In Madrid, the 42 Member States of the Union for the Mediterranean (UfM) pledged to strengthen the role of women in society in response to regional crises. That said, the problems experienced by women on the African side of the Mediterranean seem far removed from the problems experienced by those on the European side.
Questioned on this point, Nasser Kamel, Secretary General of the UfM, affirmed that indeed the two shores of the Mediterranean have different problems, different levels of development, sometimes different legal, societal and cultural frameworks. But when it comes to the issue of strengthening the role of women, both sides have progress to make, he said.
” The two shores of the Mediterranean face quite a few common challenges. This has been demonstrated clearly and clearly over the past two years with the crises we have experienced, such as the Covid health crisis or the geopolitical crisis, whether on our side of the Mediterranean (Africa) and today. in Europe itself“, he explained.
In this sense, Nasser Kamel returns to the first intergovernmental follow-up mechanism of the UfM on gender equality, approved by the ministers concerned within the UfM in 2019, through which all the countries of the Euro-Mediterranean area ” have agreed to +report+ on the progress or lack of progress in relation to very specific indicators, in relation to the role of women in the economic world, the integration of women in the political world and in decision-making, in relation to violence against women, the stereotypes that exist in our societies vis-à-vis women and other indicators“.
The first exercise carried out through this monitoring mechanism took place during the pandemic. Released in March 2022, this mechanism demonstrated that many countries have strengthened legal frameworks and developed new programs and policies, with the aim of increasing the participation of women in the political, economic and social spheres and protecting them. against all forms of discrimination and gender-based violence.
” It took us a year to refine the instrument and relaunch the exercise, which will be an ongoing exercise. In 2021/22, we launched an appeal, the countries responded. And on all the indicators, we realized that there is a regression because of the crises that the whole region has suffered. Not a country has been spared. Maybe the degree is different from one place to another, but we are all affected. Female unemployment has increased, violence against women has increased, the integration of women into the world of work has not changed much during these two years, whereas it had progressed during the last 15 years preceding the Covid crisis. We are therefore facing a difficult economic and geopolitical moment, and in such a moment a lot of segments of society are suffering.nt”, notes the SG of the UfM.
Improving the legal framework
The ministerial conclusions based on the data collected through the monitoring mechanism have enabled the UfM to observe ” the importance of improving the legal framework, and that the integration of women into the economic life of our countries was no longer a luxury in the idea that everything must be done to enable women to access the labor market work“, says Nasser Kamel.
In this sense, he emphasized the need for women to use the enormous means of digitalization available to us in order to be able to enter the world of work more easily.
We must open this way to a growing number of women who choose scientific fields, and we find them in several countries, in particular in the southern Mediterranean such as in Morocco for example, or in Egypt, where there are more women. in engineering school than men. But I’m not sure that those who finish engineering school in our two countries end up working as engineers. We see them working in real estate, public relations, marketing. And there we must be able to give these girls who have made the effort and who have acquired knowledge in specialized sectors and sectors, and in which they, their families and society have invested, the opportunity to practice their profession.“, insists the SG of the UfM.
That said, there are societal, cultural and perhaps legislative reasons which should prevent them from exercising their profession, raises Nasser Kamel, which is why the ministerial declaration, adopted in Madrid at the end of October during the High Level Regional Conference titled ” Women for the Mediterranean“, talks about changing the legal framework.
However, and despite the many advances made to strengthen the role of women in our societies, we still have the feeling that it is never enough. On this issue, Nasser Kamel confirms that there is indeed a lot of progress to be made.
” When we see that 60% of students in advanced technologies and sectors are women, but that we rarely find them in the field, there is something wrong. When we see that only 20% of women are integrated into the labor market, then yes, you, her, and the others do not have the same luck”, he laments.
To conclude: “Some were able to stop working for two or three years because they got married and had children. But to be able to return to their work, it was not easy. Because the law did not protect them, because the box where they work did not understand that they would be much better adapted to produce more if they rejoin the box than a new candidate who applies for the same position, because that the societal and legal framework is not there“.