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Feminist News


October-31-02

Arab Women’s Summit to Meet in Jordan

The Women’s Arab Summit this weekend in Amman, Jordan, will launch the Arab Women’s Organization under the patronage of the Arab League. Approved by 20 Arab nations, the AWO will research the conditions for women with its goal to “harmonize laws across the region,” the BBC reports. The organization hopes that more progressive nations such as Egypt and Tunisia will encourage Saudi Arabia and other conservative Muslim countries to slowly change their attitudes toward women. Experts, women’s rights activists, and Arab First Ladies are expected to take part in the conference, chaired by Queen Rania Al-Abdullah of Jordan.

The conference will focus on women’s role in legal, political, cultural, and economic issues in Arab societies, according to ArabicNews.com, and participants will discuss the recent “Arab Human Development Report” published by the United Nations Development Program and the Arab Fund for Economic and Social Development. The report states that the reason the Arab world has not been able to truly modernize is because it has failed to use the full capabilities of Arab women. Though the literacy rate for Arab women has increased threefold and school education rates have doubled since the 1970s, the BBC reports that half of Arab women still remain illiterate, and in Saudi Arabia, women contribute to only 3 percent of the economy despite making up 50 percent of the population.

Bahrain seems to be paving the way for Arab women. In a landmark move, the King of Bahrain granted women suffrage last month, as well as the right to run for national office, the AP reports. The recent election held in Bahrain is a giant leap forward for the entire Persian Gulf region, where women are still denied the right to vote.

Media Resources: BBC 10/31/02; ArabicNews.com 9/4/02; AP 10/14/02; The Khaleej Times 08/20/02; News release from Queen Al-Abdullah 10/22/02