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ACHRS attended “Women On the Front Lines – MENA Chapter” conference in Amman


This Thursday, two members of the international relations unit, Danny Casprini and Morten Hansen, represented the Amman Center for Human Rights Studies at the conference “Women On the Front Line – MENA Chapter”. This event - organized by the May Chidiac Foundation under patronage of the prime minister of Jordan, Dr. Hani Al Mulki - focused on, and celebrated, the women who are taking up leading positions in the Middle East and North African (MENA) region.

The event consisted of several panel discussions highlighting the role of women on the frontline. The panelists came from many different backgrounds: politicians, members of international organizations, entrepreneur, actors, journalists and activists. Several speakers mentioned the recent progress achieved in the MENA region but acknowledged that it needs a lot of work towards full equality. One of the most underlined facts is that society should appreciate women, not only as part of the population, but also as strong individuals. Panelist at the session dealing with women entrepreneurs, and analytical storyteller, Suki Fuller, while commenting on women empowerment, formulated as follow: “I hate the word empowerment – it suggests that someone needs to give power to women in order for them to be strong. No! Women are already strong, and we just need to make society understand this.”

Furthermore, almost all the panelists, and the audience at large, acknowledged that, among others, the main reason for lack of female participation in society is due to the poor quality of education, the conservative approach encountered in schools and the rise of extremist religious beliefs that, in the words of Wafaa Al-Dikah Hamze – NCLW vice president, Secretary General National Coalition-Women for Politics, Senior Adviser FAO-MoA and panelist in the session dealing with women in the development process, “want to put women back in the darkness”.  One of the main outcome of the various panel discussions is the fact that all states in the MENA region should improve their education systems towards more equality between girls and boys in order to shape future generations to be more open to women leadership and to fight the spread of extremisms in the region.

 The conference not only dealt with political issues relating to women. The sessions “Up close and Personal: Celebrity Power and their Influence in Society” dealt with how famous Arab actors use their position to create a change. Carmen Lebbos, the famous Lebanese actor, underlined that women needs to rebel against injustices committed towards them because of their gender.

The last sessions of the conference featured two female representatives of the Yazidis from Iraq. Bafreen Oso silenced the forum with her tragic story about how she was captured, tortured and raped by ISIS before she escaped. She explained that the suffering of girls even younger than herself was her main motivation for keeping up her hope and escaping from ISIS. She wanted to be their voice and to tell their story to the world. Vian Dakhil, the only Yazidi member of the Iraqi parliament, also told her story about the Yazidis and how she fights for their rights.

What we believe…                                                                   

At the Amman Center for Human Rights Studies we are happy that attention is given to the challenges that women face “on the front lines”. We firmly believe that women have the right to be treated as equals in society and that societies, such as the Jordanian, are suffering from the lack of female participation, for example in the labor market.

We must, however, partly criticize the way the issues where addressed at the conference. Acknowledging the problem, per se, is not enough if not correlated to strategic planning and actions. There is a need for all the actors in the society to work together in appealing politicians and governments to take concrete action in order to implement what they promise in the various national plans dealing with women’s rights and women empowerment.