Friday, November 4, 2011

Why Empower Women?

I just read Wednesday’s testimony of Tamara C. Wittes* to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Women and the Arab Spring. 

A quote that leapt out at me in her testimony was from President Obama who said in May, 2011, “History shows that countries are more prosperous and more peaceful when women are empowered.”

We see that over and over in our work at Global Rights. One of the ways we empower women – specifically in Morocco, Tunisia and Algeria – is to train our local partners to teach women about their human and legal rights, and then work with them on strategies to articulate and demand those rights. 

Bottom line is that we believe empowering women to access justice so that they can assert and protect their rights is a potent tool to overcome power imbalances in society.  

Over the past eight years as one of the few international organizations operating in Tunisia, Global Rights is working in the trenches with local NGOs to strengthen their capacity to conduct grassroots-level rights education and community mobilization on women’s rights.  It’s based on the great model we have developed in Morocco over the last decade.

Ms. Wittes said at the end of her testimony:
“Without a doubt, the final outcome of the region’s democratic transition is uncertain. But because we believe that democratic transformation in the Middle East is profoundly in our interests, we are committed to remaining engaged and to providing the necessary long-term support for women in these countries who are already working as agents of positive change."

Having worked in the Maghreb since 2000, we have seen what long-term support for women can bring.  We work with amazing women day in and day out who are working as agents of positive change in the region.  Just this week, the Global Rights’ Maghreb team is in Geneva with five of our long-term Moroccan partners to make recommendations to combat violence against women at the United Nations Committee Against Torture.  We are all empowered by their efforts.


*Tamara Wittes is the Deputy Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs and Deputy Special Coordinator for Middle East Transitions.  She gave testimony before Subcommittees on International Operations and Organizations, Human Rights, Democracy and Global Women’s Issues and Near Eastern and South and Central Asian Affairs.

Posted by Susan M. Farnsworth

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