With the presence of 20 researchers and leaders of associations committed to equality, our Foundation contributed to the collective reflection on the relations of patriarchy and contemporary feminist issues, subjects at the heart of the debate of the 8th Congress of Feminist Research in the Francophonie (CIRFF). On August 27th and 28th, the FFEM organized a conference and a scientific seminar in partnership with the Euro-Mediterranean Academic and Scientific Network on Gender and Women (RUSEMEG). A summary of these activities is proposed below.
Session 1 "A methodological approach to transform our knowledge into action, focusing on the Euro-Mediterranean region" was moderated by Serena Romano. Fouzia Assouli, Maria-Àngels Roque and Soukaina Bouraoui spoke about activism which contributes to the emergence of human values and the progress of equality, and influences laws especially. To convince policymakers to act, civil society must rely on data and statistics, hence the importance of involving researchers in the fight to ensure that the power of men and women is balanced. .
Thanks to field diagnoses carried out within the framework of local clusters, South Mediterranean women’s organizations are able to hold states accountable for their commitments and international provisions. Social networks, media and campaigns run by consortia of associations in several countries are equally important tools for accelerating change.
Regarding the inheritance that favours men at the expense of women in most legal systems of the southern Mediterranean countries, the speakers argued that rights of private life are essential for equality in public life.
Session 2 " Women in power in the Mediterranean South: Progress and challenges? Was moderated by Emilie Vidal. Joelle Abou Farhat, Rahma Houzig and Wafa Elloumi presented the strategies of their associations to promote women’s place and their access to governing bodies in political parties and trade unions.
In Lebanon for instance and over 70 years there have been only 11 women in parliament and one woman out of 30 ministers in the current government. However, thanks to the efforts of civil society, the number of women who run for the municipal elections of 2018 increased considerably (113 out of 976 candidates were women). Associations play a key role in training women and encouraging them to take their rightful place in public life through debates and awareness campaigns in the media.
In Tunisia, the horizontal and vertical parity which was adopted during the municipal elections of 2018 was the result of a long lobbying effort by Tunisian civil society. Despite these encouraging advances, a major challenge persists: to push for law enforcement and changing mindsets.
Session 3 " Women’s empowerment in the Mediterranean: A topical issue" was moderated by Esther Fouchier. Selly Rais, Fairouz Habache and Mohammed Kadiri spoke about their struggles to women’s economic emancipation, as women are better considered if they possess economic power. While women represent more than 60% of university graduates (according to the Algerian Ministry of Education) there is still much to be done for their inclusion in the free market. Habache talked about women craftswomen and entrepreneurs who start their business in order to stop depending on their husbands or fathers.
In Morocco, measures to curb the crisis of women’s access to decision-making positions remain insufficient in the absence of adequate support in terms of capacity building and skills. Thus, it is essential to enable elected women in local authorities to manage local affairs effectively and to face the poor democratic practices within the political parties.
Session 4 " Knowledge and action: Violence against women in the public and rural areas of the southern Mediterranean" was moderated by Fouzia Assouli. The session focused on the need to consider the body as an integral part of thebeing and not as an object that is separate from it. Mariam Abdo urged the public to fight the indifference and irony about prostitution that is pure exploitation and to empower women to defend themselves. If prostitution is a job, what is the education one must have to exercise it, and what are the outcomes?
Cherifa Kheddar presented the case of a veiled woman who was assaulted while running during Ramadan in Algiers. To protest the harassment in public places, a citizen’s footing was organized. The second case presented is that of a young Algerian woman who was frustrated for not being able to bathe in a swimming suit without being constantly harassed. She launched a group on Facebook to sensitize women and called for a public bathing in swimwear. These campaigns were quite followed (by women as well as men), but they have also generated threats on the Internet, including calls for murder. Social networks have become a virtual space of violence against women. Tools for better protection of women and better care for victims are being developed by a group of associations.
Finally, in Morocco, and despite laws, the number of minors’ marriage is constantly increasing. Zohra Sadik said that the feminist movement is advocating for the revision of the family code that still allows marriage before the age of 18, and for the application of the principles of equality that are guaranteed by laws in local policies (example from the region of Marrakech-Safi).
All these activities are part of the project "Building the capacity of equality actors" funded by the French Ministry of Europe and Foreign Affairs (MEAE) and coordinated by the European Institute of the Mediterranean (IEMed) in partnership with the Arab Women’s Center for Training and Research (CAWTAR), the Federation of Women’s Rights Leagues (FLDF), the Mediterranean Women’s Forum (FFM), the French State and RUSEMEG. They are also part of the project "Developing women’s autonomy", labelled by the Union for the Mediterranean (UfM).
This platform is part of the Axis 1 "Strengthening the capacities of equality actors" of the Priority Solidarity Fund "Women for the future in the Mediterranean" funded by the French Ministry of Europe and Foreign Affairs and led by the European Institute of the Mediterranean, in the framework of the project “Developing Women's Empowerment” labelled by the Union for the Mediterranean.