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On the Future of Women and Politics in the Arab World

Heba Raouf Ezzat
Document type:
Articles and Essays

On the Future of Women and Politics in the Arab World

Heba Raouf Ezzat


Born and educated at Cairo University, Heba Raouf Ezzat is Lecturer in the Faculty of Economics and Political Sciences, Cairo University. Her writings focus on Islam, gender, democracy, and human rights. She is Coordinator of the Civil Society Program at the Center for Political Research and Studies at Cairo University, Editor of the Global Civil Society Yearbook, and a member of the World Economic Forum's Council of 100 Leaders.

The writer is one of the leaders of the young generation of Egyptian intellectuals writing on women’s issues today. The topic and analysis are like those in the works of Ahmad Zaki Yamani, but the tone is more critical. The question Ezzat poses is how to empower women; her answer is to use means that suit their needs within their own cultural context, rather than imposing a model from the outside that would require unfamiliar and disruptive—perhaps even destructive—formulas and processes. Ezzat condemns the public-private dichotomy advanced by scholars that attributes freedom to the former, a putatively male preserve, and oppression to the latter, allegedly the venue of women. She also questions the premises of what she terms the dominant gender paradigm, which measures women’s empowerment by trends showing women leaving their homemaking roles in favor of jobs in public arenas. Ezzat stresses that the freedom to work inside or outside the home is not determined by men so much as by the economic necessity to supplement the husband’s income. She also wonders whether the upward trend in women’s representation in Arab political institutions is meaningful. She concludes that such trends are mere “window-dressing” and that authoritarianism is merely somewhat feminized by these developments. Ezzat is skeptical that Arab women ought to follow the recommendations of the “dominant paradigm” if they wish to be empowered and emancipated. In her opinion, women eschew politics because they feel unsafe and insecure there. To alter this situation, she recommends the “disempowerment” of the authoritarian Arab politic systems. She believes that the state may seek to coopt women’s movements in the Arab world and suggests that women should initially seek empowerment at the local, nonformal level as a way to avoid such cooptation. Finally, she details a series of steps she believes will lead to widespread grassroots women’s movements that will truly empower them.

The Political re-defined

Many writings have addressed the issue of women and politics in the Arab world in particular, from the angle of an obvious deficit in women's political participation in the MENA countries.

My argument here is that thinking about this topic should better start by revising how the Social and the Political are analyzed, and whether the dominant paradigm (that is fundamentally modernist) would really “empower” women, and according to what definition—not of gender—but essentially to what definition of power.

There is a need to develop tools and indicators to measure women's present contribution and participation on the grass root level and in everyday life, namely what can be named “informal politics” where socio-political survival strategies take place. Informal politics are usually overlooked by dominant quota approaches that are focusing on official bodies, ignoring the well established fact that they are not representative and that even if few women have more seats and occupy more offices within them, this would have little impact on the lives and the participation of the majority of women unless a wider democratic transformation takes place.

If democracy is the end goal and women's liberation from injustice and discrimination is the means, then women's “empowerment” should start by developing a notion of power and politics that befits women in its logic and its structure, accommodating their needs as well as their conditions instead of requiring (or forcing) them to adapt to standard philosophical assumptions and organizational structures that change their course of life or demand a price for social and political participation that they are unwilling to pay.

One clear problem with the dominant paradigm is the stress on the public as a space of freedom and the private—namely the family—as a domain of oppression and discrimination, violence and exploitation. Such a vision does not reflect the vision of the majority of women in the Arab world, nor does it have the potential of taking root within their Islamic culture without drastic, or even devastating, externally imposed cultural change. A major problem with the approach to MENA is that it adopts many myths built on Orientalist stereotypes and ignores the changes that have occurred to the socio-economic situation of women in the last century. One recent report published by the World Bank criticized the main features of the “traditional gender paradigm” in its definition: that women are expected to marry early, be home makers and obey men who are breadwinners and mediators between women and the public sphere.1 While the assumption that women marry early ironically overlooks the fact that the majority of young people can not afford marriage expenses, a situation that resulted in a sweeping phenomena of late marriage across the societies of the region, even in the Gulf states. On the other hand the negative evalu-ation of the expectation that women should be home makers is obviously rooted in a modernist and feminist approach that sees this role as undermining women's public participation, fostering a patriarchal culture. It implies that women aspire to greater presence in the public space, not more efficiency in managing the problems, the texture and roles of the private family sphere.

The concern is that traditional dominant gender paradigm gives centrality of the family over the individual, an old modernist critic of organic societies, while we ironically find the dilemma of the post modern individu-alist condition grasping the attention of sociologists. One feels here that the field of comparative women studies, especially the literature on the Arab region, is lagging behind critical social theory. The report states that the work of women is still considered optional, not essential. This overlooks the fact that a segment of women may be free to choose work inside or outside their home, but that in practice this freedom is undermined not by men but by the economic necessity that forces women to work to share the responsibility of the household, sometimes against their own wish as women and as busy mothers.

Last but not least the report criticizes the imposition on women of the code of modesty, and norms controlling male-female interaction. The assumption is a new paradigm in which women marry late, feel no urge to become home makers, consider freedom as economic independence, paid work and liberation from the code of modesty!

Many writings on gender and politics show concern that women are under-represented in the parliament and executive body, and even when they are ministers, they are likely to be assigned to ministries that reinforce their social roles and responsibilities. Although there is worldwide improvement in women's active participation in this field, the participation of Arab women is evaluated as being slow and ad hoc.2 The obsession is with driving women out of home and getting them either in the labor market or in the seats of power, regardless of the stagnation on the side of democratic change. Many feminists decided to join the official and formal bodies of women in the region and make use of the authoritarian power delegated to those bodies to achieve change and see the feminist agenda applied, giving democratic demands less priority and human rights concerns less attention. Different figures have been co-opted and one can even talk about a “fem-inization of authoritarianism” that is taking place in the region in most of the countries.

It is a strategy abused by regimes to improve their image and at the same time delay the wider democratic transition. Tunisia and the Gulf political entities are but an example. In Egypt, Morocco, Bahrain, Qatar and other countries the official support of women's rights and appointment of women as ministers or executives or even judges serves only to obscure the rising authoritarianism of the regimes that is veiled by soft democratic rhetoric limited to the vocal level or reduced to trivial changes that are curbed by logistic and legal details. No power-sharing is taking place and political elites are well determined to monopolize authority.

The establishment of the Arab Women's Organization by Mrs. Mub-arak, the First Lady of Egypt, to serve as a coordinating mechanism for the various women's issues and movements in the region is an example of such a quasi-feminist effort. The first summit of the Arab Women's Organization held in Cairo in 2001 claimed to help Arab women to attain their legitimate status as full-fledged partners in shaping both the present and future of their societies. At the first meeting, a plan of action addressed the common interests of all the participating countries, namely Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan, Syria, Sudan, Djibouti, Bahrain and Kuwait. The Organization had certain political legitimacy lent to it by its founders and its status within the Arab League. Since its inception, the Organization has held various forums to address a wide range of issues including women's legal and political rights, the image and the role of women in media and the growing role of women in national economic empowerment, all hosted by the first ladies in their respective countries. How democracy can be achieved by non-democratic regimes via the leading role of “first ladies” is a question that should be discussed.

Empowering Women by Dis-empowering the State?

Focusing on quantitative indicators that assess the percentage of women in decision-making positions in the executive, in the legislative, in the political parties, etc. provides either a gloomy picture of women's under representation in politics, or a bright picture about their rising political role and their emerging power. (The case of Morocco is seen as a striking example.)

A new definition of political participation should try to bridge the conceptual gap between the public and the private, and engage in re-defining the “Political” in terms of power relations rather than power structures, understanding that the engagement of citizens and the management of power relations on a day-to-day basis [are] mainly located outside official political bodies and structures especially when political participation is obstructed by despotism. Politics of everyday life should be the focus of attention and research, exploring how women—very much like their fellow male citizens—face oppression, violence, marginalization and discrimination.3 Jill Bystydzienski admits that politics and power are transforming in shape and content, yet in her study she still adopts the institutional indicators. See Jill Bystydzienski (ed.), Women Transforming Politics: Worldwide Strategies for Empowerment. Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1992, pp. 1–5.

Attempting to “measure” and capture the “empowerment” of women by figures, percentages and numbers does not reflect the increasing “weakening” or dis-empowerment of the rights of women as citizens suffering from the lack of transparency and rising corruption within the bureaucracy as well as the new business sectors across the Arab world. They also fail due to rising enthusiasm and fascination with quantitative studies to direct enough brainstorming and research effort to qualitative strategic and critical studies that can understand the shortcomings, acknowledge the unintended negative consequences, and introduce new visions for changing the course of action.

The social indicators that were based mainly on an economic and formal approach to politics as well as to the concept of progress and the notion of rational choice originating from the behavioral era in social sciences continue to shape the methodology of the study of Arab women's “empowerment” in the political domain. These notions remain largely unchallenged despite the fact that politics and power have been dramatically changing as phenomena, moving away from the structural definition to being manifested in flows of power with rising globalization, trans-local relations and trans-national networks.

This prevailing paradigm when faced with the pressing question “Why are women not active politically?” usually provides a variety of answers including lack of political skills, cultural factors that tend to emphasize the traditional role of women as wives and mothers, poverty and/or lack of democracy. Based on these simplistic answers, national and global strategies are formulated to empower women and upgrade their political skills through a series of training programs, to create funds for supporting their campaigns, or to raise awareness about their role in the voting process. However, these strategies had little success compared to the cost and effort entailed. I claim that women are not actively engaged in politics because the political domain is not a safe and secure space for them.

In Arab countries where women can constitutionally and legally participate in politics, they are faced with a lot of challenges and uncertainties.

Where there is violence during elections and voters are prevented by force from reaching the ballots by supporters of other candidates and where clashes between the supporters of different candidates or with security forces result in heavy casualties or even the death of innocent civilians, it is expected that women feel discouraged from participating.

When women are candidates they are subject to harassment, and face physical and psychological threats. They also shy away from involvement to avoid accusations of political corruption due to the negative image of politicians in their respective societies.4 Arab countries still suffer from political corruption of different degrees.

Hence the process of empowering women politically has to go hand in hand with democratization and the dis-empowerment of the authoritarian regimes of the region.

This should start by re-negotiating the power allocated to the state. It necessitates a re-formation of the conceptual tools starting from the definition of power to a more profound investigation of the transformation of the political at large. In many Arab countries and due to the political stagnation women prefer to address societal needs and to contribute to public life via parallel avenues of political participation embedded in their social environment.

Women's “human condition” needs to be addressed in a complex way, stressing the need for a new sustainable human development paradigm that is urgently needed to meet the challenge of socio-economic insecurity.5

A purely “women centered” agenda that is confined to women's participation in voting and running for elections fails to address wider political challenges.

As the personal and private can not be separated from the public, the civil, the economic and the political, we would then have to draw a map of complex relations where one dimension or factor can not be separated from the others. In this map it is not sufficient to make the personal political, but also investigate how women make the political personal. We need to develop tools to help build a new vision encompassing different and linked spheres of life of women and their complex relation, and the historic changes of their life conditions, as well as the plurality of their experiences.

The concept of “empowerment” that has been central in the gender streaming writings and programs focuses basically on “bringing some women to power” to represent women rather than “bringing additional power to women” or empower the majority of women. Here both the notion of power as well as the notion of representation should be revised in the light of the changing role of the state and the re-definition of politics in our era of the “network society” to encompass the social and civil dimension of day to day politics, and the influence exercised by communities, advocacy groups and social movements on policy making and decision taking.6

The state is no more the sole locus of power, and the theories of the state that used to explore the relation between the state and the society are shifting dramatically to an approach of analysis that explores the fusion of power and the dialectic relation between state and society that is transforming the state to match the expectations of people not to impose change from above.

The state is becoming an agent among others with the rising role of the civil society and the private sector. Policy networks and communication networks become the dominant pattern.7

Power as synonymous to state power and political participation in the representative sense no longer are the only means for the majority of women becoming more powerful and more politically active and more important: socially visible.8

Place itself is not fixed but rather becoming—in an information age—more irrelevant for the acquirement of knowledge and skills, and of the potential to become more “empowered.” So how can we envision the future of comprehensive security in the light of these changes, and how can we seize the potentials and opportunities that this new historical context offers to marginalized women—especially the new generations in urban spaces and rural areas—to have more access to new avenues of empowerment and influence?

How can the voice of poor women, who form the majority of women in the Arab world, be heard, and how can we discover the power they already have and develop it? Does this necessitate reforming our notion of what political participation is about and shifting from a definition of democracy as the “politics of representation” to the more relevant and truly aspired “politics of presence”?

If power is also a complex entity that is based primarily on elementary forms of social relations and social capital, how can empowering the majority of women then build on the available social capital of networks and social solidarity and rescue some of the diminishing ones in a rapidly modernizing urban society, and how can we introduce new notions of women empowerment that are grass-root based and public policy oriented?

In this context the role of civil society becomes political, not only social and civil, and the focus on local governance is the key to engaging more people in the public domain to influence policies that affect their day to day life. This does not mean that official political bodies should be neglected, nor undermined. On the contrary, this approach should strengthen the electoral process but also allow women to have constant influence and power over policy making and decision taking.9

Women's movements engaged in formal politics may risk being co-opted by the state, or making concessions regarding the wider democratic transformation, in order to guarantee the state support, secure legal changes and access to power (in the form of issuing new laws or securing quota for women),10 whereas empowering women in the local communities to have a voice and to step into the public sphere to defend their interests can foster democracy in all its above mentioned complex dimensions in the long run sometimes even at the expense of dominating women's political elites against their will.

Efficient use of this strategy can help discover the individual and collective assets that have been overlooked. It can also alleviate poverty, and turn the traditional knowledge and cultural heritage into a source of economic power for legal and political participation, advocacy and even social mobility and national esteem.

Many writings on Gender and Development in the region celebrated the access to employment as a condition for political empowerment. Now with the failure of states to provide social welfare and the negative effects of the open market on the socio-economic conditions of many women, employment in a globalized private sector can form a new challenge for social citizenship rights. This reminds us that women's empowerment should always be contextualized in respective sectors and national con-ditions to allow critical assessment.

Implications for current debates

The suggested reform in the paradigm can lead to substantial change in the nature of the debate on different aspects of women's political participation. We can state some of these potential changes:

1. Revising assessment indicators. There was great enthusiasm about the signing of the CEDAW by some Gulf states in the Arab region in the last few years, and about appointing women in high posts. Yet, again, how far does this reflect a democratic change in making? Figures sometimes obscure ruling elites’ politics and corruptions. There is a theoretical (and moral) dilemma here: should this be celebrated as “empowerment” of women as citizens while Amnesty International and Transparency International annual reports show how basic human and political rights are violated in these countries?

In the second Arab Human Development Report 2003 titled Building a Knowledge Society a reference was made to the empowerment of women as an important factor in achieving the titled goal. Yet, again, small achievements here and there were celebrated on the basis of the same formal indicators, not pointing at all to the fact that in many cases the change was initiated by authoritarian regimes, and that the appointment of some women in high governmental and judicial executive posts was the price the state paid to abort an emerging independent women's movement that was replaced by formal bodies and councils of women funded by the state and receiving foreign aid to put the global agenda in action, accompanied by structural changes in the economy and in politics that dis-empower and impoverish the majority of women.11

2. Revising the quota debate: from political representation to political presence. There is an urgent need to shift towards women's “presence” in daily life politics in an age where information technology, media and mobility render the notions of power as well as politics more hybrid and linked with public policies and daily concerns of millions of women.

The preoccupation with quota and the debate about positive discrimination marginalize the majority of women and focus on elites and active politicians. Empowering women at large by engaging them in constant interest in the political process and the decision making and legislative agenda, pushing for improvement in their life opportunities and those of future generations, is indeed what democracy is about. Women in high positions in the political bodies also need to be supported, backed, as well as continuously affiliated with the majority of women they represent. There is little evidence that women in power are the strong advocates of women's rights. Social scientists and women's rights groups in the Arab world should develop tools and indicators to research the status of present political participation at the grass root level that might be overlooked by dominant quota approaches that are focusing mainly on representative bodies.

Women's economic participation in the informal sectors of economy forms up to 30% in some developing economies; thus the “informal” political sector and power-sharing “survival strategies to combat the fem-inization of political poverty” at the grass root level should be also given attention. It is there that many women are empowered in local communities and are active in innovating cultural and socio-political survival strat-egies. This is where real balances of power are determined in an age where primordial relations and networks are re-gaining importance and influence. The flow of power in a post-industrial era and the hybridity of many urban and rural spaces enable women to bridge easily the gap between the personal and the political. If we add to this the growing withdrawal of the welfare state from the domain of social services and formal sector employment, the presence of women's civil and social networks in the public domain becomes crucial more than ever and obviously would have political implications on the medium and long term.

3. Bridging the gap between civil and political participation. Nowadays new opportunities allow increasing numbers of young women in the Arab world, a world with a portion of young people over 60% of its population, to lobby, network and mobilize while choosing to integrate their public concerns into the space of their private daily life using technology, either by self-employment home business or by being actively engaged in promoting women's rights through the avenues of the cyberspace, while choosing to be a full time mother and housewife.

This “access” and “empowerment” through post-industrial science and technology can spare the new generations of Arab women many debates and controversies and allow them to have different asymmetric and plural paths of modernization in a post-modern era than what conventionally was thought of by adopting a uni-linear notion of progress, development and suffrage that sees the empowerment of women in the light of the Western historical model.

One of the paradoxes facing any observer of the political participation of women in the Arab world is the growing participation of women in the labor force, their growing access to executive positions, their engagement in civil society associations, but the simultaneous disengagement from politics either in respect of joining political parties or trade unions (for example, only 7.6% in a sample of executive women in official bodies and private sector businesses in Egypt are members of political parties).12

This requires finding avenues and programs to allow women to get engaged in political activism and civil forums.13

4. Facing the cultural challenges and seizing the open opportunities of globalization. Traditional culture is not the sole challenge they are facing on the social level as many studies imply, but rather the dichotomy that is increasingly conceived between that culture with its potential for reform on one hand, and the global cultural agenda of hegemony in a semi uni-polar system on the other hand. This requires embedding cultural and social reform in the Arab countries within a wider vision for a project of renaissance for the Arab world based on democracy and pluralism. A project that would not distort the unifying role of the Arab culture across the region, and at the same time would allow cultural diversity to be a source of enrichment, not an obstacle to coherence, be it a diversity within, based on the multi-ethnic or multi-religious nature of some Arab states, or the diversity that results from the interaction with global cultures through IT, travel, tourism, or travel and diaspora networks.

5. Mainstreaming women's presence beyond elitism and statism. The situation of Arab women and their political participation has been overwhelmingly affected by small pressure groups of active women, networks between study centers and civil society activists, or official and semi-official state bodies, plans and initiatives.

These should give way to the formation of a much needed social movement of women's rights that would push for change.

Here one has to realize that the role of a progressive Islamic vision about the participation is crucial and has been developing for quite a while.

Here we stress that dominant religious opinions play a crucial role in dis-encouraging women from participating in politics, seeing it in a nutshell as a business for men only.

The focus has been—at best—on neutralizing religion in the discourse on women's political participation.

Sometimes formal religious opinions have been issued to support a more serious participation of women in the public sphere and in politics, only to face counter religious opinions from groups that oppose that participation. The cases of Kuwait and Egypt are exemplary.

It should be highlighted that there has been an effort to reform the religious discourse on women's political participation by prominent Islamic jurists, and there is an emerging voice of women scholars advocating an Islamic vision that stresses the importance of women's participation in public life and in politics.

In Egypt, Syria, Morocco, Tunisia and Sudan these voices are changing the nature of the debate, trying to avoid the intellectual context of polarization between the Islamists and the secularists on one hand, and the official religious opinions and the opinions of religious social movements on the other. There is an increasing awareness of the public and political role of women, and during the last decade prominent scholars have shown notable consideration of that role and wrote in support of it.

How religion becomes a force of progressive change is a question that should be addressed in an overdue debate on the philosophy, direction and core of an Arab vision of women's political participation placed within a wider debate on human development in the region.

The recent 2003 report on Arab Human Development stressed the importance of the political participation of women and celebrated their rising presence in official positions. It also stressed the role of religion in establishing a society of knowledge and liberty. These statements should fit into a new paradigm that would re-establish the connection between culture, religion and human rights/women's rights discourse and activism in the region.

Finally we have to stress the link between the empowerment of women and larger ambitions of change such as security, peace, stability, accountability and equal citizenship.

Not only are women affected by crisis and instability, to say nothing of war in Somalia, Iraq, Palestine, they suffer also from the uncivil situ-ation in Algeria, and have direct interest in finding a solution by becoming a force for peace, reconciliation, and national unity.

As Mary Kaldor rightly points out, women in many countries in the South have been the vehicle for addressing security issues and pressing for peace.14

This dimension of international efforts that was clear since the 1976 Brussels International Tribunal on Crimes Against Women and [that] was integrated in global strategies and plans of action since the UN Mexico City Conference that launched the decade for women in 1975 has been forgotten in favor of political agendas. No politics is really possible without a state, an initial minimal process of presence and representation, not always available in some areas in the Arab world.15

The Road Ahead

The mere fact that we are aware of the shortcomings of the dominant paradigm and the need to develop and reform it should drive us to opening discussion on how to solve the paradoxes and bridge the methodological gap. We have three challenges to face:

1. Allowing space for democratic deliberation on the future of women. Women from all backgrounds, socio-economic contexts and academic disciplines should debate the future of Arab women's presence and their notion of a fair and equal democratic process that secures political spaces for their activity. If the standard paradigm failed to bridge the gap and resulted in plans of action that consumed money and effort and ended with poor results, this indicates the approaches were partial and particular. Only a comprehensive and collective effort can result in a more inclusive and powerful paradigm where women can discuss how they can be empowered in order to power-share democracy, on all levels.

Public debate is a necessary condition to form a strong civic culture, and an essential prerequisite for strong and sustainable presence of women in the public as well as the political sphere. The democratic imagination is re-constructed through debates and democratic deliberation, allowing different notions of democratic participation to take place on different levels.

A major challenge in this context is that the social movements in the region have no common political agenda on women empowerment and its meaning nor even a shared “thin” conception of the nature of democracy they want to build and how to integrate women's participation within it.

2. Celebrating the diversity in models of political participation and development. The shifting nature of politics towards empowerment of civil bodies and networks and engaging women in politics requires a shift of focus from seeing women as victims of discrimination that need to be “empowered” to stressing their situation as political agents that have power and possess a potential but need to find in their individual context a way for new possibilities. This would require a re-imagination of the notion of politics as we stressed, and a more pluralistic conception of political presence, that would accommodate the different visions and discourses on women to become cross-fertilized and fruitful instead of contradictory and exclusivist.

So far theorizing political participation was done within the boundaries of social sciences. At best, it was linked to the central role of the state. It is worth mentioning here that the changing nature of the state power as the overarching actor in politics resulted in a confusion of researchers facing new phenomena. See how the emigration of many men in the seventies to the Gulf States resulted in the emergence of millions of mother-headed families. Is this to be seen as empowerment or disempowerment of women? Is this a reformation of the power relations in the family that would result in women's empowerment or the opposite? It remained unclear, simply because women were not consulted and the culture that allowed them to play new roles completely silenced.

If politics is to be re-structured, so is our imagery of average women. Here the shift should not be to an exclusive model of action but to one that moves flexibly within the overlapping spheres of the life of women to fulfill their need for speaking out their concerns, finding their way to solve their respective problems and implement their available assets and sources of power to achieve these goals. Celebrating diversity of strategies should allow women, groups and individuals, to “create” their own spaces of presence and “integrate” them in the structures of power on all levels. Innovation, rather than standardization, in thinking and acting, is a con-dition for integrating more women in the public sphere and helping them to feel safe and secure, supported by their social capital and networks.

The tragic irony of formal structural notions of politics that dominate the current paradigm is that it takes away women's freedom of choice in order to secure the implementation of ready-made solutions, another result of the mind set of the centrality of the state as a conceptual variable in the theoretical underpinnings of the current paradigm.16

3. Re-assessing of the relation between the local and the global in Analysis. The complex notion of politics and participation should lead to a more complex evaluation of the positive and negative implications of globalization on the empowerment of Arab women at this historic moment.

The global actors in IR supported authoritarian political regimes that managed to provide the necessary “security” for the global market even if at the expense of freedom and individual dignity, and “safety” on the domestic and regional level. This remains one of the major challenges to the democratic transformation in the MENA countries.

Bibliography references:

Reprinted by permission of the author.

1. Gender and Development in the Middle East and North Africa: Women in the Public Sphere. MENA Development Report 2004. Washington, DC: World Bank, 2004, pp. 94–96.

2. Paving the Road Towards Empowerment. Amman, Jordan: UNIFEM Arab States Regional Office, 2002, p. 46.

5. UNDP, Human Development Report 1994. Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 1–4.

6. Agnes Heller, “The Concept of the Political Revisited,” in David Held, Political Theory Today. Oxford: Polity Press, 1995, pp. 332–335.

7. Salwa S. Gomaa (ed.), Governance. Cairo: Public Administration Research and Consultation Center (PARC), 2001, p. 14.

8. Gerald Gaus, Political Concepts and Political Theories. Boulder, Colorado: Westview Press, 2000, pp. 241–242.

9. Caroline Robb, Can the Poor Influence Policy? Participatory Poverty Assessment in the Developing World. Washington, D.C.: World Bank, 2002, pp. 90–91.

10. Mervat Hatem, “The Paradox of State Feminism,” in Barbarar J. Naleson and Najma Chowdhury, Women and Politics Worldwide. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1994, pp. 226–242.

11. Arab Human Development Report 2003. New York: United Nations Publications, 2003.

12. Mohamed Shuman, Working Women Leaders: Current Situation and Future Horizons. Cairo: The Group for Democratic Development, 1999. (Arabic)

13. Zoheir Hatab, “Achieving the Incomplete Civility of the Lebanese Society,” in Antoine Massara et al., Developing the Civil Society in Lebanon. Beirut: Permanent Civil Peace Association, 1999, pp. 235–240.

14. Mary Kaldor, Global Civil Society: An Answer to War? Cambridge: Polity Press, 2003, pp. 87, 96.

15. Purna Sen, “Success and Challenges: Understanding the Global Movement to End Violence Against Women.” Global Civil Society Yearbook. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003, pp. 119–146.

16. J. P. Nettl, “The State as a Conceptual Variable,” World Politics, Vol. XX, No. 4, July 1968, p. 559.


3. Jill Bystydzienski admits that politics and power are transforming in shape and content, yet in her study she still adopts the institutional indicators. See Jill Bystydzienski (ed.), Women Transforming Politics: Worldwide Strategies for Empowerment. Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1992, pp. 1–5.

4. Arab countries still suffer from political corruption of different degrees.

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