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The inauguration of the PAM “Women Parliamentary Forum” in Lisbon

4 July 2022, Lisbon – The PAM Women Parliamentary Forum (WPF)’s inaugural session is taking place in Lisbon. The first day was dedicated to the establishment of the structure of the Forum  with the presentation of its Terms of Reference and its designated Presidency team, as well as to the issue of women refugees in the PAM region. The event is organized by PAM in partnership with the Portuguese Delegation to PAM and is kindly hosted in the Assembleia da República, Palácio de São Bento, in Lisbon.


In her opening remarks, Hon. Joana Lima, Head of the Portuguese delegation to PAM, recalled that despite gender equality being widely recognized as essential to achieve peaceful societies and sustainable development, gender inequalities persist in most parts of the world, including the Euro-Mediterranean and Gulf region. She advocated for the WPF to become a platform to engage and push for transformative change. Parliamentarians have a crucial role in deciding ways to increase women’s participation, representation and empowerment, at all levels.


PAM President, Hon. Gennaro Migliore, expressed the need to further step toward gender equality. Despite recent progress, and according to the 2021 Global Gender Gap Report, the average MENA region gender gap is the largest in the world, at around 60%.


H.E. Ana Catarina Mendes, Minister in the Cabinet of the Prime Minister and for Parliamentary Affairs, shared that Portugal currently has 34.2% of women MPs in parliament. Women are the most vulnerable in situations of conflicts. She mentioned the aggression of Ukraine by Russia, as well as conflicts further afield such as in Yemen and Ethiopia. A new approach to migration policies was needed, in particular to fight networks of traffickers. She lent Portugal’s full support to the new Forum, which will be instrumental to build equality for the future generations.


Later, PAM Secretary General presented the Terms of References of the PAM WPF. The Presidency designated team, led by Joana Lima (Portugal), together with Hon. Maryam Majed Bin Theneya (UAE) and Hon. Fatma Zohra Abdi (Algeria), will be tasked with establishing the Forum on solid grounds. The Presidency will then be rotating for a fixed term mandate of 2 years. The Chair will alternate between the northern and the southern geopolitical groups. A session of the Forum will take place in spring every year, and the Forum will produce studies, reports and recommendations, as well as conduct field visits.

He added that the forum will be a perfect platform for women MPs from the Euro-Mediterranean and Gulf Region to be more involved in decision-making and parliamentary diplomacy.


Hon. Yana Chiara Ehm (Italy) moderated the session “Women Refugees in 2022 in the Euro-Mediterranean and Gulf region”. In her remarks she presented alarming data on the number of women refugees. The Syrian war dating back to 2011 has caused massive flows of refugees. 11 year later, 1.7 million women are still refugees in Turkey and Lebanon. The ongoing brutal Russian aggression against Ukraine obliged 6.5 million women and children to leave their home behind, exposing them to violence and human rights violations. In this regard, parliamentarians need to take the lead in implementing coherent legislations to safeguard women refugees’ rights.


The session was then addressed by Hon. Mariia Ionova, MP, Co-chair Equal opportunities Caucus, Ukraine (online); H.E. Inna Ohnivets, Ambassador of Ukraine to Portugal (video message); Mr. André Costa Jorge, Coordinator, Plataforma de Apoio aos Refugiados, Mrs Mónica d’Oliveira Farinha, Portuguese Council for the Refugees (CPR), and H.E. Isabel Almeida Rodrigues, Secretary of State for Equality and Migrations of Portugal.


The deportation of 1.27 million Ukrainians, mostly women women and children - some of them forcibly separated from their mothers - to undisclosed location in Russia, raised grave concerns. War crimes committed by the Russian leadership and forces must be investigated and punished. The looming food crisis caused by the Russian looting of Ukrainian wheat will bring about another migration crisis and we need to prevent it by imposing tougher sanctions on Russia. Ensuring that Ukrainian children pursue their education amidst the current situation was seen of paramount importance.


Today refugees, asylum-seekers or Internally Displaced Persons account for 1% of the world population. Delegates stated that it was important to consider the human rights of each and all migrants, no matter their country of origin and the reasons that led them to flee. What emerged from the debate was the wish for better integration policies for refugees and asylum-seekers, in particular with respect to their access to the labour market, acquiring language skills and their education. The WPF will be an important space to share legislations and best practices among PAM countries in particular with regard to non-discrimination, the fight against trafficking in persons and to support the work of civil society.  //