Middle East and North Africa: Discrimination against Women

House of Lords written question – answered on 31st July 2012.

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Photo of Lord Hylton Lord Hylton Crossbench

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they will consider assembling before 2014 a conference to consider implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women in the countries of the Middle East and North Africa; and whether, through the Arab Partnership and all other means, they will support participation by women in their local economies in those regions. [HL1815]

Photo of Lord Howell of Guildford Lord Howell of Guildford Minister of State (Foreign and Commonwealth Office) (International Energy Policy)

The UK works with all the UN agencies, in particular UN Women, to advance women's rights. The UK embodies the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) non-discrimination principle in domestic legislation and the implementation of the convention is also supported by a range of non-legislative measures. The UK reports regularly to the CEDAW committee. Its latest periodic report was submitted in June 2011 and we expect the oral examination to take place during summer 2013.

We believe that it would be better for any Middle East and North Africa-wide conference on CEDAW to be led and assembled by players in the region. We would consider favourably providing expert input and support to such a conference if requested, as we did when we part-funded with the European Union, a National Women's Conference in Libya in November 2011, and assistance in meeting their commitments under CEDAW.

In 2011 the UK established the Arab Partnership initiative, backed by Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO)/Department for International Development (DfID) Arab Partnership Funds of £110 million over four years-a £40 million FCO-led Arab Partnership Participation Fund (APPF) and a £70 million DfID-led Arab Partnership Economic Facility (APEF) to support political and economic participation in the MENA region. Encouraging greater participation for women in all political and economic life is an important aspect of the fund's work. Under all our funding instruments we ensure that gender issues are taken into account in our projects and that all programmes have a focus on the marginalised, particularly women and girls. We have also supported projects with a specific gender focus, e.g. a voter outreach programme in Tunisia targeting women voters in rural areas.

The Government support women's participation in their local economies across the region. Our regional women's political participation work is directly linked to women's economic empowerment, and contributes to tackling legal and regulatory frameworks which inhibit their ability to participate fully in economic life. In addition, we are working with international finance institutions in the region to ensure, for example, that their small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and access to finance programming include women fully. At a local level, in Egypt, we are also supporting rural women's engagement in microfinance and entrepreneurship in their communities.

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