Women Activists Convene in Amman to Discuss Arab Spring & Democratic Transition

Posted on 18 November 2011 by

WLP International spoke with Asma Khader, Secretary General of the Jordanian National Commission for Women and General Coordinator of Sisterhood is Global Institute/Jordan, about the outcomes of a conference in Amman convened by the SALMA network from October 27-29, 2011, where she shared Jordan’s recent experience with constitutional reform. Over 60 NGO leaders and women activists gathered from 14 Arab countries, including Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Palestine, Syria, Tunisia, Yemen, among others, to discuss women’s involvement  in democratic transition as well as Jordan’s recent constitutional amendments.

WLP Jordan/SIGI/J General Coordinator Asma Khader

WLP: What were the major themes, challenges, and ways forward discussed by the activists present?

Khader: The need for a civil state and the importance of the constitutional reform processes taking place in the Arab region to strengthening women’s rights were key points of agreement.  Other major themes were the need for more political organizing and networking, especially with grassroots women and youth, challenges posed by Islamist groups, such as the protection of minority rights, and the importance of raising awareness of international instruments such as UNSCR 1325 in the region.

There was nearly universal agreement among those present that negotiating with Islamists was not acceptable, with representatives from Bahrain and Libya being a little more flexible.  We developed strategies to involve more women in transitional justice and to ensure women’s voices are not brushed aside after being such a powerful force for change in the region.

WLP: What were the most important aspects you were able to share from Jordan’s recent reform process?

Khader: In Jordan, the King established a Royal Commission to review recommendations and suggest amendments to the Constitution.  The women’s movement made many recommendations to enhance human rights in general and women’s rights in particular. We shared with the group the recommendations we made, many of which were accepted. These included: forbidding torture, compulsory education for both boys and girls up to the age of 16, and establishment of a constitutional court. While some recommendations were not taken (such as inclusion of the word “gender” in the phrase “there shall be no discrimination between Jordanians as regards to their rights and duties on grounds of race, language or religion” in Article 6) we will continue to lobby and focus on implementation of the positive amendments that were enacted.  In addition to these positive developments in July 2011 a law was passed that raised the quota for women’s seats in municipal councils from 20 percent to 25 percent and we are working to raise the parliamentary quota to 35 percent. The new Prime Minister, Awn al Khawaswneh, who was former judge in the International Court of Justice, is committed to moving the reform process forward,  revisiting  the constitution and keeping dialogue open with various constituents. We are hopeful that women will continue to make progress in Jordan.

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