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Policy Forum on Development at the EDDs 2018

In collaboration with the Association Internationale des Maires Francophones (AIMF) and the network of women leaders of the Maghreb (Réseau des Femmes Leaders du Maghreb), the Policy Forum on Development organised a lab session on “Leaders of change: Promoting female leadership in the Maghreb” during this year’s European Development Days (EDDs) the 5th and 6th June 2018.

The panel included four very powerful and vigorous women, all leaders in their field or countries and with specific experience in the region. The debate was moderated by Farida Kebri, Democratic governance programmes analyst at UNDP. In each of their individual experiences, the women stressed the importance of women supporting and learning from other women.

The session was opened by Mary Freehill, former Mayor of Dublin, Member of the Committee of the Regions and rapporteur of the recent Euro-Mediterranean Regional and Local Assembly (ARLEM) report on women empowerment in the Mediterranean. Ms. Freehill underlined the key role that regional and local authorities (LAs) play in the empowerment of women and also referred to the success of the current abortion referendum in Ireland. She stressed that formal and informal education and the setting up of vocational schools are very relevant in supporting women's empowerment. Ms. Freehill recommended that LAs embed specific gender policies in their local development strategies, and organise public information campaigns (using local languages), for example on domestic violence or other forms of gender-based violence.

Bochra Belhadj Hamida, Parliamentarian of the National Assembly of Tunisia and President of the Commission for individual liberties and the parity of men and women, mentioned the important progress that Tunisia has made with respect to gender policies in recent years. There is now stronger synergy between the Parliament and civil society, and a code on individual freedoms has just been adopted. Gender equality is now being debated openly in the country, including how to reform the law of succession based on Islamic law, which grants men the double of what women inherit. 

The representative of the Réseau des Femmes Leaders du Maghreb (RFLM) Cyrine Ben Mlouka stressed the vital role played by women in their local communities. The RFLM intends to strengthen public-private partnerships and to establish stronger links between local authorities and civil society organisations. Ms. Ben Mlouka gave several examples of innovative initiatives on women’s rights and gender equality, including a catwalk organised in the middle of Tunis recently.

And finally, Fatima Amehri, President of Argan Ida Oumtate, explained how the 1st Argan oil women cooperative has managed to succeed in a sector which has so far been exclusively dominated by men. Women face enormous difficulties in starting their own cooperatives, mainly due to a lack of education and knowledge concerning the production and value chain.

After the lab, the group of women leaders met with the Mayor of Brussels to discuss possible cooperation activities and future projects. They also used the opportunity to participate in other EDD labs or to network with the thousands of stakeholders that attended this year’s EDDs.  

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Dorothee Fischer
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8 June 2018

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