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GLOBAL MOVEMENT FOR A CULTURE OF PEACE

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Has the Arab Spring Been Beneficial for Women?
an article by Meg Munn MP & Nicole Cleminshaw, Parliamentarians Network for Conflict Prevention

The Arab Spring began on 18th December 2010 when a young, jobless Tunisian graduate was selling vegetables from a cart. After his wares were consistently seized by the police, he set himself on fire in protest. This act sparked demonstrations and protests across Tunisia, which led to the toppling of the 23 year reign of Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. The wave of protest quickly spread across North Africa and the Middle East, with pro-democratic rebellions that toppled regimes and left many Arab citizens with increased civil rights.


Photo by Valpovic

click on photo to enlarge

Women were essential to helping maintain the movement. In Yemen, it was a young woman who first led demonstrations on her university campus against the long rule of Ali Abdullah Saleh. In Bahrain, women were some of the first to pour into Pearl Square in the capital city demanding change, often carrying their children with them. In Cairo, women were involved in arranging food deliveries, blankets and medical help which allowed a moment to turn into a movement.

Even in the more conservative regimes of the region women reacted against their leadership’s actions. Hundreds of Syrian women marched through the town of Beida to protest the detention of their men. When Yemini President Saleh announced that it was un-Islamic for men and women to march side by side in protest, thousands of women flooded the streets just to prove him wrong.

Women continue to support the demonstrations by working as nurses in makeshift hospitals, cooking food for protesters, and giving speeches and singing songs at demonstrations. Their support has been vital in sustaining the Arab Spring. However, the movement itself does not rest upon gender equality. Women of all countries involved agree on that. It is about regime change to bring freedoms to people of genders, all religions and race.

Above all, it is about the freedom to express oneself. In addition to the right to freedom psychologically, socially, and economically, the demonstrators call for the ability to speak their minds and simply be themselves.

Even though the movement is about the rights of everyone, women make up a substantial proportion of the Arab Spring countries. In Tunisia, for example, it was the grievances of the young, well educated and unemployed people that sparked the revolution. Two-thirds of that population is made up of Tunisian women.

Women in Arab nations like men face problems in terms of lack of opportunities and employment options. But it is worse because while more and more Muslim women are attending university, they have even fewer opportunities than their male colleagues to speak or to secure a job. It is only natural then for them to question the nature of the system in their country. This frustration can be seen by the level of support women have contributed to the movement.

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The following is reprinted from Common Ground News Service (CGNews), 30 August 2011, www.commongroundnews.org
Copyright permission is granted for publication.

Cultures of peace, lasting change in Egypt?
Joseph Mayton

Cairo - Instead of falling victim to Egypt’s eye-for-an-eye past, a concerted effort to create a culture of peace in what has quickly become a starkly fractured political scene – between religious groups, the military and activists, and activists and the people – may well be the best opportunity to bring about a new Egypt with social justice, transparency and tolerance.

Egyptians are striving daily to show the world that societies can change. Cairo is not the same city it was six months ago. As voices now begin to breech the political and social stalemate in the country, Egyptian society can, through a culture of peace, set a precedent not only for their own country but for the whole region.

UNESCO defines the culture of peace as “a set of values, attitudes, modes of behaviour and ways of life that reject violence and prevent conflicts by tackling their root causes to solve problems through dialogue”. In Egypt, for example, this could help develop an overall sense that the "other", who participated in violent acts in the past, can become part of society, instead of remaining on the outskirts as they are currently. Building such a culture in Egypt would follow the South African model of reconciliation, which allowed the country to look forward instead of focusing on the frustrating and sad past of apartheid.

Instilling a culture of peace in the younger generation could be a great antidote to the older generations’ mistrust and antagonism toward one another – Christian versus Muslim; Worker versus Owner; Military versus the People; and so on.

In Egypt, one of the root causes of a lack of a culture of peace is the educational system. Young Egyptian students are taught that they are different from one another, that their respective faiths are cause for separation. In schools, Christian students study the history and faith of Christianity separately, while Muslim studentsdo the same for Islam. This creates a sense that each group is separate and divided when it comes to any national cause. . ...more.


This report was posted on March 24, 2013.