On March 28, 2011, Senator Snowe and her female colleagues in the United States Senate passed a bipartisan resolution, which honored and supported women involved in the ongoing revolutions in the Middle East, calling their courage “contagious”. The resolution emphasizes the importance of women’s rights and participation as these countries address constitutional reform and government restructuring. These Senators commit the United States government to uphold the universals rights of freedom of assembly, freedom of speech, and freedom of association in the fledging democracies.
The resolution further cites evidence that, despite the role of women in promoting and advancing the revolutionary movements in the Middle East, they are being increasingly sidelined in the formation of the new governments. The complete absence of women in Egypt’s Constitutional Committee contradicts the call for the involvement and liberties of all citizens that was proclaimed in the protests. For Egypt’s constitution to be legitimate, it must be inclusive and represent the diverse views of its population. Without women’s inclusion, the new government may continue to be unrepresentative of and oppressive toward its people.
This example speaks to a pattern of exclusion emerging in the region. While women are consistently involved in the development and realization of the revolutions in the Middle East, they are being systematically and unapologetically excluded from the post-conflict development processes.
In commenting on the need to incorporate women into the decisions that will affect their lives, Senator Snowe declared, “The spirit and devotion exemplified by women in North Africa and the Middle East – and the ongoing challenges they continue to face – is both an inspiration to us all and a reminder that discrimination and gender-based violence endures around the world. I honor their commitment to ensuring future generations enjoy the guaranteed equality and basic human rights for which they endeavor to this day and remain steadfast in my commitment to these universal liberties.”
Furthermore, the remarks of the senators who contributed to this resolution support Secretary Clinton’s statement, “The rights of women and girls are the unfinished business of the 21st century.” These 17 senators recognize that not only must women’s voices be included in the dialogue, but female participation in the government structure is necessary to ensure the long-term stability of the region. The resolution also affirms the United States’ commitment to build the capacity for good governance, to promote uniform participation of all members of the society, and to ensure the basic rights of all in these countries.
Women In International Security (WIIS) continues to encourage women’s participation in the region in peace and security issues and is expanding its global network to include more women from diverse backgrounds who seek to engage in decision-making in the Middle East.
To read the full resolution, please visit: http://snowe.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/files/serve?File_id=cc2bd7ae-37a4-40cf-9f50-efc819134bda