Canada Announces Support for Women in Middle East and North Africa

July 18, 2013 - The Honourable Lynne Yelich, Minister of State (Foreign Affairs and Consular), today announced Canada’s contribution to two projects that will encourage the participation of women in the political process in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region.

“Women’s participation in decision-making processes is essential to ensure that democracies are truly representative of their populations," said Minister of State Yelich. “Canada will continue to support the development of women’s leadership skills and increase their active participation in elections so that more qualified women will be elected. These activities will strengthen the voice of women in emerging democracies at all levels of government.”

“As the Middle East moves to a new era of political development, women have a great responsibility to shape the debate on how their societies will be run,” added Tami Longaberger, Chair of the Arab Women’s Leadership Institute. “The Arab Women’s Leadership Institute is proud to partner with the Canadian government to increase the number of female elected officials who will contribute to this debate in Lebanon, Libya and Tunisia.”

The projects in Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Tunisia and Yemen will support the development of women candidates’ electoral campaigning skills and help to expand recognition of women’s rights as these countries continue to undergo political transitions.

They will contribute to Canada’s efforts and interests in promoting democratic transition and increasing the political participation of women in the MENA region.

A backgrounder follows.

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Backgrounder - Support for Women in Middle East and North Africa

While women are present in national assemblies and congresses throughout the Middle East and North Africa, women’s rights and interests are often inadequately addressed. As governments in this region undertake the difficult process of enacting democratic reforms, the unequal status of women presents a significant challenge, given women’s important role in the success of conflict prevention and resolution.

Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird has stated, “When women play an active role in society, so many other problems are resolved, and the things we hope to achieve become possible.”

The two projects for which Canada today announced support aim to increase the political involvement of women.

One project, to be implemented by the Forum of Federations in Jordan, Libya, Tunisia and Yemen, is called Empowering Women for Participation in the Political Process of Building Devolved and Decentralized Democracies. The project’s activities include:

  • providing regional capacity-building training for women’s networks and coalitions dedicated to decentralization;
  • enabling regional dialogue on common platforms and challenges among women, such as activists, parliamentarians, aspiring candidates and businesswomen, already engaged in politics or leadership roles;
  • developing gender-specific and gender-sensitive training materials, including audiovisual and virtual tools, on local governance and women.

The second project, to be implemented by the International Republican Institute, covers Lebanon, Libya and Tunisia. It is called the Arab Women’s Leadership Institute Candidate Preparation School and will build the capacity of female candidates in those countries. Project activities include:

  • training six individuals—two from each country—in campaign management;
  • coaching the same individuals on strategic communications with the electorate;
  • providing “campaign school” training and mentoring to hundreds of other participants from the three countries.

Both projects contribute to Canada’s efforts toward and interest in promoting democratic transition and increasing the participation of women in the Middle East and North Africa region.

The combined cost of these two projects is $971,200. Canada’s support will be provided through the Global Peace and Security Fund, which was launched in April 2005 to further the Government of Canada’s goal of creating the conditions for safe and secure environments in crisis and post-conflict situations.