EU mustn’t overlook north Africa’s women
(Brussels, 8 March 2011) A century ago today, a million-plus people marched in Europe’s streets on the first International Women’s Day, calling for an end to discrimination and for women to have the same rights as men to work, vote and shape their countries’ future. One hundred years on, as millions of protesters throughout the Middle East and north Africa demand change, Amnesty International has stressed the vast challenge women still face, and its belief that the European Union has a duty to help them.
“Women have suffered under these repressive governments alongside men. They’ve also had to cope with discriminatory laws and deeply entrenched gender inequality”, said Nicolas Beger, Director of Amnesty International’s European Institutions Office. “So it’s no wonder women have taken to the streets.”
Amnesty International has accused many governments, including those of European Union countries, of supporting women’s rights only when it is convenient. ”This is certainly the case in Egypt”, said Beger. He pointed to the danger of women being sidelined again. “Incredibly, they’re being denied a role in creating a new Egypt. Most recently, the new national committee formed to write the new Egyptian constitution was composed only of men. This is unacceptable. If the EU truly cared about women’s rights in Egypt, it would be championing women’s participation in every aspect of building new systems and institutions.”
For the promise of change in north Africa and elsewhere in the world, to be fulfilled, Amnesty International has stressed the need for women of diverse backgrounds and political persuasions to be full players. Despite the changes over the last 100 years, many of the same problems remain. Discrimination still cuts deeply across societies, leaving a trail of inequality in its wake. The call for equality, fairness and respect was at the heart of the first International Women’s Day. A century on, it still is.
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