RWI works in the MENA region to improve the application of human rights standards in Arab courts.

How We Work with Judicial Institutes in the MENA Region

My name is Eman Siam. I’m a programme officer for the Raoul Wallenberg Institute in Amman, Jordan.

I am relatively new to the world of RWI. This is my sixth month working in the regional office of Amman. And you know what, although I thought of quitting my job the first three months because the work was overwhelming and different than what I used to do the past 15 years, I realized later this difference is what makes RWI unique. This is the very reason why I decided to stay afterwards.

Our office is composed of four staff members working for a regional program covering seven countries in the Middle East and North Africa and implementing six main activities, mainly related to the “Application of Human Rights Standards in Arab Courts.”

I feel proud that RWI’s staff here are all women who manage to deal quite well in an Arab society known to be patriarchal. Moreover, if we take a look at the number of women members of the national working groups at the judicial institutes in the MENA region, we see that almost 50% of them are women. Furthermore, out of seven judicial institutes, two are presided by women judges, not a bad number considering the cultural and societal constraints and restrictions that women encounter to attain such positions.

Anyhow, away from the gender issues, let me take you this month to the world of RWI Amman office, and perhaps you are curious to know why I think working with RWI Amman is different, inspiring and joyful despite the multi-faceted challenges we face every day in our work.

As one of our partners once said, the added value of this program is that it links theoretical knowledge with practice. The academic activities are not as commonly known, stand-alone efforts disconnected from reality; they become actually the reality after being well translated into meaningful actions. Our cooperation with the Judicial institutes in the region aims at updating the curricula that integrates international and regional human rights standards and values.

A new manual will be produced as such, and trainings on how to use the manual will be organized. This requires a lot of preparatory work, capacity building, coordination meetings, networking, research, literature reviews, analytical and critical thinking, all of which are essential components enabling actors in the justice sector to re-read and re-interpret national laws within international human rights perspective.

It also means that our approach should be strategic and our partners should start simple and small while remaining focused by selecting one area of the law at the beginning, and then subsequently move to other areas.

This sounds ideal and beautiful; however, it also means program officers are always on the go, bearing in mind, working in a regional office requires frequent travel, entailing administrative and logistical arrangements prior and after our departure, but more considerably a heavy load of reporting.

Yet, our office feels like home, we share our lunch, practice our daily prayers, and never miss to laugh and giggle from time to time about our mistakes and shortfalls. I like to be comfortably and freely dressed, however, I keep formal clothes in the office just to be prepared for unexpected meetings.

It pleases me that we have to communicate with our partners in classical Arabic, a beautiful and rich language that I have not used for a while. Moreover, dealing with judges, university professors, faculty deans, experts and civil society organizations lays the ground for an intellectual setting that stimulates thinking and stir up one’s appetite for further knowledge.
Likewise, travelling to different countries in the region helps building cohesion, and benefiting from best practices, hence, molding an international character that accepts diversity, understands differences and ultimately aspires for national peace and prosperity.

I guess this is enough for today, will tell you more during my next post, so stay tuned.

Human rights in PalestineEman Siam (on the left)
Programme Officer
Middle East and North Africa

Eman has over 15 years of experience in the MENA region Including the West Bank, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, Morocco and Tunisia in the humanitarian and development sector. She worked with different international, regional, and local organizations such as the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), Oxfam GB, the United Nations Operations for Projects Services (UNOPS), the European Commission (EC), Canada International Development Agency (CIDA), Save the Children UK (SCUK) in addition to a number of regional Arab and North African non-governmental organizations and institutions. Her work focused on human rights and peacebuilding, prisoners’ rights and protection of detainees, rehabilitation of victims of torture, juvenile and women’s justice, civil society capacity building including operational management.

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