How can women influence the security situation in the Middle East and North Africa?
How can women influence the security situation in the Middle East and North Africa? Representatives from women and peace organizations met in Alexandria, Egypt for four days to discuss strategies for implementing Resolution 1325 in the region.
“For us Syrian women, resolution 1325 is important because it allows us to demand inclusion. We must begin to mobilize and train ourselves in what the resolution entails so we can use it to demand our rights”, says Amal, who lives in Damascus amidst hostilities.
Amal is working towards a peaceful solution to the bloody conflict in Syria. She is convinced that women’s participation is necessary to stop the war and to build democracy.
The participants came from different parts of the MENA region and offered various analyses of the security situations in their respective countries. The organizations that met in Alexandria share the desire to accelerate the implementation of Resolution 1325 in their home countries. They came to learn from each other’s experiences in the region.
A tool for change
Women’s organizations across the region work with women’s security in many different ways. Resolution 1325 serves as a tool that captures and resonates a holistic understanding of women’s right to security in the home, on the street, and in her country or region. Above all, the resolution gives women the right to participate in political decisions related to security at all levels. More and more organizations in MENA are now finding ways to use the resolution as an instrument for change by holding their regimes accountable to the commitments of Resolution 1325. The organizations are experts of their own contexts and strategize according to their respective challenges.
“Egypt is currently in a state of conflict. The correct term for the systematic sexual harassment against female activists is sexual terrorism”, says Janet and Fathi, who have started a grassroots network to combat the sexual harassment in Cairo.
In Egypt, women’s participation in the revolution has not meant increased political influence in the parliament or in the constitution drafting committee. In Iraq, however, 25 percent of the Parliament consists of female members. Nevertheless, the security situation for both men and women is still dire and conflicts between different groups continue to keep the country unstable. Women’s organizations have demanded better security for women and they have begun a dialogue with government representatives about how Resolution 1325 can be implemented in Iraq.
Resolution 1325 in MENA
Active men and women from Iraq, Tunisia, Palestine, Libya, Yemen, Lebanon, and Egypt met at the Swedish Institute in Alexandria. The experiences from the Iraqi civil society’s advocacy toward a national action plan for Resolution 1325 was an appreciated element in the program. Sundus, an Iraqi woman who works for a women’s organization in Bagdad, tries to give concrete advice to those in the region who are now beginning this work in their own countries.
“It takes a long time to build trust and you cannot rush through any phases of the process. Mobilizing civil society has been a challenge on its own,” says Sundus.
Operation 1325 gave a lecture on the elements necessary for creating an inclusive and strong process for formulating a national action plan, according to international experiences. The Palestinian participants are optimistic about the opportunity to demand an action plan from the Palestinian government.
“We will activate a civil society coalition and resume dialogue with government representatives,” says a Palestinian participant.
To request a national action plan for Resolution 1325 is an effective method for demanding that the Palestinian authorities specify how women’s influence will increase and how their security needs can be considered in accordance with the resolution.
The meeting in Alexandria initiated several concrete plans for how the work with Resolution 1325 can take effect in the region and how civil society can take an active role in political advocacy. The participants valued the regional perspective and experience exchanges the most. They said to have gained invaluable knowledge from each other.
The conference was supported by Norwegian Church Aid as a part of Operation 1325’s regional work in the Middle East.