Thinking of Algerian women on the International Women’s Day? No thanks, I’ll do it every day!

It is somehow sad that women still have to be celebrated on this occasion to claim their rights to be equal. Thousands of people all over the world are tweeting and blogging today, and so do we. 

However it is extremely important to highlight that women should be remembered every day and reminded of their fundamental role in society. It is crucial that in the MENA region women start gaining equal opportunities to get involved into politics and social life.
In Algeria, women seem to be forgotten the whole year, yet today different political parties have started wooing them in order to gain votes for the coming legislative elections in May. It is sad to see how Algerian women are increasingly reluctant in taking active part in political life, due to masculine stereotypes and patriarchal mind-sets still inculcated across the country, specifically in the south, where taboos are harder to be broken because of tribal rules.
The new elective law is demanding a minimum quota of 30% for women, however representatives of certain parties are ready to pay to stop women’s candidacy!
This is something that needs to be fought! It is really worrying to see that apparently “moderate” and “modernised” countries, such as Algeria, still struggle to give wider voice and rights to their women, who –we need to remember – fought next to their husbands for the independence of their country in 1962.

Shame in the Middle East

Shocking images reveal the brutality of Egypt’s armed forces in suppressing protests in Tahrir Square, centre of the violence, where demonstrators demanded an end to military rule.  
Female protesters are beaten with metal poles as vicious soldiers drag girls through streets.
Different images showed security forces chasing a woman and beating her to the ground with metal bars before stripping her and kicking her repeatedly. Other images showed women beaten unconscious. 
This is just one of the hundreds of shameful injustices seen in Cairo’s Tahrir Square where Egypt’s military took a dramatically heavy hand to crush protests against its rule.
One could only describe such images as shameless and violent!


End Ban on Women’s Rights to Sport in Saudi Arabia

‘No women allowed,’ is the kingdom’s message to Saudi women and girls who want to play sports.

The Saudi government denies physical education in state schools for girls. Official sporting bodies do not support Saudi sportswomen in competitions.

There is no government sports infrastructure for women, with all the sport clubs, courses, and expert trainers limited exsclusively to men.

The policy reflects the conservative view that opening sports to women will lead to corruption: “steps of the devil,” as one religious scholar explained.

Furthermore, opponents of sports for women argued that once women start to exercise, they will shed modest clothing, spend “unnecessary” time out of the house, and have more chance to socialise with men.

Discrimination against women and girls in sport is only a small fraction of the on-going violations of women’s rights in Saudi Arabia. Under the system of male guardianship, Saudi women need their male guardian’s written consent to work, to study, to marry, and to travel. Male guardians can be fathers, husbands, brothers, or even sons.

Sports can be a great cause for good, but forcing Saudi women to watch all-male teams represent them every four years can only demoralize those aspiring to sporting glory.


Kuwait questions the future role of women in the country’s political landscape.

The most recent elected parliament saw no women elected to parliament.

A number of female leaders in the country criticized the male-dominated patriarchal society.

If we compare the performance of male MPs and female MPs, the women were much more productive. They were attending committees in Parliament, and they proposed law drafts.

Women contributed in political life even before getting their political rights. Masouma Al-Mubarak, for instance, was a minister in 2003, and Nouria Al-Subeih was a minister as well. This shows that there is unawareness of the issue of women in the community.

The main reason for the failure of women in this Parliament is because Kuwaiti society is still a male dominated society. The community still preserves old social traditions which empower men.
However, women should not lose confidence. Participants should hope to create an atmosphere that is open for women to contribute equally in the country’s political future.

Lebanese women still face discrimination

Women in Lebanon have achieved developments toward gender equality in education but continue to face significant discrimination in many other sides of society.

A study shows Lebanese women enjoy the fourth greatest degree of freedom in the Middle East and North Africa region, after women in Tunisia, Morocco and Algeria.

Women continue to face severe discriminations in matters of personal status, such as divorce, inheritance or custody, and while more now run businesses, few participate in national or local politics.

There are more women entrepreneurs, and more women in universities, than ever before; however, substantial barriers remain for women pursuing careers.

Lebanese Activists Say, ‘No Spring without Women’

Women’s rights activists marched and proclaimed there is “No spring without women.”
Nadine Abou Zaki, the executive chair of the NAWF, said that the key message the protesters wished to spread was that any successful revolution depends on the contribution of women.
Revolution cannot be fulfilled without the participation of all members of society. It will remain incomplete if all members of society do not participate.
A woman has to stand by men in everything that she does, and in politics she is side-lined. Women need to take back their rights, and not be treated as second-class citizens.
A Palestinian whose mother is Lebanese, said the main issue she takes offence with is the lack of equal citizenship rights for women in Lebanon, which means her mother cannot pass her nationality on to her.
Over the last 20 years, women have won some rights, but there is still a long way to go.
Perhaps the most urgent thing that needs to change is the attitude of society toward women. This must gradually change so that women have a chance to be themselves.
The demands presented to the Prime Minister Najib Mikati, included the criminalization of domestic violence, the right for women to pass on their nationality, the right to move freely and equal property rights.

SCEME team are looking forward to International Women’s Day 2012

The SCEME team are so excited about this year’s upcoming International Women’s Day, which will take place on 8th March 2012.

“International Women’s Day is a global day celebrating the economic, political and social achievements of women past, present and future. In some places like China, Russia, Vietnam and Bulgaria, International Women’s Day is a national holiday.”

We want to know about your plans for the day, so let us know how you are going to celebrate the achievements of women from all over the world! And don’t forget to follow our updates on Twitter: @SCEME_MENA


Yemeni children suffer the burden of political turmoil

Violent conflict has plagued Yemen for months now and as a result, women and children are being pushed into the most vulnerable of positions.  As stability in the country wavers, many are being forced to take refuge outside of large cities and subsequently, children are going without basic education and nutrition.

“Malnutrition rates are rising. Children are, more than ever, vulnerable to life-threatening illnesses and diseases. They are being deployed as soldiers by all warring sides, and scores have been killed in the crossfire. Many schools have been shut down,” reported Sudarsan Raghavan of the Washington Post.

Whilst many countries throughout the Arab world have gone through a wave of political turmoil, it is Yemen’s lack of resources and growing poverty that has made this conflict so destructive and devastating.

“Fresh conflicts, including a raging battle between the government and Islamist militants, have disrupted basic services; water, fuel and electricity shortages affect nearly every aspect of life, from hospital operations to trash collection. Food prices are rising, and health services have collapsed,” urged Raghavan.

Sadly, Raghavan explained that it is young girls who are suffering the most during this conflict: “Girls, especially from rural areas, face conditions that are even more dire.  With rising poverty and increased displacement from the violence, many now have to take on more responsibilities, in a nation that already has the lowest school enrollment rate for girls in the Middle East. Aid workers worry about an increase in families marrying off young daughters to ease financial pressures.”

Aid agencies cannot work with ease on the ground in Yemen and the civilian casualties that have ensued have had little media attention. It is vital that Yemeni people are not forgotten and that international attention be brought to the Yemeni children who are bearing the brunt of this difficult and violent conflict.


U.A.E takes Steps to Tackle Discriminatory Citizenship Laws

Citizenship laws have long proved a difficult factor for women across the Arab world. Countries such as Lebanon and Jordan continue to implement laws that restrict women from passing on their citizenship to their children; this greatly affects Arab women who are married to foreigners.

However, on November 30th of this year, AFP reported that “The United Arab Emirates announced that children of Emirati women married to foreigners could apply for citizenship once they turned 18, moving closer to giving women the same nationality rights as men.”                            

President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al-Nahayan said the “children of women citizens married to foreigners should be treated as citizens,” in a report to WAM state news agency.
Whilst the law does not totally remove complex citizenship laws, it is a definite movement towards change and SCEME welcomes the decision.
Countries such as Morocco, Algeria and Egypt all allow women to pass on citizenship to their children and we hope that the rest of the region follows suit in due course.



International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women

Today is the 30th International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women

When we set out to establish SCEME, we did so because we care deeply about the rights of women and girls in the Middle East and North Africa. Over the past year, we have been continuously shocked and saddened to read stories and gradually mounting statistics about the sexual exploitation of women, about domestic violence and honour crimes. Our investigations led us to produce Karamatuna: An Investigation into the Sex Trafficking of Iraqi Women and Girls, which has uncovered a mass of abuse of vulnerable Iraqis across the region.

But we are hopeful for the future. 

In 2011, more women are employed, literate and enrol in areas of study previously deemed inappropriate for their gender; they have gained more freedom to travel independently, with laws requiring a guardian’s permission for a woman to obtain a passport have rescinded in Bahrain, Kuwait, and Qatar.

Women have also become more visible participants in public life. And women’s organisations across the region have become more vocal, stronger, and making monumental strides.  Women’s Organisations and NGOs committed to the eradication of violence against women have seen successes in Jordan. After years of hard-fought lobbying, the Government of Jordan followed the landmark lead of Tunisia and finally enacted the Family Protection Law in 2008, and in 2009, established a specialised court in 2009 that handles cases involving honour crimes.

Yet, despite all these improvements and evidence that change is possible and in reach, violence against women persists and gender based violence remains one of the greatest obstacles women face in their daily lives. 
  • Domestic violence is both widespread and swept under the carpet. Across  the region, only Tunisia and Jordan offer legal protections for women and girls against domestic violence.Marital rape is not outlawed in any state across the Middle East and North Africa.
  • Honour killings are consistently being uncovered in Jordan, Syria, Palestine, Egypt, Iraq, Iran and Yemen. Yet, Judicial discretion allows murders to escape penalty. 
  • Where women and girls are victims of violence, they cannot seek redress without fear of damaging family reputation. If they do, they encounter reluctance from officials to help, or worse, are returned to the authority of their abusers.

And, over the last few years, the condition for women in Yemen, Iraq and Palestine has even worsened. In Iraq honour killings, kidnappings and rape have vastly increased.

This can’t continue. On the International Day to End Violence against Women, please help us to do something to stop these human rights abuses and protect the vulnerable.

Join the Karamatuna Campaign
Lobby your representative in Government
Donate to help end the sex-trafficking of women
Contact us to learn more at info@sce-me.org