World Congress for Middle Eastern Studies

Barcelona, July 19th - 24th 2010


Social and Political Participation of Women (343) - NOT_DEFINED activity_field_Panel

· NOT_DEFINED date: TUE 20, 2.30-4.30 pm

· NOT_DEFINED language: English

· NOT_DEFINED description:

Chair: Yolanada Aixelà (Milà i Fontanals Institution /CSIC-Spanish National Research Council)

Paper presenter: Mahshid Abdollahi (Lecturer-Al-Mahdi University- Iran), “Female and political parties; challenge for participation in power,”
Women with three decades dispute for social participation in Iran have found a space in education and health department. Their efforts to gain more rights have led them to demand for further opportunities in other realms of society. There have been two different lines in front of them: first obtaining opportunities in the legislative system that needed some legal peruse in diverse institutions. And also, the joining of the verity of nongovernmental organizations, which have largely embodied the opposition groups or underground troopers. Activities in the latter line, sometimes directed them to the jail or even execution. In the later part of 1970s, the Islamic Revolution as a new agenda opened new ways with different aspects in this regards. This article endeavors to examine the above mentioned points within the following lines: 1. The socio-political of situation of women before 1970s; 2. The parties and groups which have accepted women as members; 3. The Islamic Revolution and female share in it.

Paper presenter: Melodee M. Baines (PhD Student-Old Dominion University, Morocco), “Women, Illiteracy and Public Participation: Barriers to Transforming Governance in Arab states?”
The majority of the illiterate people in the world are women. The role of illiterates in society is complex and largely defined by agents other than the literates themselves. My presentation focuses in part on the (non)existence of illiterate women in the literature that considers women’s political capacity. Historically where developing states achieved extensive advances in literacy, an increase in political participation also occurred. In Morocco there is expansion of participation without advances in literacy, whereas Egypt’s literacy rates and political participation remain unchanged. If literacy is not necessary to empower women as assumed, how does the traditional focus of foreign aid and development regimes on literacy programs miss the mark in terms of the role that illiterate women play in political transition? The media, the state and society define the role of illiterates. My research proposes an alternative role for illiterates in Egyptian and Moroccan society than the role allotted to them in the scholarly literature. My research enhances the understanding of women’s political participation as a part of political change and challenges assumptions about literacy as the trigger of development. My ultimate findings will contribute to a model for understanding the role of literacy and democratic transition.

Paper presenter: Kristine Goulding (MSC Student-Lund University, Sweden), "Unjustifiable Means to Unjustifiable Ends: Delegitimizing Parliamentary Gender Quotas in Tunisia".
The history of feminism in post-colonial Tunisia has centred on the caprice of the state: from the passage of the Code of Personal Status in 1956 under Habib Bourguiba to the Democratic Constitutional Rally (RCD)’s parliamentary gender quotas set by Ben Ali in 2007, the benevolence of the government has defined the importance and limits of the rights of women. As such, feminist discourses have followed the priorities of the state with little freedom of pluralism. Much of the legitimacy of pluralistic feminism is lost when the state narrowly defines feminist discourse ‘feminism’ given’ rather than feminism ‘secured’. Although gender quotas can be an effective tool to encourage (or ordain) the participation of women in national and local politics, they also can enforce a ‘one size fits all’ approach to feminism, allowing space only for those women who subscribe to the RCD’s brand of politics and feminism. For this reason, this article provides a brief historical context the state-sponsored feminism of Tunisia, focusing specifically on how the implementation of gender quotas changed patterns of political participation in the period after 1995. It argues that many of the newly-active women in the RCD have embraced what Turkish sociologist Deniz Kandiyoti calls a ‘patriarchal bargain’, through which women collude in their own gender subordination to achieve some sort of (limited) power within a masculine power system. Using Kandiyoti’s ‘patriarchal bargain’ as a theoretical framework, as well as Krook’s arguments on the implications of gender quotas for promoting an independent feminist agenda, I contend that the women who are encouraged to become politically active are those who subscribe to the ‘state-sponsored’ brand of feminism promoted by the current regime - those who function within the pre-existing social order. More ‘radical’ women who want to affect change are not supported by the state structure and thus their voices are not heard in the political discourse. For this reason, I examine the central question of whether gender quotas are rendered meaningless if established under an authoritarian state structure that stifles plurality of opinion. That is, do such quotas bring to power more of the same – ‘yes women’ who defeat the goal of encouraging female voices in the government-. Finally, I address the implausibility of pluralistic feminism within Tunisia’s authoritarian state structures and question the capacity of current political structures to adopt proportional female representation.

Paper presenter: Imad Salamey (Assistant Professor of Political Science-Lebanese American University, Lebanon), “Gender Mainstreaming in the Politics of the Arab Gulf States”
This paper aims to assess the status of gender political mainstreaming programs in the Arab Gulf States and their prospects. The paper is based on a survey study conducted by the Lebanese American University with twenty nine young leaders from four Arab Gulf States namely: Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Oman. The data gathered on the status of women in the Gulf reveals primary cultural and religious challenges confronting gender political mainstreaming. These challenges are analyzed on both country and regional levels; areas of differences and similarities are noted. It also studies the challenges regarding the mainstreaming approaches and the impact of such challenges on job and decision making opportunities. The paper examines the feasibility of particular policy reforms and pilot projects as to jumpstart an overall strategy and policy vision of gender political mainstreaming in the Gulf. The strategic recommendations for mainstreaming approaches and policy reforms made in this paper take into consideration traditional and cultural restrains. This study serves as a baseline for a comparative country research and assessment as well as an evaluation to political gender mainstreaming in the Arab Gulf. It sheds light on potential openings for policy reforms and sustainable mainstreaming programs in the Gulf. It further assesses the extent of such policies and programs becoming sustainable under the social and cultural circumstances. The paper is divided into five parts. The first provides the background to the issue of political gender mainstreaming. It reviews the definition of gender mainstreaming adopted by the UN Office of the Social Advisor on Gender Issues (OSAGI) and examines the status of women in the Arab Gulf States. Accordingly, it highlights the main challenges facing the integration of gender mainstreaming into the politics of the Arab Gulf States. The second is a review of the literature on gender mainstreaming and discusses evaluation methodologies as the one adopted by the European Commission. It examines the suitability of this survey in the evaluation of mainstreaming needs and strategies in the Arab Gulf states and proposes means of adaptation according to the social, cultural, and political circumstances. The third part examines the choice for a survey methodology and sample selection strategy. It sheds light on the survey instrument designed and data collection strategy implemented. The fourth part analyzes the data and measures the significant relationship between the independent variables and political gender mainstreaming. The final and fifth part presents the conclusions and strategic policy recommendations.