Two members from Bahrain Women Association for Human Development (BWA) participated in the conference “Change in Muslim Societies and the Role of Women”, Dr. Wajeeha Albaharna BWA Deputy President as well as Mina Kazemi Head Information and International Relations. The conference was held on 22-24 December 2011 in Istanbul, Turkey and was jointly organized by Parliamentary Union of (OIC) Islamic Cooperation Organization and Ministry of Family and Social Policy of Turkey.
The role of women in Muslim society, women’s rights especially in the Middle East and North Africa region, strengthening of democracy through political participation of women, the importance of establishing effective national gender mechanism, enabling civil society and regional cooperation by establishing the “Gender Equality Institute”, and other topics were discussed at the conference.
The Conference provided a platform for parliamentarians, academicians and representatives of civil society from the OIC and non-OIC involved in various activities geared towards working for women.
Addressing the opening ceremony, the Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, spoke about the struggle of women in various Muslim countries, emphasizing the importance of respecting the rights of women and adopting a zero tolerance policy towards violence against women. The prime minister welled up with tears when quoting Prophet Muhammads famous words “paradise is at the feet of your mother”, as an example of the importance that İslam places on respecting women.
OIC Secretary General Ihsan Oglu referred to the OIC Ten Year Program of Action launched in 2005 that included important initiatives related to women rights like human rights organization and the women center which will open shortly in Cairo.
Commenting on the topic “Islam And Democracy”, Can Islam and democracy coexist? Dr. Albaharna clarified: to answer this we need know from which angle we are viewing both to Islam and democracy? Some look from a narrow angle and reduce Islam to merely ritual worship, neglecting the broader side related to human values and conduct that govern our relationship with others. Islam is “religion of the value”, as values like: equality, freedom, justice and dignity are the essence of all religions.
These are the same true values of democracy!. Democracy is not limited to pluralism, devolution of power, and the separation of powers, but includes many principles and values that if they don’t exist or not practiced in everyday life, the system is not considered as democratic. From this “Value” perspective, we find that there is no contradiction between democracy and Islam as both shares the values principle.
In the plenary session “Women Rights In The Changing Middle-East and North Africa”, Dr. Wajeeha Albaharna highlighted that despite the importance of womens political participation, repeatedly expressed as proportion of seats held by women in parliament, the political participation is much more comprehensive than that, as it’s practiced in different aspects of life. She added : to achieve real and tangible progress we ought to focus on the reform programs and in particular the reform of discriminatory laws, cultural, social and economic reforms, these areas need strengthening womens participation in, and such set of indicators reflect the progress of the women’s status in our Arab and Islamic countries.
A draft conference declaration was issued taking into account the valuable recommendations and proposals made by the participants, notably the rapid activation of the road map emerged from the Organization of Islamic Cooperation in 2005; the establishment of units dealing with women’s issues in most organizations in Muslim countries; the necessity for continued international cooperation among countries, to formulate comprehensive, and multidisciplinary policies and to intensify the role of women; and the full integration of women into the formal economy, in particular, into economic decision-making, means changing the current gender-based division of labor into new economic structures where women and men enjoy equal treatment, pay and power.