Saudi Arabia & UN Women: ‘A Sad Joke’

Saudi Arabia & UN Women: ‘A Sad Joke’

For those of you I’ve reached for a long time, you remember Mona Eltahawy’s columns I am sure.  Here is another memorable one.  Please pass it on.  Mona is always right on, but the sentence that is the truest in this column is below: “Once again, women are the cheapest bargaining chips, thrown on the table to silence and appease allies and ‘major donors’.” –Lilly

“Saudi Arabia’s Spot on the Board of UN Women [is] a Sad Joke” By Mona Eltahawy  Toronto Star  Nov. 14, 2010

It took years to make the United Nations’ newest agency, UN Women, a reality, and then just one day to effectively kill it.  Death was effected by allowing onto its board a kingdom where women are not just infamously prohibited from driving but are also virtual minors who need a male guardian’s permission to travel and to have surgery — and must be covered from head to toe in public.

As one of two countries guaranteed seats as emerging donor nations, Saudi Arabia essentially bought its way onto the board of UN Women, which is dedicated to gender equality around the world.

Just three days after securing an automatic seat, Saudi Arabia gave us a reminder of just how oxymoronic its place on UN Women is, when its team showed up at the Asian Games in China without a single woman among the 180-strong delegation.

Iran, another country with a dismal women’s rights record, lost its bid for election to the board of UN Women after furious back-channel diplomacy by the United States and its allies. Still, at the games, which started in China on Saturday, Iran will field 92 female athletes in its 395-strong delegation.
Welcome to the ugly world of wrangling over women’s rights records depending on whether “we” like you or not.

Don’t misunderstand — Iran deserves to be kept out of UN Women. Iranian Nobel laureate Shirin Ebadi had warned just before the vote that it was a “joke” that her country was in line to get a place on the board. But she said the same of Saudi Arabia, rightly pointing out that its women’s rights record was worse than Iran’s. …

U.S., European Union, Australian and Canadian diplomats had been working hard to kick Iran off the list of 10 countries from the Asian region up for election to the board. Iran — which for weeks has been threatening to stone a woman for alleged adultery — does not belong on the board.

But it was disgusting to hear American ambassador to the UN Susan E. Rice celebrate Iran’s defeat and yet, when pushed on Saudi Arabia, say only that she would “not deny that there were several countries that are going to join the board of UN women that have less than stellar records on women’s rights, indeed human rights.”

Once again, women are the cheapest bargaining chips, thrown on the table to silence and appease allies and “major donors.”

…. If UN Women is to have any bite, it should focus on justice for Saudi women and not on their country’s “generous contributions.”

Read this entire piece online

By | 2010-11-16T16:54:00-05:00 November 16th, 2010|Blog|1 Comment

One Comment

  1. Anonymous November 17, 2010 at 8:44 pm - Reply

    Hi Lily,

    It would be wonderful if you would explain to readers the direct connection between this piece by Mona El Tahawy and the mission of this blog as stated on the blog masthead, to focus on “issues related to Israel and the American Jewish community.”

    Thanks very much,


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