These countries are at a crossroads. Women make up half of the Middle East’s population, and any hope of political and economic development must account for that fact. Organizations like the UN Development Program have repeatedly issued reports demonstrating the connection between economic decline and oppression of women. Simply put, Arab countries will not succeed unless women are fully integrated into political and economic life.
In her Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech in 2011, Yemeni political activist Tawakkol Karman made the point clearly: “The solution to women’s issues can only be achieved in a free and democratic society in which human energy is liberated, the energy of both women and men together.”
Middle Eastern countries should protect and consolidate women’s rights as a way to reinforce democratic ideas and habits. They must institute the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and other international laws and agreements, in order to eradicate gender-based discrimination and violence. The hope for women’s progress is really a hope for a decent society in which development for all is possible.
Moha Ennaji is professor of cultural and gender studies at Sidi Mohamed Ben Abdellah University and president of the International Institute for Languages and Cultures in Fez, Morocco.
Copyright: Project Syndicate