MIDDLE EAST/NORTH AFRICA: Clinton Warns Against Sidelining Women in Arab Spring

Friday, July 1, 2011
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Women must not be sidelined by the new political systems being born from the Arab Spring, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told a conference of democratic nations Friday.

"In the Middle East and North Africa, women have marched, blogged and put their lives on the line," Clinton said in a speech at a gathering of the Community of Democracies.

"But they have seen their participation limited in this transition period," she added.

Clinton quoted an unidentified woman involved in the protests that ousted Egyptian leader Hosni Mubarak in March: "The men were keen for me to be there when we were demanding Mubarak should go. But now he has gone, they want me to go home."

"This is not just a problem for women. It's a problem for men too. It's a problem for every citizen," Clinton said, adding that it was up to established democracies to remain watchful.

"I hope that what we will do is to make it very clear that as parties are organized, as platforms are written, as campaigns are waged and elections are won, no-one can claim to be representing the democratic will if their intention is to marginalize women," she said.

"We are watching closely the parties that are forming in countries like Tunisia and Egypt ... We expect every party in a democracy to recognize the rights of women.”

The Community of Democracies, an informal grouping of more than a hundred countries set up in 2000 to help cement freedoms worldwide, kicked off a two-day conference in the Baltic state of Lithuania on Thursday.