The establishment of “UN Women” is a historic turning point towards the coherence of the United Nations system.
The General Assembly of the United Nations has created a new entity that will be in charge of strengthening institutional mechanisms to promote gender equality and women’s empowerment.
The General Assembly has decided that this composite entity will bring together the mandates of the Office of the Special Adviser on Gender Issues and Advancement of Women (OSAGI), the Division for the Advancement of Women (DAW), the UN Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) and the UN International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women (INSTRAW).
“UN Women” will become operational on January 1, 2011, and will be headed by an UN under-secretary-general, appointed by the Secretary-General in consultation with Member States, for a four-year term, renewable once. Meanwhile, UN Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro will guide the transitional process.
UN Women will be governed by an executive board consisting of 41 members: 10 African, 10 Asian, 4 Eastern European, 6 Latin American and Caribbean, 5 Western European and other States, and 6 from contributing countries.
This concern for the harmonization of women’s rights will benefit all people, like every advanced step the cause of women has taken in recent decades.
This new UN body might provide new avenues of reflection and areas of strategic intervention in the Maghreb.
It should be noted that significant progress has been made throughout the region. Tunisian women benefit from a unique Code of Personal Status in the Muslim world since 1956. The Moroccan Mudawana has changed the family order in the kingdom. And in Algeria, a law on personal status issued in 2005 improves women’s rights within couples, and another law allows Algerian mothers to transmit their nationality to their children, even if their husbands are foreigners.
However, inequalities persist, especially between the urban and rural areas, and between the public and private sectors. They also persist on the legal level regarding inheritance and transmission of nationality.
On the economic and social levels, poverty and misery are often associated with women.
Women are a minority in the workforce, and a majority among the unemployed. They are less well employed, paid less, often interrupting their careers to raise children – encouraged by parental leave that promotes the father’s career -, and they also inevitably end up with lower pensions.
Moreover, cultural and religious stereotypes based on gender still hinder the full development of Maghreb women.
Therefore, if it collaborates with the UN women entity, the Maghreb could render the respect of women’s rights one of the pillars of its policy, harmony and regional identity. The region might also create a unique Maghreb legal status and make its members adhere to the abolition of discrimination and violence against its female citizens!
Thanks to this initiative, the Maghreb will become a model for the Arab and Muslim world in terms of women’s autonomy, security, individual freedoms, and economic, political and social rights.
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