, and we must make new languages.

·        We should examine and emulate each other’s achievements lobbying for equality in the new constitutions, such as Article 19 in Morocco, and the electoral law in Libya.  And we must assess if the Islamist governments are taking us away from gender mainstreaming and more toward a sidelined, women-in-development approach

Panel 2: Striving for New Constitutional Rights in the Context of Islamist Electoral Victories

·        We must realize that Islamic trend movements are not uniform when it comes to their conceptions and discourse of women’s rights. There is a split between generations within the Muslim Brotherhood (older more paternalistic, younger more used to seeing women in decision-making roles)

·        Women should not be holding ourselves to the standard of repressive countries, but rather to the most progressive countries on women’s rights issues.

·        Before blaming local political parties for excluding us, we should look at ourselves and rise to a higher standard

Panel 3: Women, Peace, and Security: Demanding Accountability for Implementing Resolutions 1325 and 1820 in the Arab Region

·        1325 is an extremely useful tool for lobbying at the international levels, and national action plans for 1325 must be  written with the participation of all stakeholders

·        1325 and its children have suggested a new conception of “peace” not as an absence of conflict, but as something that must be constantly negotiated and upheld even during periods of stability

·        1325/ 1820 are  not well disseminated at the national level, and more awareness-raising is necessary