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Cablegate: Das Gray Addresses Women's Conference, Royg

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.




E.O. 12958: N/A

1. Summary. On December 3 - 5, over 300 government and
civil society representatives from across the Middle East
participated in a Sanaa-based conference entitled "Women's
Rights in the Arab World: From Words to Deeds." Participants
discussed a variety of topics, including women's roles in
political participation, law, and development. Visiting DAS
Gordon Gray addressed the opening session, highlighting USG
support for promoting the rights of women through the Middle
East Partnership Initiative (MEPI) and announcing a $425,000
USAID grant for implementing conference recommendations in

2. Summary continued. During the keynote speech, Yemeni
Prime Minister Abdulkadir Bajammal announced ROYG support for
a 15 percent quota for female representation in upcoming
local council elections. In another conference announcement,
Soumaya Ali Rajaa became the first female presidential
candidate in Yemeni history. The final conference statement
called on Arab governments to adopt international agreements
on women's rights without reservations, adding unfortunate
and pointless condemnations of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, and
declarations of support for the "right of return" for
Palestinian refugees. End Summary.

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Moving Beyond Words

3. Sponsored by the Yemeni Ministry for Human Rights and the
UNDP, the conference brought together government officials
and civil society leaders to discuss concrete steps to
integrate Arab women into political, economic and social
life. During the opening ceremony, DAS Gray applauded
participants' efforts to focus on deeds and not merely words.
He outlined USG support for women's rights, including $10
million to the Iraqi Women's Democracy Initiative and support
provided through the $293 million MEPI program to reduce
cultural, legal, regulatory, economic and political barriers
to women's full participation in society.

Deeds for Women in Yemen

4. Bajammal announced ROYG support for a 15 percent quota
for female representation in the 2006 local elections. He
called on all political parties to adopt the quota, saying
development into a modern society depended on women being
equal in "law and obligations." He also stressed the
importance of addressing "cultural obstacles" that prevent
women from participating fully in public and economic life.
On December 19, the ruling General People's Conference
announced its support for the 15 percent quota during the
party's annual conference. (Comment: The announcement of
ruling party support for a quota is a step forward for
women's political participation in Yemen. Its ultimate
success, however, will depend on the opposition parties'
willingness to designate the same districts for
all-female competition, as women stand little chance of
winning in most districts if they must compete against male
candidates. End Comment).

Sharing Experiences, Moving Forward

5. Participants shared their experiences and ideas on how to
advance women's rights in workshops focusing on the role of
women in development, the law, and political life. During a
session on political representation, a representative from
the government-sponsored Yemeni Women's National Committee
discussed ways to overcome the gap that exists in many
countries, like Yemen, between laws and real implementation
of women's rights. Focusing on women and the law,
representatives from Algeria, Jordan, and Tunisia discussed
ways to increase female participation in the judiciary
system. On women's role in development, a representative
from the Lebanese Business Women's Association led a
discussion on the importance of a woman's right to
participate and play a decision making role in economic

6. At the end of the conference, delegates issued a
statement calling on Arab governments to implement all
international conventions on women's rights without adding
reservations that nullify the original intent of the
agreements. The statement also called on governments to
remove all discriminatory laws that prevent women's full
participation in economic and political life. It also
encouraged governments and civil society to improve
educational opportunities and provide better health care for
women. Moving beyond women, the statement also condemned the
"American invasion" of Iraq and the "Israeli occupation" of

7. The end of the conference also witnessed the announcement
of Soumaya Ali Rajaa, who became the first female
presidential candidate in Yemeni history. Rajaa, who
currently heads a Paris-based Yemeni-French cultural
association, promised to focus her campaign on the
advancement of women's legal and social rights.

8. Comment: While the final statement produced little in
terms of concrete steps forward, the conference provided an
excellent opportunity for women from across the region to
share their experiences and voice support for each other's
efforts. Post will continue to coordinate with UNDP and the
Ministry of Human Rights to develop concrete ideas for
implementing conference recommendations. End Comment.

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