The deputy speaker of the National Assembly has said that the Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC) member states are committed to improving women's status and ensuring their equal rights.
Hon. Fatou Mbye made the disclosure on Monday before deputies at the National Assembly, when she was laying the report of [the conference] on the 'Role of women in changing Muslim Societies', held in Istanbul, Turkey on22-24 December 2011. However, she admitted that it is also true that there are inadequacies of implementation to bring about this upliftment of women.
Deputy Speaker Mbye explained that the conference was centred on; experience on effective gender instruments and strategies and status of gender equality in OIC member states; gender-sensitive governance reforms for promoting gender equality in public policy and ensuring their implementation; strategies to promote a more balanced representation of men and women in decision-making bodies; and establishing an institute for gender equality and providing the expertise needed to develop gender equality policies across the OIC members states.
She stated that Islam was the pioneer in according recognition of the role of women in shaping society, the example set by the by Prophet Muhammed (PBUH), adding that through his [the Prophet] preaching and teachings, he has upheld the dignity and rights of women and their rightful place in society. "The Prophet's support to his wife Khadijain her business and entrepreneurship, is just one of the many instances that underscored the position of women in Muslim societies," she said.
According to her, the comparison brought about a very heated debate that Islam and democracy are incompatible whilst on the other hand, some Western Scholars and ideologies presented Islam as an anti-democratic and inherently ethos that precludes democratisation in the Muslim world. However, she mentioned that it was agreed that Turkey set an excellent example for nations around the world where it is possible to have a democracy co-exist with a great religion like Islam noting that the equitable participation of women in politics and government is essential to building and sustaining democracy.
She further revealed that at the end of two days of deliberations, ministers, parliamentarians, civil society organisations and academicians from OIC member states expressed deep appreciation to the prime minister of Turkey, H.E. Recep Tayyip Erdogan, for his participation in the conference and for his inspiring statement where he called upon the international community to condemn and act against all forms of violence towards women, including violence under armed conflicts.
Deputy Speaker Mbye, while acknowledging the legal reforms in Muslim countries that empowers women, also reiterated that they have to be translated into practice, adding that much still needs to be done to achieve women's empowerment and gender equality. She stressed the need for continued international cooperation and assistance among countries, to formulate comprehensive, and multi-diplomacy policies and to strengthen the role of women. She said Muslim societies like other parts of the world are undergoing rapid political, demographic, technological and cultural transformations, which are impacting on intra and international powers and self-perceptions.
The deputy speaker also opined that, generally, change is the only permanent feature in life, a necessary phenomenon and universally acceptable. "Consequently as citizens of some Middle East, North and West African countries call for social and political reform, new challenges and opportunities are emerging for women in the region," she stated further.
She noted that these manifestations and others come in the wake of rapid change of the gender status quo bringing about a wave of an emergence of women's increased participation in the political and decision-making processes which is critical for development of the member states of the OIC. "As agents of change, they can influence policies and make progressive political decisions to bridge the gap between men and women and thus create an enabling environment for other women to participate in the development process," she added.