UN Women Regional Office for Arab States announced on 18 May 2016 the debut and release of a six-part documentary series under the title of “We Are Here” highlighting the political, social, peacebuilding, and conflict resolution work of women living in challenging environments across the Arab States Region.
With conflicts and humanitarian crises raging through the region, women often find themselves at the centre of the fray, but not in the decision-making circles. The six documentaries feature women activists in the five conflict-ridden countries of the Arab States Region: Iraq, Libya, Palestine, Syria and Yemen. In times of war, women have their share of the threat to their safety and vulnerability to displacement. But their suffering is exacerbated by existing gender inequalities that lead to heightened chances of deprivation from education and deteriorating reproductive healthcare services in addition to the threat of sexual violence.
At the community level, their role as the primary caregivers influences the culture greatly - an influence that is often overlooked in designing efforts to stand up to violent extremism or push for reconciliation. Studies show that when women are not present during political processes and peace talks, negotiated peace agreements have a 25 percent to 50 percent likelihood of faltering. However, only 2% of all international aid to fragile states focuses on gender equality as a primary role.
“Women are the first target of violent extremists to change societies, and they must be our first target as well, not only as beneficiaries of humanitarian assistance, but also as decision makers who are capable of standing up to radicalism and ensure inclusiveness and tolerance in post-conflict communities,” said Mohammad Naciri, UN Women’s Regional Director for the Arab States Region.
The documentaries entitled “We Are Here” are a part of UN Women’s four-year programme known as “Citizenship, Leadership and Participation: New Pathways for Arab Women,” which successfully brought together women from countries around the Arab States Region for workshops and trainings to enhance their abilities to participate in civil work, political negotiations, parliamentary elections and proceedings, as well as peace-building initiatives. The programme was generously supported by the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland and is coming to a close. UN Women aims to inspire more women activists from the region to share their stories with the world and document their roles in building their countries.
The ‘We Are Here’ documentary series showcases 17 programme spokeswomen from Iraq, Libya, Syria, Palestine and Yemen. The women in the documentaries represent parliamentarians, politicians, activist and civil workers working to enhance the role of women in nation and peace building initiatives, while resisting all forms of discrimination.
“A free woman is the basis of democracy as women are the basis of life and freedom,” said Majdoleen Hassan, a Syrian activist featured in the video and a member of the Syrian Women’s Initiative for Peace and Democracy - a diverse network of Syrian women peace activists and civil society members supported by UN Women. Peace does not grow without women. Women are the ones who push the most for peaceful resolutions as they are the ones with the greatest interest in achieving it and as they lose the most in wars.”