Good food is a good way to promote global community! Thanks to the Korean Institute for Women and Politics (KIWP) and to the Collective for Research & Training on Development Action for sharing!
On March 5th I attended “Women’s Social and Economic Rights in Light of Political Changes in the Arab Region,” a panel hosted by Women’s Learning Partnership. The panelists spoke about how women and women’s movements were affected by social movements and revolution in Syria, Jordan, Morocco and Egypt. Many attendees were eager to know more about how these movements played a role in what the panelists referred to as the “so-called Arab spring.”
The speakers were uneasy about the increased power of fundamentalist right wing groups. They said that the progressive movement is under very real danger of falling into the hands of conservatives looking to “fill the void” and exploit instability in the region. Still, every country is different, and a major priority for women’s groups in the Arab region will be to provide a reference for human rights as women’s rights (CEDAW!) within the national framework.
There was a great moment of solidarity when the speaker from Morocco mentioned that she was amazed when she watched the Republican primaries in the United States. She was struck by how right wing conservatives in the US sound no different than the conservatives in her own country. “The commonalities are stronger than the differences,” she said. She warned that these “new conservative autocrats” were a threat not only in places like Egypt, Morocco, Jordan and Syria, but to people in countries everywhere.
During the Q&A session that followed, women from all over the world expressed great fear for their own women’s movements. This seemed to strike a chord for all the women in the room, and there was an understanding that neither religion nor culture nor nation could be blamed for this growing global phenomenon. When asked how to combat such a movement, one panelists advised that “each women needs to denounce their own government’s restrictive agendas.” Three weeks after the fact, it is extremely disheartening but perhaps not unexpected that the UN CSW failed to acknowledge the dangers of safeguarding traditional values at the expense of women’s human’s rights. I can only hope that civil society at all levels – local, national, and global – can work together to overcome this threat to people’s fundamental humans rights.
There are no Iranians on this panel. And even though Iran is a member of the CSW, women activists from Iran were prevented from attending this year’s conference. That Iranian women face political intimidation and punishment for participating in an international conference is alarming.
There is a lot of talk about fostering a “global civil society” at the CSW. The case of Iran indicates that certain people have more access to this “society” than others, and sadly, this is just one instance of the many barriers to women’s participation in the global dialogue.
As an American, I don’t have to worry about obtaining a Visa to get to New York. But many women do. There is no real language barrier for me – most NGO events were held in English, even though English is not the mother tongue of most of the presenters. This panel taught me that we must always be cognizant of the barriers that many women face, and in the case of Iran, the risks some women take, to have a voice in the international community. As members of this community, we should push for making the UN a more accessible space for all people!