UN Women’s work in the Arab States/North Africa region focuses on achieving gender equality in democratic governance and on reducing feminized poverty and exclusion through the realization of women’s human rights and human security.
In Jordan, UNIFEM (now UN Women) supported efforts for inclusion of women migrant workers in the national labour code. This resulted in the formulation of a minimum standard contract for migrant women that stipulates their rights, such as the right to medical care, rest days and timely payment of wages. Information on a shelter and hotline for domestic workers was also included. In addition, the Government has established a monitoring committee to assess the situations of migrant women workers in their employers’ houses. Media campaigns have raised awareness in this destination country regarding the rights of migrant workers.
In Morocco every second woman does not know how to read or write. To reverse this trend, the Ministry of Education allocated funds to expand the school feeding programmes, extend medical services within schools, distribute books, and provide transport for students living in remote areas. These measures were spelt out in the gender budget statement, the first in the history of Morocco and presented as an annex to the national budget for 2006. The statement outlined how the allocation of public resources will address gender equality priorities. It was a result of the partnership between UNIFEM (now UN Women) and the government aimed at incorporating a gender perspective into the ongoing budget reform process. This also led to the prioritizing of family planning, maternal health clinics, vocational training and increased access to microcredit for women. Ongoing efforts have now resulted in GRB being completely anchored in the national budget reform process, with 21 Ministries taking part in preparations of the gender report that accompanies the annual budget, compared to 4 in 2005.
In Morocco, UNIFEM (now UN Women) supported a network of women’s human rights NGOs to incorporate concerns related to fighting HIV and AIDS in their plans of action and advocacy. Consequently, the Ministry of Health is supporting the network to implement its work programme.
In Egypt, UNIFEM (now UN Women) supported the establishment of the Forum of Women Members of Parliament to advance training of women parliamentarians and to strengthen their voices in governance structures and reforms. Similarly, through the Arab Women Parliamentarians programme, a variety of trainings and workshops on participatory planning, communications and gender-sensitive budgeting has strengthened the capacity of more than 100 MPs to lobby for gender equality in parliaments. At the regional level, consultations are underway for the establishment of a CEDAW Regional Support Committee with the League of Arab States to build understanding on CEDAW and develop clear action plans.
In the parliamentary elections in Syria in April 2007, 31
of the 250 parliamentary seats were filled by women. Seventeen of the newly
elected women Members of Parliament, or 55 percent, had participated in the
regional project Arab Women Parliamentarians, implemented by the Syrian Commission
for Family Affairs and the General Women's Union in collaboration with
UNIFEM (now UN Women).
UNIFEM (now UN Women) has facilitated the efforts of women’s groups to develop a common agenda to influence the peace process in the Israeli–Palestinian conflict. The International Women’s Commission for a Just and Sustainable Israeli–Palestinian Peace (IWC) was established in 2005 following a meeting convened by UNIFEM (now UN Women) at the urging of Israeli and Palestinian women leaders, to ensure the meaningful participation of women in mainstream peace negotiations. The IWC — which comprises Israeli, Palestinian and international women leaders — has since its inception spoken out in one voice on the peace process.
After supporting women’s organizations in successfully advocating for significant reforms of the Family Code in Morocco, UN Women continues to provide assistance to strengthen the capacity of the family courts to ensure that full understanding and application of the Code will realize women’s human rights and help combat gender-based violence.
When an Egyptian woman faces gender-based discrimination, be it sexual harassment in the workplace or violence at home, she can now bring her complaint to the National Women’s Complaints Office. There, a network of pro bono lawyers, trained by UNIFEM (now UN Women) on women’s human rights, offers assistance in preparing and filing her case.