The countries of Southeast Europe – in particular the countries of the Western Balkans – and the North African states of Egypt, Libya, and Tunisia share much in common. All are in the process of transition from authoritarian rule to a system founded on human rights and the rule of law. Against the backdrop of a significantly changing political landscape, these countries have institutionalized equal protection for men and women under the law or are in the process of drafting constitutions to do so. Elsewhere in the Maghreb, Moroccans and Algerians need support as they establish new channels of citizen-government dialogue. Read more
These countries also all face the reality that although men and women are equal on paper, in practice the story is different. Women are disadvantaged in the economic, political, and cultural spheres. Women played a central role in the Arab Awakening, but are in danger of being continually marginalized as Maghreb governments negotiate their countries’ paths forward. Civil society organizations are also figuring out how to navigate new opportunities to create a more consultative decision-making process.
Empowering women and young people in the public sphere and the political process is recognized as one of the surest ways to promote sustainable stability in transitioning countries. The SAIS Center for Transatlantic Relations and America-Bosnia Foundation Women in Leadership Conference, to be held in Sarajevo in November 2013, will bring together women’s empowerment and civil society organizations from these two regions to address pending legal issues, the peacebuilding process, transitional challenges, and the specific role of women in religious reconciliation and understanding.
The conference will serve as a forum to develop both country-specific and regional strategies to tackle these issues. Participants will analyze and share lessons learned over two decades of troubled transition in the Western Balkans with the goal of establishing partnerships that take advantage of not only the geographic proximity between these regions, but common cultural and historical characteristics as well.
The Women in Leadership Conference will also serve to inaugurate the Mediterranean Women and Civil Society Association Network as the new platform for promoting women’s empowerment in the Western Balkans and North Africa. The Network will develop programming and advocate for private sector support to women entrepreneurs by assisting and promoting projects presented by network partners from these countries. The Network prioritizes peer-to-peer capacity building as a means to bridge the urban-rural divide that separates women’s organizations within countries – an issue highlighted as a problem by international donors. The Network will also be open to civil society organizations in Morocco and Algeria and provide significant support to their efforts.
Sarajevo, at the intersection of different cultures, religions, and nations, and is well placed to host a conference that seeks to promote understanding and coexistence. Throughout history, Sarajevo and Bosnia and Herzegovina have been home to some of the most open thinkers in the world, and the country has long welcomed and a variety of opinions and beliefs. Establishing the Mediterranean Women and Civil Society Association Networkin Sarajevo is itself an inspirational statement: as one of the Mediterranean’s capitals of diversity, where multiethnic and interreligious coexistence is celebrated, it fosters a creative atmosphere of cooperation conducive to a more assertive voice for women and civil society organizations in the Western Balkans and North Africa.
Empowering Women in Politics and Entrepreneurship
Our Mastering Washington, DC seminar program at the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University in Washington will serve as a launching pad for women’s empowerment and civil society organizations in the Network. The program offers continuing education and training specific to advocacy in Washington, working with the U.S. Congress and federal agencies. Affiliation with the SAIS Center for Transatlantic Relations offers a world-class platform to boost exposure for these organizations to officials in Washington as well as the general public. The seminar will also help young leaders build and strengthen political party capacity.
Partnership with the Economic Forum in Krynice, Poland is another tool to promote women’s entrepreneurship, showcase projects to attract financial support, and help develop women in business across the Mediterranean. The Economic Forum, one of the largest such events in Europe, attracts political leaders and policymakers from around the world and affords our civil society organization partners the opportunity to connect and develop relationships with global leaders.
Network cooperation with the Sarajevo Business Forum will expand opportunities in the local, regional, and international business community for investment in women in leadership.
In addition, our own annual CTR Transatlantic Economic Forum in Washington will highlight women’s issues in business and finance. As part of the broader Mediterranean Basin Project, the Forum aims to support comprehensive economic development, share strategies for improved financial environments, and attract foreign direct investment. Full integration of women into the business world is key to stable and sustainable growth.
With CTR support, the newly established Network seeks to enhance and promote corporate governance; help partner organizations contribute to fighting corruption in their respective countries, with the aim to develop stable fiscal and economic environments; and advocate a major role for women in society.
Strategic partnership with the New Arab Debates provides the opportunity for expansive multimedia outreach. Through the use of broadcast television and new media, ideas, creative concepts, and innovative solutions to the most pressing problems facing the region will reach a larger audience than ever before.
This aspect of the project fills a significant existing gap, providing a first-time opportunity for women and the youth of the Western Balkans and North Africa to participate together in high-quality, public, free debates. It will also help to examine divisive issues in an effort to foster greater understanding, and to bring all parties involved in issues and conflicts together in a civilized and peaceful dialogue, while developing skills for democratic engagement.
Organizations that join the Network will also be able to take advantage of CTR’s technical assistance in building outreach capacity, through establishing a professional presence on the Internet and boosting social networking capabilities.