Seema Jalan – Director of Global Development Policy, Women Thrive Worldwide
1. Was the role of women in the Arab Spring more or less meaningful than that of men?
During the Arab spring, women’s contributions were just as meaningful as that of men, even if they played different roles. Both women and men-and especially the youth-played a vital role in the street protests, blogging, organizing on-line and in advocating for meaningful government reform. Although the situation is different for each country, women continue to play unique and critical roles moving forward.
2. Have the revolts of the Arab Spring improved the position of women’s rights in the region?
From what we’ve been hearing from women in the region, this still remains to be seen. While in some cases, there has been a significant opportunity to advance women’s rights in constitutional re-drafting, for example, this appears to be more of an exception to the rule than the norm. We have also seen that in places like Egypt, violence against women – especially women activists – has actually increased in recent months. Women’s groups in various countries are working hard to take advantage of this momentous opportunity improve women’s rights in the region for the long-term.
3. How can the women of the Arab Spring turn this activism into long-term/sustainable gain?
Women must have a seat at the table if their needs and priorities are to be taken into account.
This begs several important questions for U.S.-based organizations like Women Thrive Worldwide: Is there a role for external actors, such as Western women’s groups, to support women in the region? What is constructive engagement? What can Americans who want to stand in solidarity with women in the region do? How can and should Western governments assist?
Whatever the answers might be, Western civil society groups and governments must follow the lead of and work in partnership with women’s groups in the various Arab Spring countries.
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