The Women As Partners In Progress International Conference in Jordan showcased key initiatives for gender equality in the Middle East and North Africa region.
Women As Partners In Progress, also known as WPP, is a project embedded in the Khalil Gibran Chair for Values & Peace at the University of Maryland in the United States.
The Chair is spearheaded by May Rihani, a renowned author and women’s rights advocate, whose work has largely focused on girl’s education.
For two years, WPP has been working with local groups in Jordan, Morocco and Kuwait to amplify women’s voices and improve their labour freedom.
RIGHT TO WORK IN JORDAN
The World Bank states that women make up approximately 50 percent of the global workforce. However, looking exclusively at the MENA region, that figure drops to around 25 percent.
In Jordan, many women still have to fight for their right to work. The kingdom’s labour laws also dictate how late female employees can work and until recently it prevented them from entering certain fields, like construction.
Mayyada Abu Jaber is an analyst of ‘womenomics’, looking at how women’s advancement in the labour market benefits economy.
She was a keynote speaker at WPP’s event in Amman, and shared her view that working with all members of society is the key to female empowerment.
Abu Jaber heads up World of Letters, a social enterprise to promote quality education, empower youth and bridge opportunity gaps in the MENA region.
“First, we need to work with men. We have to find the supporters, we have to bring them on board because they become role models to other men,” she tells Euronews’ Daleen Hassan, “We have to come together to create a feminist economy.”
CHANGING LAWS IN MOROCCO
In Morocco, a partner organisation of the Gibran Chair is inviting men to stand in solidarity with women and help them fight for gender equality.
The Jossour Forum of Moroccan Women uses social media networks to spread the word in universities and rural areas.
The Forum is pushing for legislative change and success stories this year have included Morocco criminalizing sexual harassment and the exploitation of women.
However, efforts to make arranged marriages illegal and protect women from domestic violence have not been so well received.
Zouhair Adoui, a volunteer at the NGO, cites law 103-13, approved by the parliament in 2016. This legislation penalizes violence against women, but it has been largely criticized by the international community for not covering certain forms of harassment.
“For example, [the law] did not mention the types of rape, especially marital rape. Jossour made several efforts to send recommendations to the Ministry but the Ministry did not take [it] into consideration,” says Adoui.
With such initiatives, efforts to drum up action through awareness campaigns throughout the region continue. WPP also plans to expand its activities to other MENA countries, in a bid to help more women, and men, take the right steps forward together.
SEEN ON SOCIAL MEDIA
Rana Nawas posted this behind-the-scenes shot whilst recording a podcast called ‘When Women Win’, a show that highlights inspirational women.