Despite being the main victims in regional armed conflicts, women are still excluded from playing a role in conflict resolution and peace negotiations, women's rights leaders said on Tuesday.
During the closing meeting of the Arab Women's Intellectual Organisation, discussions focused on the impact of armed conflicts on women in Iraq, Sudan, Yemen, Lebanon and Palestine.
"Politics is seen as an exclusively male domain in Iraq… Iraqi women are facing tremendous challenges to take part in conflict resolution at decision-making levels," Iraqi activist Salma Jabou said, adding that there are currently about one million widows in Iraq.
Amal Khreisha, an activist from Palestine, noted that the consequences of armed conflicts have a more obvious impact on women because of their "weak" social status.
"If women are to play an equal part in conflict resolution, they must be empowered politically and economically to reach all levels of decision making," she said.
A documentary depicting the lives of Palestinian women who are struggling under the occupation was screened at the gathering.
Lamia Shalaldeh, from the Palestinian Women's Centre for Legal Aid and Counselling, noted that massive violations are committed against women by the Israeli occupation, stressing that new forms of abuse are discovered every day in the Palestinian territories.
"I set out to document cases of abused women. It is very important to document their suffering in hope of finding a listening ear," she said.
Emphasising the impact of war's economic, social and psychological traumatic consequences, Yemeni Suha Sherin said the large displacement of citizens as a result of the Saada war has encouraged the early marriage of young girls.
"Displaced families think that early marriage offers protection for their daughters," she said.
National Council for Family Affairs (NCFA) Secretary General Haifa Abu Ghazaleh emphasised the significance of the think tank, launched on Monday by the NCFA, the Karama Organisation and the Swedish Institute, in providing a platform for discussion of women's issues in the region and networking opportunities for women leaders.
She said members of the organisation will prepare studies on women's issues, noting that the first will tackle the impact of armed conflicts on women and children and the role of women in creating and sustaining a culture of peace.
Abu Ghazaleh added that the organisation will launch a website containing research and studies on women, adding that individuals are welcome to join the think tank.