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The Journey Through Transition: 5 Stories of Women-Led Change in the Middle East and North Africa


This project was funded, in part, through the Department of State, Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs, Office of Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI) under Cooperative Agreement number S-NEAPI-10-CA-297. The opinions, findings and conclusions or recommendations expressed herein are those of the Author(s) and do not necessarily reflect those of the Department of State. MEPI partners with local civil society organizations, community leaders, youth and women activists, and private sector groups to advance their reform efforts in 18 countries and territories. MEPI’s approach is bottom-up and grassroots, responding directly to local interests and needs. In the wake of the Arab Spring, MEPI has significantly increased support to countries undergoing democratic transitions – supporting free and fair elections, the expansion of civil society, and a greater voice for citizens in shaping their political, economic, and legal systems.


The Journey Through Transition: 5 Stories of Women-Led Change in the Middle East and North Africa

Contents Letter from the CEO . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2 Introduction. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3 Morocco. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5 Egypt. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11 Jordan. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 17 Lebanon. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 25 Oman. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 31 Acknowledgments. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 35

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The Journey Through Transition: 5 Stories of Women-Led Change in the Middle East and North Africa

Dear Reader, It is with great pleasure that I introduce the Policy Advocates for Women’s Issues in the Middle East and North Africa Region (MENA) case studies on behalf of Vital Voices Global Partnership. This set of case studies shows the impact of women’s leadership on their communities during a time of unprecedented transition. We know that a country cannot prosper if half its population is not enlisted in its development. These studies demonstrate women’s contributions and represent their ongoing commitment to jointly shape the future of their countries. The following five stories document advocacy campaigns that were part of the twoyear Policy Advocates program, which was supported by the U.S. Department of State Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI). This program was launched just days after the fall of President Hosni Mubarak in Egypt, one of the many milestones of the Arab Spring, and continued throughout one of the most important transitional periods in the region, concluding in October 2012. Working with women leaders, and men, in MENA during this historic time of uncertainty has lent Vital Voices a distinct perspective on the nuances of the region’s social, political, and economic shifts and women’s role in navigating this new landscape to advance specific objectives for their communities. These case studies share the best practices and lessons that emerged from dynamic advocacy campaigns. We hope that they will provide insight into the contribution of women in the region and demonstrate the importance of empowering women leaders. With Vital Voices’ continued support, these women, and others like them all over the world, have a huge impact on their community, their country, and on future generations of women leaders. Empowering women as leaders is a fundamental and strategic value of Vital Voices. These five stories provide evidence of the real outcomes that come from investing in women leaders who improve their societies, and ultimately our world. Sincerely,

Alyse Nelson President & CEO Vital Voices Global Partnership

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The Journey Through Transition: 5 Stories of Women-Led Change in the Middle East and North Africa

I ntroducing “A Journey Through Transition” When Vital Voices first began implementation of the Policy Advocates for Women’s Issues in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) Region program in the fall of 2010, the umbrella program under which each of these country projects took place, the world was a very different place than it is today. In August of 2010, governments throughout the MENA region still stood strong. There was no such thing as the Arab Spring, and the advocacy project that was just being launched was formulated with that political environment in mind.

Little did anyone know that in December 2010 the region would embark on one of the most important journeys in history. At Vital Voices, the MENA team was glued to their computers, watching the news, talking to people on the ground, and trying to navigate this new world; the team knew these events would have a huge impact on their work forever. Eight days after the fall of President Mubarak in Egypt, on February 20, 2012, Vital Voices convened 40 women and men from ten countries across the MENA region in Amman, Jordan to launch the project. These participants, selected through an open application process and selected through a careful process to bring together civil society, business, and the government, came together to receive training on advocacy skills, leadership, and media. They learned from one another, and developed plans to implement advocacy projects in their own countries based on issues they identified as critical for women in their communities. Teams from Yemen were inspired by the stories of the Egyptian delegation, and everyone solemnly acknowledged the inability of the Bahraini delegation to leave their country. It was a time of great uncertainty and an opportunity to embrace a new future. Over the last two years, Vital Voices has worked closely with each of the country delegations to strategically plan and implement their advocacy campaigns. Each team targeted a critical issue affecting women in their countries, identified its solution, and collaborated to make that solution a reality. With the technical and financial support of Vital Voices and US Department of State Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI), each of the country teams embarked on their own journey to make change in their communities. These case studies tell the stories of each of those teams, highlighting the unique political and social implications within the MENA region and showcasing the amazing achievements, as well as the real challenges, each team has faced. The stories contained within are the stories of women and the impact they can have.

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The Journey Through Transition: 5 Stories of Women-Led Change in the Middle East and North Africa

About the Policy Advocates for Women’s Issues in the MENA Region program

The Policy Advocates for Women’s Issues in the MENA Region program convened representatives of the public and private sectors and civil society to embark on campaigns to improve the lives of women in their home countries. The program included teams from Tunisia, Kuwait, Yemen, Oman, Lebanon, Egypt, Morocco, Jordan and the UAE, which received training on advocacy, teambuilding, social media and program management. This training empowered teams to develop action plans for advocacy on women’s issues. Each campaign was unique; teams independently created campaigns that affected policy, procedural or legislative decisions in their home countries, based on the issues they identified as crucial for women in their communities. Drawing on the present atmosphere of change in the Middle East and North Africa, the campaigns emphasized the critical roles that women play in the creation of a new future for the region. 

About Vital Voices Global Partnership

Vital Voices Global Partnership (Vital Voices) is a preeminent international non-governmental organization (NGO) dedicated to improving the political, economic and social status of women. It began as the U.S. government’s successful Vital Voices Democracy Initiative, established in 1997 by then-First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton and former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright to promote the advancement of women as a U.S. foreign policy goal. In 2000, Vital Voices became an independent organization. Vital Voices identifies, trains, and empowers emerging women leaders and social entrepreneurs around the globe, enabling them to create a better world for us all. The organization is headquartered in Washington, D.C. and has local Vital Voices chapters in 15 countries around the world. Our international staff and team of over 1,000 partners, pro bono experts and leaders, including senior government, corporate, and NGO executives, have trained and mentored more than 100,000 emerging women leaders from over 144 countries in Asia, Africa, Eurasia, Latin America and the Caribbean, the Middle East since 1997. Our Global Leadership Network consists of 12,000 members who in turn impact additional women, men, and children in their communities. Vital Voices has worked in the MENA region for more than eleven years and has built extensive networks and partnerships with local business leaders, civil society organizations, judges, lawyers, educational institutions, and individual leaders. Vital Voices has worked to build the capacity, connections, and credibility of women in the region for political participation, economic development, public-private partnership, and business entrepreneurship.

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Morocco


The Journey Through Transition: 5 Stories of Women-Led Change in the Middle East and North Africa

Morocco In 2004, the government of Morocco passed the historic Moudawana (Family Code) due to the efforts of many women’s rights organizations, scholars, jurists and activists.1 The new Moudawana gave husbands and wives equal rights and duties in the family, allowed women to initiate divorce proceedings, raised the legal marriage age to 18 for both sexes, and gave women greater custody rights of children.2 Although improvements to the Moudawana were lauded around the world and throughout the MENA region, gaps remained for women and girls within the Moroccan legal system. Among these gaps is the legal exception in Article 20 of the Moudawana that allows judges to use their “judicial discretion” to allow minors to be married.

This provision is often used in rural areas and in poverty-stricken areas to pull young girls from school and force them into marriage. Conservative judges at times justify a conservative reading of religious texts to allow underage girls to marry. According to the Ministry of Justice, the number of underage marriages rose from 30,000 to 34,000 between 2009 and 2011.3 According to some scholars, this rise is due to a return to conservative thought, despite breakthroughs in legal reform.4 Having seen the devastating effects of underage marriage in Morocco, especially domestic violence, rape, divorce and sometimes suicide,5 the Moroccan Policy Advocates team came to the Vital Voices Advocacy Workshop in Amman, Jordan in February 2011 ready to advocate for an end to this judicial discretion.6 The team’s goals were to raise awareness about the

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dangers of child marriage through a media campaign and lobby among policy-makers for the elimination of the judicial discretion exception. With partner organizations such as the Isis Center for Women and Development, National Union of Women’s Organizations, South North Center, news outlets, private companies and advocates within government agencies, the team planned to ask the government to make a procedural decision to translate and publish marriage documents in all national and spoken languages (Moroccan Arabic and Berber/Amazigh) and require judges to review the birth certificates of young women before allowing them to be married. In Morocco, after the February workshop, an initial team meeting brought together additional members

1

 Morocco Adopts Landmark Family Law Supporting Women’s Equality,” Women’s Learning Partnership (WLP), “ February 24, 2004, http://www.learningpartnership.org/lib/morocco-adopts-landmark-family-law-supportingwomen%E2%80%99s-equality

2

 The Moroccan Family Code (Moudawana) of February 5th 2004 : An unofficial English translation of the original Arabic “ text,” Global Rights, 2005, http://www.globalrights.org/site/DocServer/Moudawana-English_Translation.pdf?docID=3106

3

 assan Shami, “Report on Democratization in Morocco in 2011,” Civilized Dialogue, April 22, 2012, H http://www.ahewar.org/debat/show.art.asp?aid=304483

4

Fatima Sadiqi, telephone interview by Christie Edwards, August 25, 2012.

5

 oha Ennaji, “Fighting Violence Against Women in Morocco: Theory and Practice,” in Femmes Marginalisées et Insertion M Sociale, ed. Fatima Sadiqi (GTZ Maroc and Ford Foundation, 2010), 79-86

6

 he team decided to focus specifically on Berber communities in rural areas, which have some of the highest rates of T early marriage.


The Journey Through Transition: 5 Stories of Women-Led Change in the Middle East and North Africa

Members of the team and local experts lead a workshop on the dangers of early marriage

from Casablanca, Rabat, Tetouan and Fès. During the meeting, members identified several key priorities for the project, including collecting data; conducting detailed research on key stakeholders; organizing workshops and conferences to target key stakeholders such as judges, lawyers, families and youth associations; and launching a national media campaign to inform the public about the importance of this issue and the need for change. In October and November 2011, the team collected data on forced and early marriages and began to identify and reach out to affected families or individuals. They specifically focused on rural schools and marginalized districts, including rural areas surrounding Fès, where early marriage is still a common practice. Through the research, the team learned that there is significant social pressure for girls in rural districts to be married as early as possible and they often face complete economic marginalization if they are not married. They also found that the problem of early marriage exists in urban districts as well as rural areas. The team began contacting the Ministries of Education, Health,

Justice, Family and Solidarity, targeting outreach towards specific Members of Parliament and decision-makers who were supportive of changing the status quo regarding early marriage. They found that mobilizing key stakeholders including youth, judges and lawyers was a significant challenge. On some occasions, judges needed the permission of the Ministry of Justice in order to participate in the campaign. The team learned that personal contact is important, proximity strategy is helpful and that clubs and associations are very helpful in making additional contacts. They actively visited judges and lawyers associations and clubs and identified contacts in decisionmaking roles. Relationships with these lawyers later proved to be helpful to the campaign as the lawyers supported the cause, shared information on their early marriage cases with the team and demonstrated how difficult it was to convince parents not to force their daughters into early marriage. The team also sought to raise awareness among the general public, especially with girls and their families, of the dangers of early marriage. The team published four articles in major 7


The Journey Through Transition: 5 Stories of Women-Led Change in the Middle East and North Africa

Moroccan newspapers speaking to the harm caused by early marriage and the importance of protecting children from facing this devastating circumstance. The article “Dilemma Over Early Marriage and Attempt at Circumventing the Law” addressed the issue of early marriage from social, economic and cultural perspectives, as well as provided tangible solutions for combating the increase of early marriages in Morocco.7 Articles and discussions on early marriage also began appearing on blogs, online journals and forums. To support the campaign, the team established a social media presence to reach additional people, with a special emphasis on youth. During the winter of 2011 and spring of 2012, the team facilitated a series of four workshops in and around communities where child marriage is common. The workshops targeted a broad spectrum of individuals and organizations including youth, intellectuals, policy makers and women’s advocacy organizations such as the National Union of Women’s Organizations, the Isis Center and the North South Center. They provided key information on the dangers of early marriage for young women, tailoring the message to respond to the specific challenges within each community. The first workshop, entitled “The Family Code and Underage Marriage of Girls,” December 24, 2011 in Martil, Morocco centered around criticisms of the Moudawana and resulted in both consensus on the negative effects of underage marriage and a concrete list of recommendations that the state, society and families could implement to better protect girls’ honor and dignity. The second workshop was held on January 28, 2012 in Fès, Morocco. Entitled “The Application of the Family Code and Early Marriage,” it was organized by the Isis Center and 8

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the South North Center. The Policy Advocates team explained the harms of early marriage, while jurists and Islamic scholars discussed the original intent of the Moudawana and the reasons why some people believed Islam authorized early marriage. Workshop participants also discussed the cultural specificities, customs and traditions in the Middle Atlas region, as well as the financial constraints that often led families to pressure their daughters into early marriage. The team again compiled a list of recommendations to present to Parliament at a later date. Following the first two workshops, the team published a series of reports in the news based on the findings of their research and recommendations from the workshop participants which were released in January and February 2012. Several interviews were also given on Radio Fès discussing the findings of the reports and promoting the work of the campaign. The third workshop was held on April 7, 2012 at the headquarters of the Amal Association in Midelt, a small city outside of Fès, to discuss the consequences of child marriage in small communities. The workshop, which targeted women and NGOs, focused on the implementation of the Moudawana and underage marriage. More than 100 people attended, including leaders from local NGOs like the Midelt Association for Development and the Teachers’ Local Association. Journalists from local newspapers reported on the workshop in addition to coverage on the associations’ websites and blogs. After this workshop, the campaign increased in intensity in light of the Amina Filali suicide in March 2012, which started a firestorm of public opinion in Morocco about the gravity of child marriage and violence against women. After 16-year-old Amina was allegedly raped, the court decided to dismiss the

 oha Ennaji, “Dilemma Over Early Marriage And Attempt at Circumventing the Law,” Hespress, March 12, 2012, M http://hespress.com/writers/49442.html


The Journey Through Transition: 5 Stories of Women-Led Change in the Middle East and North Africa

charges against the rapist if he agreed to marry her. Angered by this decision and desperate to escape her circumstances, Amina committed suicide shortly after her marriage.8 Many women’s NGOs joined forces with the campaign and others to ask for the elimination of Article 20 of the Moudawana that allows child marriage under judicial decree, as well as Article 475 of the Penal Code, which allows the rapist to marry his victim in order for the charges to be dismissed.9 As of September 2012, a national committee in Parliament was considering the proposal to eliminate these two articles.

Parliament using principles set forth in Morocco’s July 2011 Constitution, including equality between men and women, women’s emancipation and encouragement of women’s political participation at all levels. They next identified members of Parliament and other political leaders who supported their campaign and provided them with specific recommendations asking for the Moudawana and the Penal Code to be amended, including the revocation of Articles 20 and 475. A recently elected member of Parliament also agreed to take the workshop recommendations to the Parliament.

A fourth and final workshop was held on April 17, 2012 in Sefrou, Morocco. The workshop, entitled “Application of the Family Code and How to Combat Child Marriage,” sought to engage women’s NGOs. More than 40 representatives from various NGOs attended, including participants from the Sefrou Association of Women, the Association of Women and Development, the Tawada Cultural Association and the Addur Association for Development and Women’s Empowerment. Students also attended and contributed to the debate, which included topics on domestic violence, rape, forced marriage, divorce and suicide as a consequence of child marriage. At the workshop, the team made plans to organize an international conference in May 2012 on themes related to the Policy Advocates campaign. They also made plans to lobby for the reform of the Moudawana and the penal code. In light of the Amina Filali case, this workshop convinced many attendees of the urgency and seriousness of child marriage and the need to contact members of Parliament to reform the relevant laws.

Following the local conferences, the team broadened the scope of the campaign in a culminating event — an international conference titled “Underage Marriage: A Sociocultural and Legal Perspective.” At this conference, experts in national education, lawyers, judges and civil society actors discussed 10 topics, including the marriage of minors, violence against women and girls, a strategic review of family law, barriers to implementation of the Family Code, the causes and consequences of child marriage, the role of judges and lawyers in the application of the law, the role of media and education to inform and sensitize public opinion and the role of women’s and youth organizations.

As a result of their detailed research and community engagement during the workshops, the team sought to influence the newly elected

Over 400 people attended the conference, which was held May 5-6, 2012 at the Palais des Congrès of Fès. Representatives from six countries — Morocco, Niger, Kenya, Algeria, Tunisia and Mauritania — participated. Many important dignitaries, including the President of the International Union of Lawyers,10 also attended the conference. A presentation by a doctor who became a Parliamentarian on health problems related to early marriage sparked many questions and intense interest from the audience and the media. The conference

8

 Morocco protest after raped Amina Filali kills herself,” BBC News, March 15, 2012, “ http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-17379721

9

Morocco, Code Pénal, Article 475, 1963, http://adala.justice.gov.ma/production/legislation/fr/penal/Code%20Penal.htm

10

First Moroccan to become President of the International Union of Lawyers

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The Journey Through Transition: 5 Stories of Women-Led Change in the Middle East and North Africa

had wide local and international media coverage, including the Moroccan TV Channel 2 and Spain’s Canal Sur, as well as radio and print media coverage. A significant argument raised at the international conference was that underage marriage is detrimental to young girls and that girls are better off in school. The team found that many conservative groups, conversely, think that underage marriage prevents young girls from becoming prostitutes. By the end of the campaign, the team convinced many conservative groups that underage marriage is not the best option for girls, and that an educated and intelligent girl is better than an illiterate, ignorant girl married to an older man. One of the greatest obstacles to campaign progress was a lack of support from the local authorities. For example, when the team wanted to post banners in some parts of Fès to publicize the campaign, the local authorities refused, claiming that the banners were not necessary. When the team told them that the campaign is a useful social and cultural activity that contributes to the city’s sustainable development, they relented and the team managed to post the banners in many parts of the city. This experience taught the team that with dialogue and persuasive communication, it is possible to achieve their goals.

government, they used their creativity to make their voices heard. For example, the government declined to sponsor or provide simultaneous translation for the conference. To solve this problem, the team engaged traditional media and utilized their Facebook pages. The recommendations and the reports of the campaign were published in national newspapers, local papers and on many blogs and websites. By the end of their campaign, the team succeeded in taking the issue of child marriage to the national level with the support of top-level judges and lawyers. They submitted their recommendations to the Ministry of Justice and to the Ministry of Family and Solidarity. Parliament has now discussed the issue of child marriage many times, and there is continued discussion about changing the law to protect girls from underage marriage. In their last meeting, the team agreed that they needed to pursue relevant advocacy issues and activities since the political atmosphere is changing rapidly. Organizations in southern Morocco have contacted the team and have expressed interest in joining the campaign since early marriage is also a significant issue in that region. The team will seek additional funding to continue their work since this is such a timely issue for Morocco and the region.

Although it was difficult for the team to retain ongoing support of the

Lessons Learned: 1) Use real-life examples or cases to increase campaign momentum 2) Engage high-level government leaders to champion the advocacy campaign 10


Egypt


The Journey Through Transition: 5 Stories of Women-Led Change in the Middle East and North Africa

Egypt Straight from Tahrir Square, Egypt’s Policy Advocates team arrived at the Vital Voices Advocacy Workshop in Amman, Jordan in February 2011, eight days after Mubarak’s resignation. At the height of their revolution, these five Egyptian women saw firsthand what advocacy could achieve. As one team member said, “It’s important to see women’s rights as political rights. But we don’t expect it to be easy. Tahrir Square was a utopia, and society doesn’t change in 15 minutes.”

Facing uncertainty in Egypt, the team recognized the importance of women’s voices being heard and represented in the new government. The team decided to create a gender platform, a women’s agenda that would include the opinions of Egyptian women of all ages, regions, religions and backgrounds. This platform would be presented for inclusion in the new Egyptian Constitution and all electoral platforms, as well as in any political, social and economic decisions which will affect Egypt’s future. In the months following the Advocacy Workshop in Amman, women almost disappeared from public view in Egypt. Despite having stood side by side with men in Tahrir Square, women were not only absent from post-Revolution leadership, but also in the judiciary, academia and key ministerial positions. Additionally, the military government abolished the Mubarak-era quota that mandated 64 seats in Parliament be reserved for women. Despite these setbacks, the advocacy team began collecting opinions of women throughout Egypt through focus groups and surveys. However, the research phase of the campaign faced significant internal and external 11

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challenges. At the time the team wanted to begin research, Egyptian civil society organizations were accused of inciting civic unrest during and after the revolution and encountered an unprecedented crackdown by the government.11 Following the fall of the Mubarak regime, millions of dollars of foreign aid flowed into the country to fund democracy promotion efforts. Many civil society and NGO leaders, including those on the team, reported that the transitional government, led by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), accused them of receiving millions of dollars from foreign funders to undermine the country’s security. The SCAF claimed that none of the NGOs had informed the government about funds received from foreign sources as required under Egyptian law,12 specifically related to a 2010 bill that gave state security the power to approve or deny international funding to these organizations.13 As a result, in July of 2011 the Minister of International Co-operation launched an investigation of foreign funding of unregistered NGOs, claiming such funding was considered “an intervention in our internal affairs.”14 Egyptian banks were ordered to report any transactions

Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN), “Egypt’s NGOs face tough post-revolution reality,” The Guardian, October 27, 2011, http://www.guardian.co.uk/global-development/2011/oct/27/ egypt-ngos-clampdown-military-rulers

12

Egypt, Law on Non-Governmental Societies and Organizations, Number 84, 2002.

13

IRIN, “Egypt’s NGOs face tough post-revolution reality”

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IRIN, “Egypt’s NGOs face tough post-revolution reality”


The Journey Through Transition: 5 Stories of Women-Led Change in the Middle East and North Africa

Your Voice For Egypt

between NGOs and charity groups to the Central Bank of Egypt and the Ministry of Social Solidarity.15 Despite proper registration completed by representatives from three civil society organizations on the advocacy team, this pressure on NGOs caused significant disruption to the campaign activities; team members were asked by their respective organizations to withdraw from the campaign or act in their personal capacities only. The team member directly responsible for leading the research phase of the campaign was asked to act in her personal capacity, but given the upcoming Egyptian elections she found that she was unable to devote adequate time or resources to complete the research. When team member Esraa Abdel Fattah Rashid was given a Glamour “Woman of the Year” Award16 in New York in November 2011, the Jenzabar Foundation donated an additional $25,000 to support the Policy Advocates campaign in Egypt, which motivated the team and

their organizations to work together despite the external political challenges and the continued investigations and prosecutions of NGOs in Egypt. The team worked quickly to find a new researcher, who began traveling throughout Egypt conducting focus groups in the beginning of 2012, asking women their opinions on social and political issues, especially regarding their rights and the nature of their role in the Constitution. 1,000 women were interviewed over a period of four months, ranging in age from 21 – 58 years old. They were surveyed on three axes: 1) women’s roles in public and political leadership 2) economic, social and family aspects 3) and other women’s rights. After the focus groups were concluded in April 2012, the team began compiling answers, analyzing the results and putting together a list of the top demands listed by the women interviewed. During this period, both houses of the Egyptian Parliament approved the formation of a Constitutional Committee

The Egypt Policy Advocates team was the only team evenly split with male and female participants. The team felt that one of the successes of the campaign was raising men’s awareness of the issue.

15

 armel Delshad, “Unwanted: NGOs in Post-Revolution Egypt,” World Policy Institute, November 1, 2011, C http://www.worldpolicy.org/blog/2011/11/01/unwanted-ngos-post-revolution-egypt

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 arah Robbins, “Esraa Abdel Fattah, ‘Facebook Girl’: The World-Changer,” Glamour, October 31, 2011, S http://www.glamour.com/inspired/women-of-the-year/2011/esraa-abdel-fattah

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The Journey Through Transition: 5 Stories of Women-Led Change in the Middle East and North Africa

tasked with preparing a constitution; the Committee consisted of equal parts members of Parliament and the general public. This decision was hotly debated within Egypt, and many felt that it was unconstitutional because it violated Article 60 of the Constitutional Declaration, which states that whoever works on the new Constitution should be elected by the Parliament but not belong to Parliament.17 The decision also violated the principle of equality between citizens, since women were not represented equally on the Committee. Since both houses of Parliament had extremely low levels of female representation, the requirement to include members of Parliament did not guarantee female representation on the committee. As a result of the exclusion of women, many decided to boycott any decisions of the Constitutional Committee, including the liberals, Copts and many other social groups. Amid all of this uncertainty, the team completed the focus groups and compiled the top results into a gender platform. The initial plan had been to submit their research findings to the Constitutional Committee. The two organizations leading the campaign held several meetings to decide whether or not it would be useful to cooperate with this Committee, eventually deciding to join the boycott of the Committee and seek other ways to present their demands and raise public awareness. In order to gain publicity for the gender platform, the team decided to hold a campaign launch event on May 30, 2012. The team targeted youth in Egypt since they are the most likely to have an effect on the Constitutional Committee. They invited a popular folklore singer who is interested in women’s issues and has toured the country collecting old folk songs about women to include in her

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performance. The team also invited the NGO ACT Center for Development and a civic initiative by independent youth called Let’s Write Our Constitution to present their studies and experiences on constitutional reform to a large and enthusiastic audience. The Policy Advocates campaign, now called “Your Voice For Egypt,” also presented their research during the event. By mid-June, the Supreme Constitutional Court canceled the first Constitutional Committee and rendered all its work defunct.18 A new Constitutional Committee was formed by the end of June. Once the new Committee members were announced, the team contacted members they knew and sent the platform demands to a number of members. The team held a meeting with a Committee member who was the April 6th movement coordinator and a member of the sub-Committee of Suggestions. They also met with a member of the Muslim Brotherhood and Freedom and Justice Party, who invited the team to present the gender platform to the full Committee on July 17, 2012. Since civil society organizations cannot petition to present their suggestions to the Constitutional Committee without invitation, the team was thrilled that they were asked to present their gender platform to the Committee. One of the team members presented the list of 14 demands and asked that the Committee respond to presentations. She also suggested that presentations be organized by theme – a suggestion which was well received by the Committee. The 14 demands asked that the Constitution: state equality for creed and gender; state women are allowed to hold all job positions, including in government; ensure women and girls in rural areas receive health services; ensure women

17

 Constitutional Declaration 2011 of the Arab Republic of Egypt,” Egyptian Government Portal, 2011, “ http://www.egypt.gov.eg/arabic/laws/constitution/default.aspx

18

 avid Kirkpatrick, “Blow to Transition as Court Dissolves Egypt’s Parliament,” The New York Times, June 14, 2012, D http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/15/world/middleeast/new-political-showdown-in-egypt-as-court-invalidates-parliament. html?pagewanted=all&_moc.semityn.www


The Journey Through Transition: 5 Stories of Women-Led Change in the Middle East and North Africa

account for a minimum of 40% of the parliament and shura council; criminalize acts of violence against women and punish those responsible; allow access to equal opportunities; protect women from being fired due to motherhood or marriage; give women the right to pass on Egyptian citizenship to their children; ensure women and men have freedom to choose transportation and a place to live; allocate a budget to support women; put into effect Article 11 of the Constitution of 1971; activate all articles in CEDAW; require the highlight of women’s names in electoral lists to ensure her place in local councils; and obligate each party to include a percentage of women. In coordination with their lobbying efforts and presentation to the Constitutional Committee, the team launched a media campaign. A press statement was sent to media outlets and five articles were published in the

days following their Committee hearing. The team is hopeful that there will be another wave of media coverage with the next phase of their media campaign. A Facebook page was also created to enable visitors to download all campaign documents to be used for lobbying purposes. As of September 2012, the team was developing a campaign webpage. The team prepared a statement describing the gender platform and sent it to NGOs with similar missions. Thus far, they have received signatures from eight NGOs expressing their agreement with the gender platform. The team also began working with the Egyptian Center for Women’s Rights (ECWR) on a project on women’s constitutional rights. ECWR recently conducted a comparative constitutional study on the status of women and they invited the team to present their findings together in order

Egyptian women complete a survey describing their top priorities for women’s needs in Egypt

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The Journey Through Transition: 5 Stories of Women-Led Change in the Middle East and North Africa

to show an on-the-ground study that worked with women throughout Egypt. In order to keep the campaign in the public eye, the team decided to create a television ad that would air for one week. The team has had several meetings with a popular TV station (OTV), and hopes to air the ad at the release of the first

draft of the Constitution, along with the gender platform and comments on the Constitution, so that the public can evaluate the actions and position of the national Committee in respect to women’s rights. After the ad airs on television, the team will upload the video to Youtube and other media platforms for continued lobbying efforts.

Lessons Learned: Remain flexible! When circumstances prevent the campaign from proceeding as planned, try other avenues, connections and strategies to be effective.

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Jordan


The Journey Through Transition: 5 Stories of Women-Led Change in the Middle East and North Africa

Jordan The Jordan Policy Advocates team spent several weeks prior to the February 2011 Vital Voices Advocacy Workshop in Amman, Jordan discussing potential campaign ideas. Initially with seven members, the team was one of the largest, and therefore there were many opinions and ideas to consider. Since several participants were working mothers and had a personal story to connect to the campaign, they decided to advocate for the implementation of Article 72 of the Jordanian Labour Law with large companies and organizations in Jordan.

Article 72 states: “The employer who employs not less than twenty women shall prepare a suitable place under the supervision of a qualified nursemaid for the children of the working women whose ages are less than four years provided that their numbers shall not be less than ten children.”19 However, many companies and organizations do not comply with this law, making it difficult for professional women to balance work and family commitments since women in Jordan are primarily the ones to leave work without pay or take vacation time to care for their children at home. When branding the campaign, the team wanted a name with significant meaning that would be recognizable throughout the country; they decided to call the campaign SADAQA, Arabic for “friendship.” This name and the slogan, “Towards a friendly working environment for women,” would also allow the campaign to have a broader scope that enables the team to advocate for related issues in the future. Working with local partner Al Hayat Center for Civil Society Development, the SADAQA campaign aimed to advocate for nationwide compliance of Article 72. SADAQA kicked off with a qualitative research phase using focus groups and interviews to assess the level of 18

19

awareness of Article 72 among working mothers as well as the perceived challenges hindering compliance. Two focus groups were held between June and July 2011 with approximately 15 female employees attending each session. The first targeted working mothers who have daycare in their workplace and the second targeted working mothers without daycare at their workplace. In order to recruit participants, the team contacted Human Resources departments to nominate female employees to attend the focus groups, and also reached out to their network of contacts. The two focus groups aimed to determine the advantages and disadvantages of having a daycare in the workplace, including the effects on productivity, career choices and job promotion. Notably, most of the working mothers were not aware of the existence of Article 72 of the Labour Law. The team’s research found that complying with Article 72 provides an advantage for both working mothers and employers. Compliance helps reduce social and psychological pressures associated with leaving children in the care of relatives, increases income as women do not need to leave work without pay or take vacation time to care for their children at home, and minimizes transportation

Jordan, Labour Law, Article 72, 1996, http://www.mol.gov.jo/Portals/1/labor%20law%20english.pdf


The Journey Through Transition: 5 Stories of Women-Led Change in the Middle East and North Africa

SADAQA: Towards a friendly working environment for women

expenses and time spent outside the office and on the roads. For the employer, this means retaining valuable employees, increased productivity, less absenteeism, less turnover and increased savings for the organization in the long-run. The team found that large companies including Orange Telecom Company, Aramex and the Social Security Corporation did not have daycare centers, despite the fact that they employ significant numbers of women. The team conducted a series of interviews with decision-makers in these and other companies to better understand the different perspectives on daycare in the workplace. Through these interviews, the team learned about some of the perceived barriers to establishing daycares, including: fear of responsibility, the obligation to provide a safe environment for children and added financial and administrative burdens on companies. These challenges, coupled with the strict guidelines enforced by the Ministry of Social Development that dictate the set-up of daycares in Jordan, often discourage companies from following the law. The team’s most important finding was the major conflict between the Ministry of Labor, which is responsible for enforcing the law, and the Ministry

of Social Development, which is responsible for licensing daycares and setting the guidelines for establishment. Since the law only requires companies to provide “a suitable place” and not a “daycare,” it creates a challenge for companies in understanding what is meant by a “suitable place” and conflicts with the Ministry of Social Development’s strict guidelines for the set-up of daycares in Jordan. Using their findings, the team decided that their campaign strategy would include lobbying the government, specifically the Ministry of Labor, and private companies that did not comply with Article 72, as well as using the media to raise awareness and put pressure on decision-makers. To be most effective, the team used a publicprivate dialogue approach, making sure that key participants from the private sector, government and civil society were engaged throughout the campaign. Target groups included working mothers, company owners, the Ministry of Social Development, decision-makers, ministers, secretary-generals, Human Resources managers and executives of companies. Local and international NGOs with similar missions were also solicited for coalition-building and potential funding support, including the Jordan National Commission for Women, Save the Children and the National Council for Family Affairs (NCFA). The team strived to 19


The Journey Through Transition: 5 Stories of Women-Led Change in the Middle East and North Africa

The team and Secretary General of the Ministry of Labor lead the Awareness Walk through the streets of Amman

instill a rights-based perspective among female employees to start thinking of the issue as a right and not as an optional benefit from the employer. In the summer of 2011, the Jordan team launched a Facebook20 page and began reaching out to local media sources, such as TV, print and radio, to discuss the SADAQA campaign. The team first contacted the Ministry of Labor’s “Women’s Work Directorate” to introduce them to the SADAQA campaign and discuss ways to activate Article 72. Officials at the Ministry were excited to hear about the campaign and very receptive to the team’s ideas. The team discovered that the Ministry of Labor, the entity responsible for enforcing the law, is hesitant to do so for fear that it would backfire on women’s employment opportunities. The Ministry feared employers would either stop recruiting women who are married or pregnant or stop recruiting women altogether. The team’s challenge was to find ways to support the Ministry’s enforcement of the law while simultaneously ensuring that this enforcement does not result in a backlash against women and restrict their employment opportunities. 20

20

The Ministry of Labor invited the team to join the National Nurseries Project, led by a committee of representatives of the NCFA, the Ministry of Labor, the Ministry of Social Development, the Jordan National Commission for Women, the Social Security Corporation, Save the Children and SADAQA. The National Nurseries Project intends to set up affordable, quality nurseries located in strategic places in Jordan to help lift the burden on working mothers. The Project will cost around five million Jordanian Dinars, which will be raised mainly from donor funding. GIZ, the German development agency, is currently helping the National Nurseries Project create a comprehensive strategic plan to map out their goals. The National Nurseries Project, however, will not aim to activate Article 72 of the Labour Law. SADAQA plays a valuable role on this committee through its lobbying and advocacy efforts and the use of the media to bring attention to the issue. The team next visited the daycare located at ZAIN Telecom, one of the only companies within the private sector that provides a daycare. The

 SADAQA Initiative: Toward a women-friendly work environment,” Facebook, accessed September 18, 2012, “ https://www.facebook.com/sadaqajo.


The Journey Through Transition: 5 Stories of Women-Led Change in the Middle East and North Africa

daycare provides a safe, clean and stimulating environment for children, a doctor and nurses are available, and continuous professional development is offered for staff and teachers. The high standard of this daycare represents a model that can be replicated in other companies to help working mothers balance work and family and eventually support them in acquiring leadership positions. The daycare at ZAIN is run by one of Jordan’s best childhood educators, who became a vital part of the SADAQA campaign and wanted to share her company’s example in order to encourage more companies to implement Article 72.

credit to the SADAQA campaign and advocacy efforts from female employees within these companies.

The team met with mothers, fathers, daycare teachers and staff to understand the benefits of the daycare to both the company and its employees. The feedback given was consistent with the results from the focus group research. The team compiled video footage and interviews to be featured as advocacy and awareness-raising tools during the campaign. During this time, the team continued communicating with the companies they had contacted for the focus groups. Many companies, such as the Arab Bank, the Jordan Investment Bank, and the International School of Amman, indicated interest in setting up daycare centers onsite with

The workshop gathered approximately 30 people on April 12, 2012 at the Ministry of Labor and was held under the patronage of the Ministry’s Secretary General. The workshop discussed Article 72 from a legal perspective as well as difficulties pertaining to enforcement. The participants discussed the importance and benefits of activating the law and ways to assist women advocating inside their organization for these changes.

Due to the SADAQA campaign’s successful advocacy with the Ministry of Labor, the Ministry agreed to cooperate on several activities which drew national attention to the issue. The first major activity was a sensitization workshop which targeted female workers, decision makers, employers, HR managers of leading companies and the media, to help raise awareness on the issue, shed light on SADAQA’s activities and mobilize women and decision-makers to advocate and take action to activate Article 72.

This workshop was instrumental in instigating honest and frank discussions between the Ministry of Social Development and the Ministry

In February 2012, one of the team members was asked to be an official NGO delegate at the 51st Session of CEDAW at the UN in Geneva where she, along with other delegates, drafted Jordan’s second Shadow Report for the CEDAW Committee, highlighting the issue of daycare facilities in Jordan and the economic participation of women.21 While in meetings and presentations with CEDAW Committee members, as well as informal gatherings, she used the opportunity to speak about the SADAQA campaign and the team’s efforts to implement Article 72 in Jordan. The CEDAW Committee subsequently asked the Jordanian government about the activation of Article 72 in their list of questions, but the Jordanian government delegation did not respond.22

21

 ana Husseini, “Women activists accuse government of neglecting their cause,” The Jordan Times, June 11, 2012, R http://www.civilsociety-jo.net/en/index.php/newsblog/36-headlines/1058-women-activists-accuse-govt-of-neglectingtheir-cause-; Jordanian CEDAW Coalition, “Jordan Shadow NGO Report,” CEDAW Committee, 2012, http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/cedaw/docs/ngos/JordanianCoalitionforthesession.pdf

22

Randa Naffa, interview by Christie Edwards, August 25, 2012.

21


The Journey Through Transition: 5 Stories of Women-Led Change in the Middle East and North Africa

One of the most important contributions to the SADAQA campaign’s success was the support and participation of men throughout the campaign. Fathers dropping their children off at Zain’s daycare spoke of the importance of the daycare for a successful work environment. Male employees at the Ministry of Labor were extremely supportive of Article 72 and the campaign’s efforts to implement it. Many men came to the Awareness Walk in support of their wives, mothers and sisters, including the Secretary General of the Ministry of Labor. He was extremely supportive of the campaign and attended the Walk with his wife and children!

of Labor and convinced both of the need to formulate guidelines that are more adaptable to the context of the corporate sector which harmonize the law and the licensing guidelines. Since the workshop, the two Ministries set up a new committee, inviting representatives from the Ministry of Health, the National Center for Human Rights and the NCFA to work together to create cohesive guidelines and definitions. The workshop also generated more exposure for SADAQA through traditional and social media coverage. The second major activity was the highly successful Awareness Walk, held in cooperation with the Ministry of Labor. On May 19, 2012 nearly 300 people participated in the walk through Jabal Weibdeh – one of Amman’s oldest and most beautiful neighborhoods – gathering families, female workers, children and youth who came from governorates outside Amman, including Irbid, Maan, Tafileh and Madaba. Prominent NGOs took part, including the Jordan National Commission for Women, the Arab Human Rights Organization and the International Labor Organization. Al Hayat’s youthled initiatives carried banners, signs and balloons with slogans about Article 72.

22

At the end of the walk, a celebration took place featuring a performance by a national band, a play demonstrating the impact of Article 72 and a rap song demonstrating the importance of women’s work to family and society. While many Jordanians were accustomed to citizens protesting in the streets against the government during the Arab Spring, the Awareness Walk was the first time a government body ever marched in the streets along with the people to support a cause – particularly for a women’s issue. Due to the support and participation of the Secretary General of the Ministry of Labor there was a great amount of media presence prior to and during the Walk, including coverage by the official Jordanian TV station,23 Ro’ya TV, Aramram web TV, Radio Albalad, Radio Farah el Nas and stories in local newspapers.24 The team announced the Walk through social media (their Facebook25 and Twitter26 pages), issued a brochure with the Ministry of Labor and sent official invitations to organizations and companies. The Ministry of Labor was so pleased with the success of the walk that they organized a second Walk a week later in support of child labor laws.

23

 Jordan TV’s coverage of the awareness walk organized by Sadaqa -18.5.12,” video clip, Youtube, accessed September “ 18, 2012, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DMrHqtnWBh0&feature=plcp

24

 Jordanian Television hosts members of the SADAQA campaign,” video clip, Youtube, accessed September 18, 2012, “ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kybe6qByWO4; “SADAQA Campaign toward a women-friendly work environment,” General Trade Union of Banks, Insurance, and Auditing Employees in Jordan, May 15, 2012, http://gtubia.org.jo/home/ Detailed/202; “March for working mothers demands nurseries for their children in the workplace in accordance with the law,” JordanZad, May 19, 2012, http://jordanzad.com/index.php?page=article&id=82858

25

”SADAQA Initiative,” Facebook, accessed September 27, 2012, https://www.facebook.com/sadaqajo

26

@sadaqajo, Twitter, accessed September 27, 2012, https://twitter.com/sadaqajo


The Journey Through Transition: 5 Stories of Women-Led Change in the Middle East and North Africa

Following the Walk, the Jordan team started seeing additional positive impacts of the campaign. Female employees in the banking sector are now pursuing internal advocacy efforts promoting Article 72’s implementation and have sought the assistance of the SADAQA campaign to petition the concerned entities. The International Youth Foundation met with the team to discuss future cooperation in activating the law, and also met with the Ministry of Labor on the issue. The team’s last activity was a closing ceremony, held on May 30, 2012, which gathered 60 participants from local and international organizations, such as MEPI, representatives from private corporations, local activists, and representatives from the Social Security Corporation, the Arab Women Organization and the Business and Professional Women-Amman. The ceremony, which was held under the patronage of the Ministry of Labor’s Secretary General, showcased a short movie27 summarizing the activities of the SADAQA campaign and shedding light on the importance of activating Article 72.

As a result of SADAQA, the Arab Bank initiated legal preparations to establish a daycare for their employees. Female employees from the Jordan Investment Bank and the Universal Schools started their own advocacy efforts inside their companies and are in the process of putting together recommendations for companies to pursue the setup of daycare centers. Finally, members of the Jordan team have officially registered SADAQA as a nonprofit organization in order to continue the work of the campaign following the close of the grant from Vital Voices and the MEPI. As SADAQA starts the next phase of the campaign, the Ministry of Labor has offered to partner with the team on future campaign activities, such as promoting gender pay equity standards and creating breastfeeding facilities. Additionally, Ro’ya, an independent television station, has approached the team about producing shows featuring advocacy issues, including the SADAQA campaign.

Lessons Learned: Use the support and participation of men to strengthen the campaign and ensure buy-in on issues impacting women!

27

 SADAQA Campaign: Marking a Year of Achievements,” video clip, Youtube, accessed September 18, 2012, “ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qAgdiZldLBg&feature=youtu.be

23


Lebanon


The Journey Through Transition: 5 Stories of Women-Led Change in the Middle East and North Africa

Lebanon Prior to the Vital Voices Advocacy Workshop led by Vital Voices in Amman, Jordan in February 2011, the Lebanon Policy Advocates team had many campaign ideas concerning issues affecting women in their country. Working with local NGO partner Lebanese League for Women in Business (LLWB), the participants decided that in consideration of the group’s religious and political makeup, as well as that of the country, the best strategy would be to focus on advocating for amendments to a social security law and a taxation law that had discriminatory provisions for women.

However, shortly after the team began research for their campaign, the Lebanese government amended the taxation law to eliminate discrimination against women. The team decided to rethink their advocacy strategy in order to be most effective in their campaign. The team held many meetings with government officials, NGOs, lawyers and activists in order to form relationships with stakeholders and gain knowledge about laws regarding women’s rights in Lebanon. In order to research other laws that still needed advocacy work, the team spoke with prominent judges and key people in the government, such as the former managing director of the Social Security Administration who was the person behind drafting most of the social security laws. After receiving conflicting messages from government officials about whether there was in fact discrimination against women in Lebanese law, the team met with the Lebanese Women Democratic Gathering, a prominent NGO that published a report several years ago about gender discrimination in Lebanese law. Although the organization had changed its focus in subsequent years, representatives confirmed that gender discrimination still existed and suggested 26

that the team meet with an attorney who is a director for the National Commission of Lebanese Women (NCLW). The NCLW was formed by the Lebanese Government as the official body responsible for ensuring the implementation of resolutions taken at the Beijing Conference in 1995. Headed by the First Lady with a board of highly influential political and social figures, it is the official national mechanism responsible for realizing women’s advancement and gender equality in Lebanon and works specifically on issues related to women in the workforce. With this encouragement, the team scheduled a meeting with NCLW and a colleague from Collective for Research and Training on Development – Action (CDTR-A) in September 2011. At this meeting, NCLW stated that they created a campaign called “Wein Baadna” (“The Long Road Ahead”) where they identified, redrafted and submitted proposed changes to 15 gender discriminatory laws (though two were passed during the summer of 2011) in the areas of taxation, labor, social security and inheritance. Although much progress had been made by NCLW on the legal work, the Policy Advocates team (comprised of


The Journey Through Transition: 5 Stories of Women-Led Change in the Middle East and North Africa

The partnership between the team and NCLW gave the legal work of NCLW an energetic boost to kick-start the advocacy campaign, with all parties enthusiastic to begin working together.

Wein Baadna: The Long Road Ahead

many leaders in the business field) had not heard of these laws or campaign for the proposed changes. NCLW said that they did not have the time or capacity to focus on lobbying for the legal changes. Therefore, NCLW asked the team to help them advocate for the passage of the remaining 13 draft laws with members of Parliament and directors of relevant government bodies. NCLW also asked the team to help raise awareness of these issues with the general public and help gain the support of the NGO community. The team held several meetings with NCLW in order to gain an in-depth understanding of the 13 laws, learn about work done in the past, understand the current legal and political situation, create an action plan for 2011 and 2012 and decide upon contribution opportunities for the team. In February 2012, the team and LLWB signed a memorandum of understanding with NCLW and started implementing a threepart action plan: 1) an online awareness campaign, 2) a lobbying campaign and 3) gaining the support of civil society.

The team prioritized identifying a lawyer to join their team to lead the lobbying part of the campaign and receive training from NCLW on lobbying specifically for the remaining 13 laws.28 After interviewing three attorneys, the team decided to hire a woman who had previously worked with NCLW and has experience working on Parliamentary issues. NCLW began training her to lobby the relevant Parliamentarians, heads of government departments and ministries, and key political party officials who could influence legislative change. The team also created an online media strategy to raise awareness of their lobbying efforts. The strategy included an advocacy page on the LLWB website in English and Arabic,29 a social media campaign30 and an e-marketing campaign. The web page incorporated into the LLWB site includes an introduction about the advocacy campaign, details on the NCLW program, explanation of the current state of the laws and desired reforms and logos of prominent stakeholders. They have also made contacts with television stations, radio and magazines, hoping to get future coverage of the campaign through traditional media outlets. In March, the team met with NGOs such as AMIDEAST, Endeavour, Women in Technology and the Lebanese Women Democratic Gathering, which showed support for the campaign by circulating information to their members and supporters. They also lobbied contacts who are members of Parliament. The team met with Bank of Beirut in May

28

 complete list of all the gender discriminatory laws the Lebanon Policy Advocates team is currently lobbying on can be A found at http://publisherslounge.com/llwb/advocacy.php.

29

Lebanese League for Women in Business, accessed September 27, 2012, http://www.llwb.org/

30

 Lebanon Policy Advocates Campaign,� Facebook, accessed September 18, 2012, “ https://www.facebook.com/AdvocacyLebanon

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The Journey Through Transition: 5 Stories of Women-Led Change in the Middle East and North Africa

and June to initiate a partnership and potential additional financial sponsorship for the campaign and requested a meeting with the First Lady to get her support for their campaign efforts. During the spring of 2012, the growing civil conflict in Syria overshadowed much of the team’s efforts. Deadly clashes between Sunni Muslims and Alawites in Tripoli, Lebanon started in February 2012,31 along with a series of kidnappings during July and August of Sunni Muslims in Lebanon in retaliation for Shia kidnappings in Syria, increased sectarian tensions in Lebanon.32 As of early August 2012, over 35,000 Syrians refugees had fled into Lebanon, receiving protection and assistance from the Lebanese government, the UN and NGOs.33 Since many Lebanese politicians felt that basic needs such as electricity and security must take a priority, they were reluctant to spend much time focusing on gender discriminatory laws during this conflict period. In Beirut, the proximity of the clashes, influx of refugees into the country and outages of electricity and Internet have contributed to an overall sense of unpredictability and insecurity. The Lebanese warily observed each new political development and how it would affect the political stability of their country. In the meantime, the team was determined to continue their campaign as long as the relevant legislative Committees continued to meet. Despite these difficulties and the unstable political environment, the team continued to gain public support for the campaign. Unlike most social cause Facebook pages in Lebanon, which

28

receive a few hundred likes within the first few months, the team launched a hugely popular Facebook page with nearly 3,000 “likes” in a little over six weeks.34 The team continued to advocate among the civil society community to gain support for their efforts, hoping to partner with at least 35 additional NGOs by the end of 2012, which would allow them to reach over 6,000 individuals in the workforce. By sending email updates on the campaign, the team hopes to create a viral network of support throughout Lebanon. In May, NCLW approached the team to collaborate on another law regarding women and nationality. According to Lebanese law, a Lebanese mother is not eligible to give her nationality to her children if the father is non-Lebanese. Since this law has political and social implications affecting the sectarian divisions within Lebanon, NCLW began lobbying with the relevant political parties and discussing reforms for the law.35 In the meantime, the team plans to continue their campaign for the foreseeable future since the initial funding helped them set up key pieces for their campaign. Their online campaign has been wildly successful, growing rapidly in a matter of weeks. Their attorney has begun the lobbying campaign and is working with NCLW to learn specific information about each of the 13 remaining laws they want to change, two of which are in the final stages. She has begun identifying the main obstacles to the passage of each law, the key individuals opposing the redrafted laws, as well as knowledge of the arguments for the passage of these laws happening behind the scenes.

31

 Deadly clashes over Syria in Lebanese city of Tripoli,” BBC News, August 21, 2012, “ http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-19329633

32

 amien Cave, “In Lebanon, Sunnis Threaten Shiites as Kidnappings of Syrians Rise,” The New York Times, August 16, D 2012, http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/17/world/middleeast/Syria.html

33

 UN Inter-Agency Update,” United Nations High Commission for Refugees, July 27-August 3, 2012, “ http://www.unhcr.org/501f7a2b9.html

34

“Lebanon Policy Advocates Campaign,” Facebook.

35

 ajor opponents of the law claim that it would disrupt the religious balance in the country, which would affect voting and M elections. Many Lebanese also do not want to give Lebanese nationality to Palestinians.


The Journey Through Transition: 5 Stories of Women-Led Change in the Middle East and North Africa

Finally, approximately 10 NGOs have agreed to support the campaign and disseminate the information about the laws to their members; the team plans to continue approaching other organizations to join the coalition in order to create a large network of support for the campaign. The team will apply for additional funding from the private sector in order to continue campaign activities

and anticipates broadening their scope to include other women’s labor and economic empowerment issues. During the Policy Advocates program, members of the Lebanon team had a chance to meet with the Jordan team, and were inspired by the work they are doing to implement daycare centers in corporations. The Lebanon team decided to consider this as a possible future campaign based on the success and model of the Jordan team.

Lessons Learned: Create a broad spectrum of support through contacts with NGOs, stakeholders in the private sector, and mass public awareness through social and traditional media.

29


Oman


The Journey Through Transition: 5 Stories of Women-Led Change in the Middle East and North Africa

Oman Initial work to recruit participants from Oman was difficult, with only a few individuals applying through the open application process. As a result, in late 2010 Vital Voices initiated a hands-on recruitment process, reaching out to local organizations, businesses and contacts of contacts to identify a number of women who were willing and able to attend the Vital Voices Advocacy Workshop in Amman, Jordan in February 2011. After about a month of extended outreach, Vital Voices selected five women, all scheduled to attend. However, last minute cancellations led to a group of only three women coming to Jordan.

Prior to the workshop, members of the team were introduced to each other. Since several of them worked for a bank in Oman, they decided to pursue a project with their employer to promote women as managers in the company. Their project would provide training and support for women’s promotion within the bank and as managers in general. The team noted that many women in the bank worked at entry-level positions and faced several other barriers to promotion, including lack of training, less confidence than men in promoting themselves as good candidates, and upper management overlooking women as potential managers. Back in Oman, the entire team, including the members that could not attend the workshop, put together a formal request to the bank outlining their project, the resources they would need from the bank and requesting permission to work within their office to promote women’s ability to progress into management positions. After submitting the letter, the team waited patiently for weeks for what they expected to be a positive reply. Instead, they received a verbal denial and were told that they could not pursue the project. They were not told why the project had been denied.

32

Having put tremendous effort into their initial project, and feeling disappointed with the refusal they received, several of the participants decided not to pursue advocacy work and simply dropped out of the program. After months passed, only one team member was still interested in pursuing an advocacy project. She engaged with Vital Voices staff to think of possible program activities, but was unable to see another project come to fruition. To help work through the challenges faced by the local team, Vital Voices staff decided to travel to Oman to better understand the environment the team was encountering. Vital Voices met with a well-known figure in Oman, who was also running for the upcoming Majlis al-Shura elections in the fall of 2011 and was ebullient and spoke of the great possibilities of collaboration with government officials and the establishment of the country’s first think tank, Tawasul. Working with Vital Voices staff, he helped formulate a potential new project to work with government officials to provide training to government staff members on gender sensitivity while drafting legislation. With a new project in hand, and potential new partners, Vital Voices


The Journey Through Transition: 5 Stories of Women-Led Change in the Middle East and North Africa

staff continued to meet with local civil society members to vet the new project idea and to get more perspective on the challenges being faced by local organizations. It was only after many meetings and post-meeting debriefs that Vital Voices was truly able to discern the reasons why participants faced such difficulty working in the country. One of the most important factors seemed to be the popularity of the government and a general belief that Oman does not face issues or problems where advocacy is needed. After leaving Oman, Vital Voices staff continued to reach out to the potential new partners on the project outlined while in Muscat. However, soon after staff returned to the US, the team in Oman became less and less responsive. Vital Voices engaged a consultant on the ground who tried to engage the team to no avail. It became clear within a few weeks that the project so rapidly and optimistically planned out would not come to fruition. In order to move forward and explore additional options for the project, Vital Voices took the lead in seeking out possible new partnerships, while continuing to engage and consult local contacts throughout the process. With a sizeable investment of money, time and effort already made, Vital Voices, in collaboration with MEPI, made the decision to continue efforts to implement a project in Oman. However, as time crept on, more barriers presented themselves. News emerged of a new procedure stating that in order for a local NGO to receive foreign funding, it was required to get the approval of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Social Development. These approvals are difficult to obtain and rarely given, according to local sources. Despite these barriers, Vital Voices and the consultant pushed forward, trying to find a way to support the team to engage in some sort of

advocacy work. Several participants were interested in pursuing women’s economic empowerment work, and so the consultant began to explore related project options. When Vital Voices staff visited again in October 2011, several participants and the consultant discussed the possibility of establishing an online forum where women could sell their goods while also providing a platform to share real stories to advocate for women’s economic advancement. The team, along with the consultant, continued to develop a project for the women’s crafts online marketplace, but the project continued to drift further away from advocacy activities. In another attempt to revive an advocacy project, Vital Voices and the consultant contacted a local think tank to either jointly sponsor an event that would provide a venue for open discussion on issues facing Omanis, or alternatively sponsor basic advocacy training. After taking several weeks to consider the partnership, the think tank also declined the opportunity, leaving the project once again stranded. As various project ideas continued to be brainstormed and pitched, the online marketplace project continued forward, albeit sporadically. Participants began to lose interest, and the tendency to not follow through became more consistent. Vital Voices and the consultant tried to support the team in applying for a MEPI local grant, including garnering MEPIMuscat’s support for the project and overseeing the creation of a preliminary budget and proposal. However, the proposal was never submitted by the team, despite support for the idea. Given the barriers to advocacy in the country and the hesitance of many civil society members to undertake a project, Vital Voices was not able to implement an advocacy project in Oman. Funding otherwise set aside for Oman was reallocated to other countries in 33


The Journey Through Transition: 5 Stories of Women-Led Change in the Middle East and North Africa

the region within the Policy Advocates program. Vital Voices continues to be supportive of the group seeking to establish an online marketplace for women’s goods and will continue to support women in civil society in Oman.

Lessons Learned: It is important to understand the local environment, and be prepared to change course when facing setbacks and obstacles. Flexibility is key; even if there isn’t success at the end of the project, the learning process is good preparation for a future venture in a different enabling environment.

34


Acknowledgements


The Journey Through Transition: 5 Stories of Women-Led Change in the Middle East and North Africa

As with any long-term project, so many need to be acknowledged for their service. Numerous people contributed their time, energy, expertise and passion throughout this program, none more than the leaders of the advocacy campaigns in each country. These ambitious women, and men, stepped up to have a huge impact in their communities and are still tirelessly working towards their goals. However, in a still unstable political climate, Vital Voices did not want to risk naming individuals. That does not make their contribution any less. On the contrary, it is even more important. The staff and partners at Vital Voices are, and will always be, immensely grateful. Special thanks also go out to all of the Vital Voices staff members who made this program, and these case studies, possible. And to MEPI, Vital Voices is thankful for your continued support.

In addition, the following organizations and individuals contributed to the Policy Advocates teams’ initiatives across the MENA region. Throughout the text, some individuals and organizations have been named if the event or item for which they are named is highly visible or easily accessed. They too played a huge role in the success in the program and for that, Vital Voices thanks them.

Morocco

Association for Development and Women’s Empowerment; Amal Association; Association of Women and Development; Isis Center for Women and Development; Midelt Association for Development; National Union of Women’s Organizations; Sefrou Association of Women; South North Center; Tawada Cultural Association; Teacher’s Local Association; Palais des Congrès de Fès; Moroccan TV Channel 2; Spain’s Canal Sur; Moroccan Ministry of Family and Solidarity; Moroccan Ministry of Justice

Egypt

ACT Center for Development; Egyptian Constitutional Committee; Egyptian Center for Women’s Rights; Freedom and Justice Party; Jenzabar Foundation; Let’s Write Our Constitution; OTV television station

Jordan

Al Hayat Center for Civil Society Development; Arab Bank; Arab Human Rights Organization; Aramram web TV; Business and Professional Women- Amman; CEDAW Committee at the 51st session of the UN in Geneva; International Labor Organization; International School of Amman; International Youth Foundation; Jordan Investment Bank; Jordan National Commission for Women; Jordanian Ministry of Labor; National Council for Family Affairs; National Nurseries Project; Radio Albalad; Radio Farah el Nas; Ro’ya TV; Save the Children; Social Security Corporation; The Arab Women Organization; The International Youth Foundation; ZAIN Telecom

Lebanon

AMIDEAST; Bank of Beirut; Collective for Research and Training on Development - Action; Endeavour; First Lady Wafaa Suleiman; Lebanese League for Women in Business; Lebanese Women Democratic Gathering; National Commission of Lebanese Women; Social Security Administration; Women in Technology

Oman 36

Tawasul


To learn more about Vital Voices and the women we work with in the Middle East and North Africa, visit www.vitalvoices.org or contact: mena@vitalvoices.org (email) 202.861.2625 (main) 202.296.4142 (fax)

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Vital Voices case studies - English  

Vital Voices case studies from the MENA policy advocates program.

Vital Voices case studies - English  

Vital Voices case studies from the MENA policy advocates program.

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