The ITUC Arab Women’s Network AWN met on 17 and 18 December 2012 in Cairo.
The meeting took place on the second anniversary of the beginning of what is generally known as the Arab Spring. AWN is a network of women trade unionists working under the motto Changing for Equality. The meeting was attended by women from Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Libya, Morocco, Palestine and Tunisia together with GUF’s.
The structure of the AWN is that it is under the umbrella of the ITUC, although it is independent and works with other unions and civil society. Its objectives are capacity building, women’s organization and enhancing women’s leadership. The women strive to work together to fight against discrimination against women.
The women decided to work on common issues. They are minimum wages, equality between women and men, raising human and financial resources to support the network, domestic workers and eliminating the countries’ reservations about CEDAW (the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women). At the meeting the women went into detail about what they had achieved in connection with these aims. For example the minimum wage went up in Jordan and Tunisia as well as in Egypt, but there no one complies. In connection with gender equality the issue is the difference between integration and equality. This is a bone of contention in Tunisia and Egypt.
Nevertheless the women were very concerned that after the initial euphoria about the Arab spring, women have realized that they are losing ground. The Arab Spring should have driven women forward, but instead they are falling back. In some cases women are being used or abused for political reasons. In this situation networking is more important than ever, and the women promised to reach out to other organizations in civil society and to boost their efforts to communicate and pressure governments.