The images of spring 2011 are seared into the memories of the whole world. Women and men stood side by side as equals, shouting out loud that they had had enough of dictatorial regimes, of having no hope and no prospects for the future. These courageous women and men took to the streets protesting against the old regime and fighting for change, for the full respect of their fundamental rights and freedoms. But while all agreed on the need for change, there was no unified vision of how that should be achieved and no common understanding of what the newly claimed freedom would bring.
In the field of gender equality, freedom has led to a proliferation of diverse opinions on women’s role in society. However, many progressive women’s organisations lack institutional, human and financial capacity, hence the current debate cannot take place in an equal and balanced manner. As the region rebuilds its societies on new foundations, it is important to encourage the fulfilment of both women’s and men’s aspirations to play an active and constructive role. In the many debates taking place this view is often presented, falsely, as a Western interpretation of equality and as a colonialist intrusion against local traditions. The biggest challenge that progressive women’s organisations face in the region is the constant attacks aimed at discrediting the equality agenda through this line of reasoning.
Against this background, FEPS and SOLIDAR organises a roundtable debate in the European Parliament to give an overview of the achievements, challenges and future prospects of progressive women’s organisations in the MENA region and to enhance women’s economic, social and political participation.
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