On the occasion of Human Rights Day and the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, on December 10, 2018, a meeting was held at the National Assembly in Paris on the rights of women in North Africa and the Middle East. The event was organized by the French Ministry of Europe and Foreign Affairs (MEAE) and the Gender and Development Platform, which promotes the exchange of practices and the monitoring of policies and initiatives on gender and development between public authorities and French civil society organizations. The meeting brought together more than 60 representatives of MEAE and other public equality institutions such as the High Council for Equality between Women and Men (HCE) and many NGOs active in the areas of gender and development.
The purpose of the meeting was to address the situation of women’s rights and gender equality with a focus on the southern Mediterranean, and the levers of mobilization on this subject. In this context, the institutions that have implemented the program "Women of future in the Mediterranean" funded by the MEAE from 2014 to 2018, namely the FFEM, the Gender and Diversity Network, the Institute of Political Science and UN Women Maghreb and Mashrek shared the results of their actions.
The FFEM was represented by the European Institute of the Mediterranean (IEMed) which presented the achievements of the project "Strengthening the capacities of equality actors" and underlined its work of multi-stakeholder networking, mobilization of researchers and supporting civil society actors committed to equality in order to influence public policies at local and international level.
The Center of Arab Women for Training and Research (CAWTAR), a founding member of the FFEM, focused its presentation on legislation in Arab countries, including the implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). In addition, it was celebrated that the issue of sexual harassment is now sanctioned in several Arab countries through the resistance and resilience of women’s movements.
Other NGOs reported on the progress of their work, like the "Collectif Droits humains pour tou.te.s" which defends the use in French of the term "droits humains" ("human rights") instead of "droits de l’Homme" ("Man’s rights). Indeed, the institutions of the French-speaking countries are isolated on this question and for several years many movements have been campaigning for a more gender-inclusive grammar.
Sexual and reproductive rights -the keystone for the realization of all other women’s rights- were also mentioned, including the fact that some European women still don’t have total control over their bodies. For instance, some countries only tolerate abortion in exceptional circumstances. This is the case in Poland, where abortion is permitted only in cases of rape, incest and severe fetal malformations. The Family Planning NGO is taking steps to raise the awareness of future candidates in the European elections on this subject.
For more information on the work of the Gender and Development Platform click here.
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.