The 2nd Middle East and North Africa (MENA) Women’s Conference has been held in Beirut with the participation of women from many countries of the Middle East and North Africa.
100 delegates from 18 countries attended the conference, which was held on 30 and 31 July wıth the slogan “We will bring about the Democratic Revolution with Women’s Unity”. About 30 women joined the Conference via remote video link.
The First MENA Women’s Conference was held in Diyarbakir (Amed) in 2013 with the organisation of Democratic Free Women’s Movement (DOKH). 250 women from 27 countries attended that conference, which lasted three days.
In the second conference, held 8 years later, discussion included the current political situation in MENA, the struggle of women in the region and their common goals.
Women from Lebanon, the four parts of Kurdistan, Turkey, Iraq, Iran, Syria, Egypt, Yemen, Tunisia, Sudan, Afghanistan, Jordan, Libya, Morocco and Palestine participated in the conference, which lasted for two days.
The Jinha Agency interviewed participants of the Conference from the different regions of the world.
One of the organisers of the conference, Bushra Ali, Chair of the Women’s Association of Lebanon, explains their motivation for the conference as follows:
“Two years ago, we met as a preparatory committee. We discussed the historical significance of the first women’s conference and the mistakes that we had made which had prevented the coordination from becoming active.”
“What should we do to activate the conference?” was the question the preparatory committee asked themselves.
“We concluded that it was necessary to discuss again the problems experienced at all stages in the region, especially those relating to women within the past eight years, so we decided to come together again,” she says.
Women’s rights activist Professor Iman El-Hisên gives examples of the achievements of Jordanian women in various fields as a result of the political struggle they have been conducting for years.
“We cannot separate political life from the economic sphere. We have won the women’s quota in parliaments and municipalities in Jordan. There are efforts to increase the number of seats for women in parliament. Women have made big gains in municipalities and their participation has exceeded the quota.”
El-Hisên thinks that these achievements are not reflected in the economical sphere.
“Unfortunately, this does not appear in the economic sphere. Because the proportion of registered working women does not exceed 14 percent in Jordan, she said.
She also spoke about the importance of the conference.
“As women, it’s important that we come together to share programmes and work together. Because we all face the same things, not only in the Arab world but all over the world. We show women’s solidarity everywhere. Because if women don’t stand up, no one will give them their rights.”
In the first session of the conference, the current crises in MENA and the role of women were discussed. Bushra Ali from the Women’s Association in Lebanon, Meryem Zolfagharianaliabad from Iran, Khadija Riyadi from Morocco and Lina Bereket from North East Syria attended the session moderated by Anjela Al Mumary from Yemen.
In the session under the title of “Strategies for United Struggle”, Salwa Guiga gave a presentation on “Women’s struggle in the field of law: the Tunisia experience”; a member of Kongreya Star Coordination and former co-chair of the Democratic Union Party (PYD) Asya Abdullah gave one on “From protests to the construction of a new and alternative system: the Rojava experience”; İktimal Hamad gave one on “Women’s struggle against occupation: the Palestine experience”; and Nivine Ebeid Fahim Ibrahim gave one on “Women’s solidarity and self-defense tools against male-dominated mentality: the Egyptian experience”.
The MENA Women’s Conference continued with workshops on its second day. In the workshops, questions such as “What are the obstacles before women’s solidarity in the Middle East and North Africa”, “What is the purpose of a joint struggle of women” were up for discussion, and women also discussed their suggestions as to the problems they face in the region.
After two days of discussions, the conference’s final declaration was published.
It was decided to establish a regional women’s committee, with national level representatives, within a six-month period, to determine the vision, objectives and work strategy and to create a roadmap for the committee.
The common goals of the participants at the end of the conference were recorded:
To stand against all kinds of occupying forces, enforced demographic changes, poverty, unemployment, and massacres of women and also to fight against all male-state mentalities that exclude women from decision-making positions.
In addition, the women stated in the declaration:
We will strive to establish what we believe to be necessary: a common network of struggles between activists from all around the world to recognise and promote different cultures.