(MENAFN - Jordan Times) A group of women activists from around the region on Monday stressed the need to build on their achievements and empower women economically to face any threats to their rights that might result from the Arab Spring revolutions.
The call came during a one-day meeting of women activists, journalists, politicians and leaders in the women's rights movement from 11 countries in the region with US Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women's Issues Melanne Verveer.
"This is a time of profound change in this region and women have taken part next to men in the demonstrations that are occurring in some countries of this region," Verveer told reporters at a press conference.
But many women have been pushed away from the scene, she warned, and many fear that the gains they have achieved might be reversed.
"We hope that the Arab Spring will not result in marginalising or excluding women in the public sphere," added Verveer, who arrived in the Kingdom on Sunday for a four-day visit to host a regional convention of the Working Group on Women's Empowerment.
Meanwhile, activist and lawyer Fatimeh Dabbas said women in Jordan should continue to "press the government to ensure that the gains made by the women's movement over the past 20 years are safe and secured."
Bahraini businesswoman Kholoud Qattan seconded Dabbas, saying the meeting on Monday was a chance for the women of the region to learn from each other's experiences and build on their achievements.
"We want to focus on continuing to empower women from an economic perspective and ensure they reach decision-making positions to empower their status and political participation," Qattan told the gathering.
All the participants agreed that the Islamist political parties which are gaining power in countries that have witnessed revolutions over the past year would attempt to strip women of their rights.
"We will fight back by raising women's awareness and knowledge and at the same time improving the level of education and encouraging critical thinking within education systems in our region," said Yemeni journalist and activist Shatha Harzi, summing up some of the conclusions that the group agreed on.
"We will also focus on social media as a means to spread the word and raise awareness of the need to empower women, who represent 52 per cent of the population in this region," Harzi added.
A project of US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's Strategic Dialogue with Civil Society, the working group brings together activists from across the Middle East and North Africa to discuss how to further women's political and economic engagement in the region, according to a US embassy statement.
During her visit, Verveer is scheduled to meet with government officials, political party representatives, business leaders and the media, to discuss specific steps to support Jordan's efforts to increase women's engagement in politics, the economy, and society at large, the statement added.
She will also discuss Jordan's participation in the G-8's Broader Middle East and North Africa Initiative, a forum bringing together governments and civil society representatives to discuss solving the pressing issues in the region.
The US co-chairs the initiative with Tunisia this year. Its themes are women's empowerment, freedom of expression and economic governance.