The Political Participation of Arab Woman & Democracy

Tuesday, January 1, 2008
Faiha Abullhadi
Western Asia

In Amman city, in the symposium “Woman's Participation in Public Life” that was organized by “The Union of Jordanian Woman” dated 18 – 20 May 2008, in cooperation and partnership with “KVINFO/DENMARK;” democracy was a common concern for participants in the symposium's works. It was confirmed through the various papers presented, through the testimonies, and group discussions, that the absence of democracy negatively affects the advancement of the Arab Woman's conditions as well as the advancement and prosperity of the Arab society.

The symposium aimed to develop a work program and follow up mechanisms; the matter that called for splitting participants into three groups: Woman in Non Governmental Organizations, Woman in Political Parties, and Woman in Decision Making Positions. The first group discussed the political role of non-governmental organizations, and the importance of embodying democracy within its internal systems. Participants from Arab countries spoke about the barriers facing woman's political participation in non-governmental organizations, the first of it being present in its internal systems, as NGOs are not allowed to interfere in politics, in addition, NGOs are subordinate to the state: The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Information, or the Ministry of Culture.

Participants suggested intensifying pressure campaigns to aid associations that are liquidated. They also suggested deepening the alliance between NGOs and human rights organizations. Vicki Therkildsen, member of the Denmark Parliament, confirmed the contrary, that the NGOs play a great role in increasing woman's involvement in politics, and that they do not require authorization from the state, which is consistent with being a non-governmental organization.
She also noted that her country guarantees the right of forming an NGO, and the right to assembly, which is in line with freedom of expression, confirming that democracy starts with NGOs.

The second group discussed the woman's status in political parties, and the democratic mechanisms present inside the parties?
Participants spoke about legal barriers, whereby there is no Parties' Law in some Arab countries or a Public Freedom Law. National constitutions in other countries do not have multi-party systems, in addition, some Arab countries are working under Emergency Law.They spoke about social barriers, the most important being that the Parties' programs lack components that attract women. Parties also do not take real care of the youth, in addition to poverty factors, illiteracy, armed conflicts, violence against woman, with emphasis on the effects of social heritage.

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