On February 26 and 27, the Forum on Women parliamentarians in the Middle East and North Africa took place in Tunis, organized by the Centre of Arab Women for Training and Research, CAWTAR, the Canadian Federal Forum and the Canadian Embassy.
During the open session, Dr. Soukaina Bouraoui, Executive Director of CAWTAR, stressed the importance of the roles that women leaders can play in all fields, especially women parliamentarians, in order to push towards changing policies and legislations so that these promote gender equality. She added that efforts should be combined to foster more equal, fair and equitable environments, for these are values that lie at the core of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development that leadership women can actively contribute to implementing so that no one is left behind.
The Regional Director of the Women Entrepreneurship Program in the Middle East and North Africa at the Canadian Federal Forum said that this regional program, which is implemented in nine Arab countries, connects with the fifth goal of the Agenda for Sustainable Development: to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls. The fifth goal of the OSD aims to enhance the roles of women and foster their active presence in decision-making and policy-making positions in various areas, with an emphasis on combating violence against women and girls.
For his part, Mr. Patrice Cousineau, Ambassador of Canada in Tunisia, pointed out the importance of initiatives such as the Forum in the Middle East and North Africa, which allows for exchanging experiences between women leaders from various fields. At the same time, he declared, the Forum enables critical discussions on issues represented in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, such as gender-based violence, and allows for debating the importance of social media in galvanizing the presence of women in the public domain. Mrs. Hilary Childs, Ambassador of Canada in Libya, discussed the role of women in the Arab revolutions, commenting on the opportunities that the social uprisings represented for women and youngsters. Amongst these opportunities, Childs pointed out the use social networks to enhance the presence of women, and highlight their efforts, and their contribution to influencing policies. The ambassador also reminded the audience about the many challenges that continue to exist in the region, especially wars and conflicts.
Mrs. Naziha Al-Obaidi, Minister of Women, Family, Childhood and the Elderly in Tunisia stressed the challenge of gender-based violence, which is one of the most important obstacles that prevent women in several Arab countries from being present in decision-making positions. She called for developing partnerships and networks that draw on international and international references to develop joint plans and programs to combat violence against women, and to push towards achieving gender equality.
The program of the Forum included working sessions on the following topics: "Women Parliamentarians in Change and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development", "Violence against Women in Times of Peace and Conflict: What is the Role of Women Parliamentarians and Women Leadership", “Networking and Communication tools”. The last session was devoted to discussing subsequent steps and advocacy tools for comprehensive policies at regional and international levels.
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.