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New Guide to Illustrate Women’s Needs in the MENA Region

By Caroline Dobuzinskis

A new toolkit by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research  and the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) with funding from the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), serves as a guide for the creation, dissemination, and promotion of reports on the status of women in the Middle East and North Africa. Using Research on the Status of Women to Improve Public Policy:A Capacity-Building Toolkit for Nongovernmental Organizations lays out a blueprint for using accurate research on the status of women as a means to shape public policy and give women in the MENA region a voice.

The toolkit, Using Research on the Status of Women to Improve Public Policies, outlines how to:

1. Create a diverse working advisory committee;
2. Identify relevant data sources and key research indicators;
3. Plan and create a press release strategy;
4. Communicate with aligned or peer organizations to push advocacy forward; and
5. Train women for leadership roles through mentorship and other programs.

A report on the status of women is a powerful tool for informing policy decisions. The reports are useful in indicating where women need to be better served through educational and health care systems, and how they can be better integrated into the labor market. International advocates and NGOs, and other individuals and groups in the private and public sectors, have long argued that women’s empowerment and full participation in the economy can help them, their families, and their communities, and can strengthen the productivity and economy of an entire nation.

In September 2011, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke of the economic cost of lack of inclusion or restrictions to women’s full participation in the economy: “By increasing women’s participation in the economy and enhancing their efficiency and productivity, we can have a dramatic impact on the competitiveness and growth of our economies,” she said in her remarks to the APEC Conference that year. In October of this year, at a meeting titled “Power—Woman as Engine of Growth & Social Inclusion”,  Clinton cited the economic costs of lack of women’s participation or supports for women in the Asia Pacific, Eurozone, and other regions.

As part of a joint project on the Status of Women in the Middle East and North Africa, in 2010, IWPR and IFES released topic briefs on the status of women in Yemen, Morocco, and Lebanon. Among the findings in Yemen, for example, is that women who work for pay have greater freedom of movement, and have greater financial savings and access to credit. The surveys in Yemen also found that women with higher levels of education tend to have more access to health care resources.

IWPR’s new capacity-building toolkit provides information for non-governmental organizations to organize and use similar research to to support women in leadership roles, and how to design an advocacy campaign and a call-to-action for improved policy to support women.

The toolkit is available online at the IWPR website and IWPR experts are available to comment on its recommendations. 

Caroline Dobuzinskis is the Communications Manager with the Institute for Women’s Policy Research.

One Community of Women and Men: 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence

By Amanda Lo

The Woodrow Wilson Center and United States Agency for International Development (USAID) brought together a panel of four male leaders to discuss the possible roles men can play in combating gender-based violence. The event, Male Leaders Speak: Critical Strategies for Combatting Gender-Based Violence, launched USAID’s 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence, that began on November 25, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, and ends on December 10, the International Human Rights Day.

Most of the conversation was focused on the situation of girls and women in Africa. Donald Steinberg from USAID shared his experiences serving as former U.S. Ambassador to Angola, and Major General Patrick Cammaert (retired) spoke about his time when he was former United Nations Force Commander for the Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.

One of the topics of discussion was on changing attitudes surrounding violence against women. IWPR’s research on the status of women in the Middle East has shown that sometimes attitudes of men and women do not match when it comes to violence. For example, in Yemen, 6 percent of women report that domestic violence is widely or somewhat tolerated within their families or tribe, while 13 percent of men state that violence is widely or somewhat tolerated. According to an IWPR survey in Lebanon, women with higher levels of education were less likely to accept domestic violence than those with lower levels of education. Among men, approximately one in ten found it acceptable for a husband to beat his wife—regardless of levels of education.

Jimmie Briggs, co-founder of the Man Up Campaign, argued that early education to challenge the typical “manhood” stereotype—that boys can feel they need to live up to—is one way to prevent the continuation of sexual violence from one generation to the next.

During the panel, Steinberg pointed out that women made up the majority of the audience. This has been typical for events I have attended on women’s issues. In fact, the most surprising aspect of this event may have been that the panelists speaking about violence against women were all men. Clearly, ending sexual violence will not be possible without the joint effort of men and women.

In order to also solve discrimination against women in the United States, the approach must take into account that women cannot achieve equity without male allies. The entire population, not just a half of the population, needs to want gender equality in economic, political, and social realms.

Find out more about upcoming events taking place during the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence on the website.

Amanda Lo is the Communications Intern at the Institute for Women’s Policy Research.

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