Almost everyone has heard of the annual International Women’s Day, but have you heard of the Arab Women’s Day? Although I grew up in Syria, I had not heard of it. When I mentioned this day to my family and friends living throughout the MENA region, most them responded with a confused: “You mean Mother’s Day?”
Arab Women’s Day, which takes place every February 1, is not only designated to celebrate the achievements of Arab women, but also to advocate for their rights and enhance their ability to participate in the economy. This year, several meetings surrounding this day were held throughout the MENA region in countries such as Egypt and Sudan.
Under the supervision of the Arab Women’s Organization, these events promoted discussion on women in the Middle East. Countries like Bahrain vowed to initiate legal reforms that would guarantee women all rights and that would empower them to contribute to the economy.
Despite the slow rate of adopting reforms toward gender parity, the few recently enacted legal changes and the meetings to discuss legal instruments are positive steps toward gender equality. Since 2009, the Group’s “Women Business & the Law” report has tracked three legal reforms in the MENA region toward gender parity. Even in the face of revolution, war, and instability, such MENA countries as Tunisia and Egypt have empowered women by adding non-discrimination clauses to their newly enacted constitutions.
Reforming the law is an important first step to ensuring women’s rights. The next steps are to implement these laws on the ground and to complement them with training sessions and workshops that raise awareness of women’s rights. Highlighting the profile of Arab Women’s Day will provide a rallying point for the events, media attention and public awareness necessary to make the legislation a reality.
To read this blog post in Arabic, click here.