Ploumen meets with women’s rights activists from Arab region

The Netherlands is helping women in North Africa and the Middle East to make themselves heard and exert influence in politics, government and society. Lilianne Ploumen, Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation, met with activists from Egypt and Libya on Thursday to talk about how the Netherlands can best support them.

‘Women went against the flow and played a crucial role in the upheavals in the Arab region. Now they are rightly claiming a part in shaping their country’s future. We are helping them do so,’ Ms Ploumen said.

The minister said it was extremely useful to hear directly from the women what help they need most. In Libya, for instance, the Netherlands supports Zahra’ Langhi and other women involved in discussing a new constitution, a process on which the future of women in that country largely hinges. In Egypt, sexual violence against women is rife. Ms Ploumen discussed possible ways of tackling this major problem with Egyptian activist Fatma Khafagy.

In March, Ms Ploumen announced a new programme called Women on the Frontline. Working with Hivos and PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), €5.8 million will be disbursed over the next three years to women’s rights organisations in countries like Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Libya, Tunisia and Yemen. The programme enables activists, usually young women, to follow courses in advocacy and drafting legislation. PwC provides training in organisational and financial management, so that the women will be better equipped to approach other donors. In this way, the programme will set a dynamic fundraising cycle in motion.

Women’s political participation and leadership are a priority of Dutch development policy. This is pursued in various ways, such as through Women on the Frontline, Funding Leadership and Opportunities for Women (FLOW) and the National Action Plan on Resolution 1325, which aims to expand the political role and leadership of women in conflict and post-conflict areas. In Libya, for instance, the Netherlands supports a project run by the Public International Law and Policy Group, which provides assistance to women involved in developing a constitutional framework. In Egypt, the Netherlands supports a two-year project by UN Women to promote women’s political empowerment.