In recent years, the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region has experienced some of the largest gains in the share of women MPs. In 2020, Egypt attained a record high of 27.7 per cent women parliamentarians elected in the lower chamber as a result of its 25 per cent quota law1. Since 2019, the United Arab Emirates is home to the third most gender balanced parliament, currently at 50 per cent. Following parliamentary renewals in 2020, 19.9 per cent of parliamentarians in Saudi Arabia are women thanks to policies on reserved seats. The Speaker of parliament of Bahrain made history by being the first woman to lead her parliament and the second to lead in the Arab region.
Progress has included the adoption of gender-responsive legislation in areas such as protection from gender-based violence and the development of national plans to advance women’s empowerment in several countries throughout the region, in compliance with the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW).
Despite progress in several countries, taken as a whole, the proportion of women in parliament in the region is still the lowest among all regions. Women’s representation in parliaments in MENA reached 17.8 per cent by the beginning of 2021. Although the region has come a long way from its previous average of 4.3 per cent women MPs in 1995, gender-based challenges for women in politics are still extensive.
Parliaments have a key role to play in consolidating existing gains and achieving new ones in women’s empowerment. In this vein, the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), in collaboration with the International Gender Champions (IGC), the Arab Parliament, and the Permanent Mission of the Arab Republic of Egypt to the United Nations and other international organizations in Geneva, will bring together MPs and international leaders to take stock of progress made and lessons learned, and charter new paths for the promotion of Arab women’s empowerment.
The event will build on the review of Egypt in October 2021 by the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW Committee) during its 80th session. The CEDAW Committee monitors how far countries are complying with and implementing the Convention. The Committee is the only UN treaty body to have adopted a policy on cooperation with parliaments and with the IPU.2
The IPU similarly has existing partnerships with Parliaments from throughout the Arab region in the area of gender equality, with a previous regional conference co-organized in Egypt on SDGs and Gender Equality in 2018. The IPU also has an ongoing cooperation agreement with the Arab Parliament on women’s empowerment, which aims to strengthen gender equality efforts in the region.
The online conference on Women’s Empowerment in the Arab Region: Recent Developments and the Way Forward follows through on these existing partnerships through providing a global and regional perspective on women’s political empowerment and women’s empowerment more generally. It is an avenue for exchange of good practices and perspectives of how this collective goal can be achieved nationally and within the Arab region as a whole.
Agenda and Programme
Welcoming remarks by:
• Ms. Lesia Vasylenko, President of the IPU Bureau of Women Parliamentarians
• Mr. Adel Abdulrahman Al-Asoumi, Speaker of the Arab Parliament
• Dr. Ahmed Ihab Gamaleldin, Ambassador, Permanent Representative, Permanent Mission of the Arab Republic of Egypt to the United Nations and other international organizations in Geneva
• Mr. Martin Chungong, Secretary-General of the IPU and Global Chair of the International Gender Champions
Panel discussion: An overview of women’s empowerment in the Arab region
Experience sharing session: Women’s empowerment in the Arab region
Registration link - Please note that this event is for IGC Champions only: