We Need to Work on Both Culture and the Law
... women’s empowerment is not just another task to be added to the "to do list"; in fact, it embodies the core values and ethics for which societies stand.
We need to work on both. Rule of law is the custodian of human rights, which is fundamental to protecting the rights particularly those of women. Progressive legislation, in particular, is important to facilitate women’s access to resources, knowledge and opportunities.
Having said that, we cannot expect that legislation on its own can change societies and empower women. Throughout my life, I have come across well-written laws; yet under these same laws, women still faced discrimination and limited access to justice. Laws are not always well understood, accepted, or respected in a fragile and at times, biased judicial system.
In reality, changing or implementing these laws can only be effective if such changes do not conflict with norms and mindsets toward women, which will render their enforcement futile. Thus, efforts are needed to reinforce the core values of society that cherish women and support their empowerment. This is a very delicate and complicated process that requires not only time, but social dialogue and transformation. This process must be managed carefully and should be homegrown.
By the same token, women’s empowerment is not just another task to be added to the "to do list"; in fact, it embodies the core values and ethics for which societies stand. For a shift to occur towards advancing women in society the value system has to be supportive and the mindsets of both men and women have to change.
Empowering women is not only a human rights issue and a core tenet of social justice; it also just makes economic sense. I truly believe that a society that empowers women and creates pathways for women to attain power becomes prosperous. This definitely requires changing mindsets in addition to legislation.
About the Author
Middle East Women's Initiative
The Middle East Women's Initiative (MEWI) promotes the empowerment of women in the region through an open and inclusive dialogue with women leaders from the Middle East and continuous research. Read more
Middle East Program
The Wilson Center’s Middle East Program serves as a crucial resource for the policymaking community and beyond, providing analyses and research that helps inform U.S. foreign policymaking, stimulates public debate, and expands knowledge about issues in the wider Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. Read more