Webex, 9 June 2021
We heard about the first business incubator for women in Libya who helps women to be more involved in the economic life. We heard about a digital networking platform for women in business in Egypt and the efforts to make the voices of black women heard in Tunisia. From Syria, we heard about women’s strong determination to have a real say in the drafting of the Constitution for a future democratic Syria.
Women as “agents of change”, women “at the right side of the history”, women “paving the way for future generations” are only some of the statements made during the discussion. There was agreement on the need for more economic opportunities and empowerment for women, their increased control and access to resources, as well as their protection in view of participation in elections and in getting “a seat at the negotiations table and being listened to”.
The discussion revealed the importance of finding more creative ways in addressing women’s needs, the importance of listening to each other to better understand and the importance of reaching out to men and families. It is not enough to focus on empowering women. Focus must also be on women’s role in the society, current challenges and why their full involvement in every aspect of the political, economic, social and security life matters.
One of the conclusions, as underlined by the moderator, was that “Change in the region is possible and is happening”. Despite difficulties, women stand ready to assume responsibilities and are making themselves more and more heard. The EU fully supports this call through its policy framework – the EU Action Plan on Human Rights, the Gender Action Plan III and not least, the recent Agenda for the Mediterranean - and ultimately political, diplomatic, technical and financial action.
When asked what concretely the EU should do to meet the target of 33% women in EU supported and financed peace processes the response given was that if those seats are not filled with women, they would remain empty.
Participants expressed a wish to continue such debates in order to learn more about developments in each country and in different sectors of the social and economic life, and make sure that “women’s agenda becomes the agenda for change in the MENA region”.
Mr Carl Hallergard, EEAS Deputy Managing Director for the MENA region concluded the seminar by stressing that this year’s edition of “Stories that matter” should be seen as just the beginning, while underscoring the importance of men being closely engaged in this discussion.
*The event was organized by the EEAS Middle East and North Africa Department and the Office of the Advisor on Gender and Diversity. It was moderated by Mrs. Charlotta Sparre, Director of the Swedish Dialogue Institute for the Middle East and North Africa.
Reem EL Saady from Egypt - National programme manager, SME support - European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD)
Dima Moussa from Syria- Founding member of the Syrian women political movement and member of the Constitutional Committee Small Drafting body
Khawla Ksiksi from Tunisia – Co-founder of the “Voices of Tunisian Black Women”
Hala Bugaighis from Libya - Founder of “Jusoor Center for Studies and Development”