Unlike the past when women were confined in their houses as house wives and were not allowed to work, get proper education or vote, modern women have access to all these. However, this is only in some countries such as the western countries. Women in South Western Asia, and their counterparts in North Africa have been denied their rights for long and their future in terms of rights doesn’t seem to be bright. In light with this observation, this article will comprehensively discuss the rights of women in the named regions with the purpose of bringing this issue in the open.
One characteristic of the North African region and the South Western Asia region is that these regions have been growing more than other regions especially those in the developing nations. For example, infant mortality has decreased and so is life expectancy. In addition, literacy rates especially among females have increased with a large percentage. Women have also increased their involvement in politics, economic life and making of decisions. Although this is the case, women education does not correlate with involvement in public life and their empowerment. Women’s public involvement and their economic still remains the lowest when compared to that in the world. When other countries boast about women rights and freedom, this region has little to celebrate.
One of the reasons that have seen this drag in women involvement is the harsh societal norms that downgrade women to inferior status. Instead of these norms diminishing, they are progressing. More so, governments in these regions have not been willing to address these inequalities through different legislations and policies. Instead, some pursue policies that oppress women. A look at the laws that protect women against abuses such as spousal abuses and marital rape are also not present in this region. Killing of women and their different abuses also continue and remain rooted in political and educational institutions in this region.
There have been various efforts of increasing the rights of women in this region but the efforts have been hindered by the lack of independence in the judiciary and other helpful institutions. The governments and the clergy have also exerted strong resistance on any efforts to increase women rights in these regions.
However, some regions have seen some improvements since women can vote and in some regions, women are now allowed to serve in parliaments. For example, in Kuwait, women were not allowed to vote, but now they can. This was also the same case with regions like Bahrain where obtaining of passports was not possible without approval by their males. However, there have been some tremendous increase in women rights and involvement in these societies.
Due to this problem, the region is suffering. Continual gender inequalities bring upon the region high costs and hinder the region from good governance and sustainable economic growth.
Although I have suffered from this problem, I have seen older adults suffering from this problem and one of them is my aunt. As a school teacher, my aunt suffered greatly because of her gender. To start with, my aunt is educated than most of the teachers in her school. However, she has never been allowed to teach classes in the higher level. Instead, she has only been allowed to teach students in the lower classes because they believe that this is her role.
The problem did not start from the school. Instead, it started when she decided to enroll in a local college. Her father was not for this idea, but the mother felt since my aunt was an educated woman; she could save the family from poverty if she gained education.
At one time, she was assigned the role of teaching a class of boys who were very naughty. She was happy that her time for earning more had come but she did not last long in that class. The young boys had been brainwashed by the society and they couldn’t believe that a woman could teach them. She was therefore permanently forced to teach students in the lower class levels.
Constantly in her career, my aunt used to receive various threats from the male teachers who thought that she was a threat to their jobs. For example, the schools’ administrators who were largely composed of men always discouraged her. Sometimes, she was forced to pay for other people’s mistakes after being implicated. She was once told that her position was not in the school but was in the house as a wife and a mother.
My aunt also reported of having been sexually harassed. Most of the male teachers that she worked with viewed her as a sexual object. Although she was a respectable woman, she had to deal with various sexual advances from people who were already married. Some did not take her firm standing lightly and they threatened to get back to her when they had a chance. Sometimes, the sexual advances came from the students who as seen earlier, had been brainwashed by the society to believe that women did not have a position in the society.
I remember that when my aunt narrated her life story, I saw it as a joke. However, I have come to realize that this is a problem in this region based from what I see on the TV and what my friends narrate to me. Stories of rape, women degradation, stoning and the like have increased and this has forced people into action. As for me, I would love to be an activist who can help in improving women’s rights in these and other regions.
As mentioned earlier, women groups in this region has been working towards their rights for long. Since their efforts have not been successful, it is the high time that international groups joined in to help these women in fighting for their rights. This is mainly because of the power that most of these NGOs hold, which can help pushing governments in this region into action. International governments can also help in promoting the rights of women in this region. For example, the US, which has power, can talk governments in this region towards accepting and implementing rules that support women’s rights.
Although this is a good strategy, it is important to note that power can only come from within. Governments in this region need to align their gender equality standards with those of international standards. They should also ensure that these standards are implemented and that relevant accountability measures are set in order to achieve a full capacity in terms of gender equality reforms.
Governments also need to come up with institutions that will advocate for gender equality in this region. The institutions should have clearly defined roles with the purpose of advancing gender equality. The institutions should also help in coordinating mechanisms in this area so as to achieve the gender equality objectives. Some of these institutions include ministries, independent institutions and other equality commissions. Parliament too should assume its role in promoting equality among its citizens.
The best institution, however, is a single ministry or a single agency that has a gender minister in order to open the people’s eyes on the need for equality in this region. In order to make sure that the institution is powerful, it should be given the mandate and also sufficient resources together with political leadership to effectively place gender related policies in the limelight.
Since the regions are vast, there should be an institution that combines the efforts in all these countries. This is with the aim of fighting for women’s rights as a group to promote coherence and coordination. The institutions should be associated with the governments in all these regions and advisory institutions set under the same institution.
The region also needs proper policy co-ordination so as to ensure that reforms related to gender are on track. Governments should make sure that they are involved in the policies whereby all involved institutions take their initiative to make sure that the efforts are successful.
Other efforts that can help in improving women’s right in these regions is through the efforts of increasing women’ access to different services such as education and health care. This should be done with a higher emphasis on quality of the services provided. Qualified staff that showcases gender equality should be used in providing these services. Adequate monetary support should also be provided in making sure that such efforts are successful.
International NGOs should also be supported in their efforts of bringing equality in this region. For example, for a long time, the UN has been working hard to empower women in some of these regions such as Afghanistan. What the organization lacks is proper support from the government and the society. Such organizations should also be respected in terms of autonomy and independence even when consulting activists, civil society and when appointing officials to represent them from the nations.
Another strategy that can be used in strengthening women’s rights is through providing the media and journalists with freedom when expressing themselves. This is because the freedom allows them to report issues without being harassed by the government’s officials and those that support the governments in discriminating women.
International communities, on their part, should continue donating money and other resources to the local organizations that fight for women’s rights. The organizations should also work to provide education and training to societies in these regions in order to teach them of the ills and effects of discriminating against women. When the justice systems need support in their fight against women discrimination, local and international donors should be ready to help them through funding and through other means.
Governments should also monitor all cases of gender inequality and bring those involved into justice. National security plans should be implemented and women promotion in their participation in elections should be ensured.
Women’s rights in South Western Asia/ North Africa have been continually violated despite the regions’ increased development in some human related areas such as mortality. There have been various efforts of increasing the rights of women in this region but the efforts have been hindered by lack of independence in the judiciary and other helpful institutions. The governments and the clergy have also exerted strong resistance on any efforts to increase women rights in these regions. Because of this, the regions have lagged behind some other regions since women would play some roles in their developments. Therefore, the governments and other parties such international NGOs and local organizations should join hands in making sure that women’s rights are promoted. This can be done through increased education and increased policies that allow women participation among other efforts.