Monday, July 19, 2004

UNIFEM Launches "Progress of Arab Women 2004" Report

Besides my interest in following up the progress of Arab women in all fields, this Report in particular means so much to me. If I were still in Jordan and in my job, I'd be the researcher working on this project, but hard luck for me :(
Anyway, whether I took part in it or not, this report is so important and helpful, and I think it’s worth discussing.
The United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) report: “Progress of Arab Women 2004,” which aims to provide an insight into the world of Arab women and the progress achieved throughout the years, revealed that while women make up 49 per cent of the population in Arab countries only 28 per cent were in the active workforce, making these figures the lowest of any region in the world. On the other hand the report acknowledges and emphasizes the number of successful professional women in executive positions in a variety of Arab countries and also notes the increase in Arab women's representation in national parliaments, the establishment of the Arab women's organizations and the rising role of NGOs.
Three levels of action in the region are investigated towards women's empowerment in the report: The policy level where international commitments are being made, the operational plans and actions at the national level, and the achievements and challenges in terms of the everyday lives of women.
The report also reflects the experience of Arab women in the context of social, economic and political security in a region that continues to face traumas and insecurities including radical social transformations, demographic transitions, poverty, resource shortages as well as occupation, war and civil strife.
The three key elements of social security proposed are Revisiting family codes and state practices which make women's citizenship contingent on family relations, reforming welfare regimes so that they accommodate the needs of women, and regulating labour markets with gender sensitive and flexible mechanisms.
Economic security, as introduced in the report, refers to the need to protect people through the provision of job opportunities, a secure income, economic rights, and effective participation in economic life.
Education, training, microfinance and access to other loan and financial resources have been identified as means for enhancing women's opportunities for income generation.
The chapter on “securing politics” reexamines possible explanations for the low political participation of women in Arab states, since “the number of Arab women involved in politics is still far from representative of their population in society.”
Some of the obstacles, according to the report, include lack of support and guidance necessary for women to reach decision making positions and lack of knowledge and understanding of political rights and responsibilities.
The report, marking the 10th anniversary of the Beijing Conference, is expected to serve as a mapping tool for Arab countries to review the progress made in the implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action.
Her Majesty Queen Rania acted as patron at the report's launching ceremony, which was attended by ministers, and representatives of NGOs, UN agencies, embassies, the media and universities. At the end of the ceremony, Abu Ghazaleh, UNIFEM Regional Director,presented Queen Rania, president of the Arab Women's Summit, with a copy of the report, marking its launch from Jordan and highlighting the great strides the country has taken in the area of women and development.
Source: The Jordan Times.