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The progressive Royal position on women’s rights and the way ahead

Khalid Dalal
Khalid Dalal is a former advisor at the Royal Hashemite Court, a former director of media and communication at the Office of His Majesty King Abdullah II, and works currently as a senior advisor for business development at Al-Ghad and Jordan News. (Photo: Jordan News)
Amid heated debate over constitutional changes that sought to empower women and youth, and as the dust settled with the House endorsing these changes, His Majesty King Abdullah II recently sent a series of strong messages to those concerned, voicing unwavering support for those who form at least half of the population, women.اضافة اعلان

During a meeting with women activists last week, His Majesty “urged the effective contribution of women in political reform efforts, calling on them to forge ahead and not to shy away from participation”, including engagement with political parties as the country is taking historic strides toward the modernization of its political system.

He described youth and women as a “driving force in all tracks of the reform process”.

The content and timing of these messages are highly significant, especially as the Kingdom is taking its first steps in its second centennial with a clear vision of how it will look like in the future as the drive toward change matures.

Giving women the chance to regain their deserved status in society is no longer a favor, but a right, earned through their indispensable contribution to development and growth.

Jordan is well aware of what it is doing in this regard. Our country has always leaned toward home-grown solutions and recipes for change, without crossing lines drawn since the Kingdom’s infancy.

Jordan does not have to borrow things from outside, since it belongs to and represents a culture that inherently respects human rights and promotes inclusive policies where no segment of society is marginalized.

Why should Jordan borrow any concept from the West when our Arab-Islamic heritage is rife with examples that show a progressive look toward women. To mind comes Arab philosopher Ibn Rushd (Averroes), who broke every stereotype inherited from Greek philosophers, such Aristotle, who looked at woman as inferior to men. Ibn Rushd considered women “essentially identical with men, possessing the same intellectual abilities”, and advocated “their active participation in society and performance of all tasks, including those that had been the prerogative of men,” according to Oxford academic Catarina Belo, in an essay in the Journal of Islamic Studies.

Having said that, Jordanian women need to be proactive in pursuit of their rights and opportunities, to make a difference and be justly represented in every effort leading to the envisioned future.

They need to bravely defy gender-based stereotypes and reactionary approaches of some who cannot imagine any other role for women than raising children.

One of the main challenges that needs to be addressed is the lack of an umbrella entity that could lead well-orchestrated efforts and lobby for changes at every level, including the legislative aspect of the process.

Institutional work is the only guarantee for ideas to translate into tangible facts on the ground and genuine equality that leaves no traces of past injustices.

This is not the first time that His Majesty expresses his beliefs on women, and encourages them to jump on the wagon heading toward the future he wants for the country and people.

In fact, the King’s last week’s remarks only built on previous achievements praised internationally; the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, an international body made up of 37 member countries headquartered in Paris, said in a recent report that “notable progress has been made over the past 15 years to increase women’s representation in elected decision-making bodies in Jordan”.

More is needed, of course, but the will is there, and the way is just ahead of us.

The writer is a former advisor at the Royal Hashemite Court, a former director of media and communication at the Office of His Majesty King Abdullah II, and works currently as a senior advisor for business development at Al-Ghad and Jordan News.


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