Women across the Middle East and North Africa region face poor representation in parliaments and a range of laws which negatively impact their lives. Westminster Foundation for Democracy is bringing together women MPs to help address these problems.
Violence against women and girls (VAWG) is recognised as a serious problem globally, but in the MENA region the situation is made worse by the lack of legislation that criminalises domestic violence, the absence of government accountability and poor protection of women’s rights inside the home. On top of this social stigmas are associated with women victims instead of the perpetrators of domestic violence.
The Westminster Foundation for Democracy aims to provide the necessary support to legislatures across the region so they can play a crucial role in embedding a legal environment that protects women from violence. With good laws that are rigorously enforced, victims can have wider access to services, appropriate treatment, and increased knowledge about their rights.
Through the 2012-15 ‘Enhancing capacity of women MPs’ programme’ WFD supported the establishment of a coalition of women MPs from Arab countries to combat violence against women – the only such coalition in the region, which gained rapid momentum throughout 2014 securing membership from 11 countries (Libya, Jordan, Sudan, Lebanon, Egypt, Bahrain, Tunisia, Morocco, Palestine, Iraq, and Djibouti).
With WFD’s support the Coalition has made important gains, ranging from the development of a model national law on Domestic Violence to the launch of the Arab Day to Combat Violence against Women, which now takes place every year on 12th January. Further work is needed to deepen support to the Coalition and consolidate its efforts as a leading alliance to combat violence against women.
Building on the achievements of the previous programme, WFD now provides support to the Coalition of Women MPs from Arab Countries WFD will work with the coalition to press for reform on three levels: building the awareness on forms and consequences of Violence against Women (VAW); supporting the development of a regional framework to combat VAW: and supporting new bills in four countries (Lebanon, Tunisia, Jordan and Iraq).
By supporting an active Coalition of local parliamentarians from across the region, WFD hopes to build momentum in favour of increased women’s rights and participation in politics across MENA. The importance and relevance of this work has been cemented in the minds of the international community through the adoption of Goal 5, as part of the post-2015 sustainable development agenda. WFD wants to help achieve gender equality and empower women and girls around the world, and the work with the Coalition is already contributing to this.
The envisaged result on the completion of the project is to enable Women MPs in the MENA region to lead the promotion of human rights and the elimination of all forms of violence against women through the development of legal and operational frameworks on combating violence against women at the national and MENA regional levels that are compatible with best practices and international standards.