The international conference on International Forum: Mediterranean Women's Rights in the Aftermath of the ‘Arab Uprisings’ got off to a great start at the Palais Des Congres in Fez this morning.
In front of a packed auditorium, Valentine Moghadam, Director of the Program of International Affairs at the Northeastern University in Boston set the tone with a keynote address; Revolutions, Democratic Transitions, and Women’s Rights: The Arab Spring in Comparative Perspective.
Unlike some recent events in Fez, the simultaneous translations worked perfectly and made Moghadam's speech available to non-English speaking members of the audience.
The address included fascinating comparisons between the gender outcomes of democratisation in various parts of the world. The countries where positive outcomes had resulted, such as Argentina, Brazil, Chile, The Phillipines, South Africa and Northern Ireland, were compared with the less egalitarian outcomes in Eastern Europe and Russia.
Valentine Moghadam reserved judgment on countries such as Indonesia and Turkey where, as she put it, "the case is still to be made".
The factors predicting or explaining gender outcomes, Moghadam pointed out, included the status of women and their legal situation under the previous undemocratic regimes, the number and mobility of women's groups and the nature of the transition. She noted that slow transitions to democracy tend to produce better outcomes than swift ones.
Advances in gender equality where also effected by external factors such as wars and invasions on the negative side and attention from international women's organisations on the positive side.
Valentine Moghadam rounded out her address with some key goals for a new social and economic contract for women. These included among others, paid maternity leave, subsidised childcare, the right to inheritance equality, unemployment benefits, freedom from sexual harassment in the workplace and the right to obtain a passport and travel without needing permission from a husband or relative.
|Fatima Sadiqi (left) and Valentine Moghadam|
Congratulations to Fatima Sadiqi and her committee for organising this important conference and, if the first day is anything to go by it will be a fascinating and worthwhile event.
The conference aim is to encourage projects that promote partnerships by pooling resources to solve common or specific problems found in the Mediterranean region.
The countries that will be represented at the Forum are Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Mauritania, Egypt, Lebanon, Yemen, Palestine, Jordan, Turkey, Iran, France, Belgium, Italy, the Netherlands, Canada, the United States of America, and Morocco.
The feminist movement in the Mediterranean has become increasingly effective in attracting widespread support, as this conference demonstrates.
According to organizers, the women of the Mediterranean combine expertise and knowledge specific to the ancestral values of family, community and social cohesion in an ever changing world. They point out that women's rights in the southern Mediterranean have experienced in recent decades, a significant improvement although with ups and downs.
The conference continues until June 23rd. Entry is free.
For more information please contact: Contact: Prof. Dr. Fatima Sadiqi (ISIS), Academic Director email@example.com
Text: Sandy McCutcheon
Photographs: Suzanna Clarke