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Women in Politics: Fast Forward - An International Women's Conference in Jordan

May 9, 2016

Participants were filled with energy and enthusiasm; sounds of optimistic laughter echoed under the dome of Parliament of Jordan. Instead of men in black, grey or blue suits, the place was filled with finely dressed women. Some of them wore their traditional attires. During breaks, women exchange art pieces, scarves and beaded fabric purses with each other. Peace building was a priority during their discussions and panels.
In a country surrounded by tensions and conflicts, more than 400 women Members of Parliaments and governments from more than 80 countries found a safe space in Amman to meet, network and discuss their perspectives during Women in Parliament (WIP) Global Summit on May 4-6, 2016. Currently, there are 18 women MPs in Jordan and eight members of the Senate.
The summit, “Women in Politics: Fast Forward” was co-hosted by the Jordanian Parliament and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in collaboration with the Jordanian National Commission for Women (JNCW) and Council of Women World Leaders (CWWL). The summit focused on the importance of parity of power and addressed crucial matters such as peace, security, migration and integration.
“The mission of Women in Parliaments Global Forum (WIP) is to increase the number and influence of female parliamentarians across the globe,” said Silvana Koch-Mehrin, founder of WIP and former Vice President of the European Parliament. “Politics need women more than women need politics,” said Hanna Birna Kristjansdottir, Iceland Member of Parliament and WIP’s chair.
While numbers matter, the role women take when they are leaders is the most essential. “Increasing number of women in parliament is not the only objective. In fact, it’s half the battle,” said Mari Kiviniemi, deputy secretary general of OECD and former Prime Minister of Finland. “We are here because we know that governance is at the centre of women empowerment.”
According to UN Women, only 22 percent of all national parliamentarians were female as of August 2015. Globally, there are 37 States in which women account for less than 10 percent of parliamentarians in single or lower houses; there are 6 chambers with no women at all.


Government of Canada was one of the partners that made the summit possible. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs Pamela Goldsmith-Jones announced Canada’s contribution of $ 16.3 million to further support of women’s empowerment in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region through a project implemented by the Forum of Federations. “Women’s participation in political spheres and decision-making spaces is essential to ensuring that democracies are truly representative,” said Goldsmith-Jones. “More women in leadership positions means a more balanced view on policy. And it tells young girls and boys that power can, and should, be held equally.”
“We are being led equally by men and women in our cabinet,” said Goldsmith-Jones. She also mentioned that the Canadian government puts special emphasis on caring for vulnerable women as thousands of Syrian refugees arrive. “Canada has welcomed 25,000 Syrian refugees and will do more,” said Goldsmith-Jones.


This summit took place in the MENA region for the first time; Jordan was the destination. It gave women in governments an opportunity to know more about each other’s work. I spoke to some of them who shared with me their reflections on the WIP summit experience.
“Women who are active and leaders in their countries are gathering together. This is a great network,” said Hiam Kalimat Tuguz, Jordanian Senator. She told that although Jordanian women have closed the gender gap in education, this is not reflected in the workforce where women unemployment rate is drastically higher than that of men. Tuguz added that the summit gave an opportunity to learn from the experiences of women in other countries.
“I am very thrilled and happy to have this event in Jordan. This event is the first of its kind in the MENA region and we are proud to have it here in the Jordanian Parliament. It’s a strong message for peace, economy, development and reform,” said Rula Al-Hroob, Jordanian MP. “Jordan is telling the world: ‘I am opening my hands to you and I want to listen and learn from your experiences’. Jordan has managed to be the oasis of peace.” However, Al-Hroob mentioned that Jordan could learn from other countries to close the political gender gap. “Perhaps we could have more courage in implementing reforms when it comes to legislations and when it comes to government policies concerning women empowerment,” said Al-Hroob.
Women from several Arab countries including Egypt and Tunisia, where the Arab Spring changed the political systems, attended and participated in the summit. “Women have reached to high positions and are ambitious. This summit gives us hope in the coming future,” said Sanaa Anwer Barghash, Egyptian MP. “Having a global network of women Members of Parliaments to empower women politically and in all fields will create solidarity. It will not only help empower women in the political arena, but in all other fields,” said Magda Nasr, Egyptian MP. “It’s important to put all of this energy to make women help women put gender lens in every law, not to forget and not to leave any woman behind,” said Olaf SoukriChrif, Tunisian MP who insisted that each delegation has the obligation to take and work on at least one action to improve the status of women in their countries.
It was Lia Quartapelle’s, Italian MP, first time to attend “an only women’s conference,” especially a parliamentary one. To her, it was clear that the issue of women’s rights is not imported to anywhere in the world. “I will go home with the feeling that there is an ongoing discussion and the issue of women’s rights is not something that we, in the West, have to spread across the world, but we have to find ways to accompany debates in different parts of the world,” said Quar

For more information contact:
Sandra Ruch
National Coordinator
Canadian Voice of Women for Peace
Phone: 4166037915
Cell: 4167164010

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