"The reality and the prospects of gender equality after "the Arab spring" May 30-31, 2013

full name / name of organization: 
The program on gender, society and human development and the research group “Identity and Difference,” at the faculty of Letters, Mohammed I University, Oujda, Morocco
contact email: 

As we all witnessed over the last 2 years, the Arab world has been shaken as it has never been in its entire history. Autocratic regimes crumbled like sand castles; others started reforms that would have been unthinkable a few years ago; social dynamics have been reconfigured and long crushed and silenced identities came to the surface. The whole world discovered for the first time that the monolithic image they had of this vast region and its cultures was a media-entertained ideological construction. Yet it came as no surprise to anyone in the region that from Casablanca to Sanaa women played a key role in the success of the uprisings that wiped out long ruling oligarchies in the region, ushering in an era of political reforms. In fact, during the revolutions gender was never an issue; women from all walks of life marched in the streets of Tunis, camped safely in Tahrir square took to the streets in Yemen, Libya, Bahrain and Morocco. However, after the revolution many felt betrayed as they were excluded from decision making circles. Women hardly made 20% in the electoral lists in Tunisia, a country that passed a law for parity prior to elections; in Egypt women's representation in the parliament dropped from 12% to 2% while in Morocco, despite the increase in the number of women MPs from 34 to 67 seats, the political parties that formed the new government marginalized women by decreasing the number of women ministers from 7 in the previous cabinets to only 1 minister out of 33 men. In Tunisia and Egypt, Salafist movements are exerting pressure on the constitutive assembly to write off women's rights from the constitution drafts, and every day brings news of demonstrations against gender equality across the region. All of these unsettling developments are cause for great concern among civil society organizations, women's rights activists and pro-gender equality media.

What went wrong? should we jump to conclusions and declare the "Arab Spring" has failed in bringing gender equality to Arab societies? And, if the much celebrated "Arab Spring" was about freedom, democracy and equal access to resources, why were women excluded from these rights right after elections? Why didn't women's efforts and momentum during the revolution pay off in the same way they did for men? Did we think "revolution" before we thought "democracy"? What meanings do "democracy", "freedom" and "dignity" carry in our region? Are Arab societies ready for gender equality? Even more disheartening, is/was it ever on the agenda? Or was it just a male spring? Do women have to start their own uprising in order to impose their right on their fathers, husbands and bothers? Women constitute more than half the population in the region, why have they failed to seize the opportunity to claim more leadership? Why did the revolution lack the impetus for women's rights and freedom? And most importantly, what is the future going to look like for half the population. Is culture to blame for women's poor political participation? What can civil society do to promote women's involvement and participation? How can we raise youth's awareness to the necessity of gender equality? These and other questions and topics are the main focus of the conference.
We are interested in papers (in English or French) that consider women's and gender issues in the Arab world from an interdisciplinary perspective and that deal with (without being limited to) the following :
The role of women in the uprisings
Challenges to women's political participation
Obstacles to women's leadership
Economic/political empowerment
The prospects of gender equality in the Arab world
Women's rights in the political discourse of the new rulers
Comparative studies of the new or projected constitutions
Educated women and men of the Arab diaspora in the West and the mentality change in the home countries.
The role for the local civil society
The positive/negative role of Arab media in promoting/demoting gender equality

Please send via email (no attachments) an abstract of approximately 250 words and a short narrative CV to the organizing committee (s.boutkhil@ump.ma and chourouq1@hotmail.com) by December 15th 2012. Completed papers expected by March 15th, 2013. Please note that the reading time is limited to 20 minutes per paper (8-9 typed pages).
Selected papers will be considered for publication, participants are therefore urged to conform their articles to the guidelines of the Chicago Documentation Style.
Air/train travel and accommodation will be at participant's charge, The organizing committee will make hotel reservations at a negotiated price for 2 or 3 nights. A participation fee of
100 Euros is required. 2 lunches and 1 dinner will be offered to all participants.
A website for the conference will be available shortly.