Haifa Abu Ghazaleh – Jordan

She is one of the 1000 women proposed for the Nobel Peace Price 2005.

She says: “I believe in my personal capabilities, and this pushes me forward to achieve my dreams in protecting and enhancing women?s rights” … and: “During my 30 years of experience in development issues, I was able to plan, supervise, coordinate and implement interdisciplinary development programmes pertaining to community, women, and gender issues in a multicultural environment”. (1000PeaceWomen).

She says also: “The situation for Arab women has improved slightly in all spheres of public and private life. Women’s access to education and health has increased considerably compared to past decades and their participation in the economy, environment and decision-making spheres is steadily growing” … and: “The rights of women in the Arab region are constantly violated….women are still deprived of exercising their basic rights due to unawareness of these rights or simply because of weak monitoring systems to ensure the realisation of their rights. The application of laws is also prejudiced against women since judges, prosecutors and lawyers are generally hesitant to take up cases involving women’s rights because of societal views that these issues ought to be resolved within the family”. (full interview text).

Listen to: Let’s End Violence against Women (UNIFEM, 2007), 1.05 minutes.
Listen to: UNIFEM english PSA, 0.31 minutes.

Listen also to: Malalai Joya’s Speech on Afghanistan in Sydney (Part 3), 9.43 minutes, added March 29, 2007. (see also Malalai Joya on this blog).

Haifa Abu Ghazaleh - Jordan two.JPG

Haifa Abu Ghazaleh – Jordan

She works:

The GFJW has not its own website, but is mentionned in english on the following sites:

For over 30 years Haifa Abu Ghazaleh has worked with governmental ministries, NGOs and UN bodies, striving to integrate women’s economic, political, social and cultural rights into development planning.

Through her work as Regional Program Director (RPD) at Unifem, she has developed programs and projects in the Arab world, supporting issues such as peace, domestic violence, women’s rights and political participation. She invested this opportunity to create a common agenda for gender equality amongst the UN members and government agencies.

As an advocate of human rights and gender equality, Ms. Abu Ghazaleh is inspired and motivated by the situation and living conditions of women in the Arab region, and indeed the entire world. She believes that both human rights and gender equality are fundamental aspects of human security and the very basis of achieving peace. Through her commitment to the human, social and economic security of all, Ms. Abu Ghazaleh strives towards a peaceful today and tomorrow.

The work she does to further goals and aspirations is primarily undertaken through her position as Regional Director for the Arab World with the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), a post she has held since 1998. Her main projects over this period have involved developing a socio-cultural and gender sensitive conceptual framework from which to evaluate policy and programs specific to the Arab region.

She has also given great priority in her work towards two major international projects: the Beijing Platform for Action and the Millennium Development Goals.

The latter projects commit the international community to an expanded vision of development, one which vigorously promotes human development as the key to sustaining social and economic progress in all countries and recognizes the importance of creating a global partnership for development. Through these projects she has also become involved with advocacy surrounding UN Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security.

Prior to assuming her position at UNIFEM, Ms. Abu Ghazaleh worked for almost 30 years at the Jordanian Ministry of Education. Her work on the national level was instrumental in preparing her for a more international profile. As General Director of Students Affairs and International Relations at the Ministry of Education, she eventually became the first woman in Jordan to be a member of the Higher Education Committee. Through such positions, she established partnerships and connections with many UN and other international organizations, which greatly helped her later on in her work towards peace.

She brought this experience of working for communities and women with her to UNIFEM, where she has continued much of the same work, but in a different, broader context. This has allowed her to influence women in different contexts and in different ways. For many female politicians, decision-makers, less-skilled women and students, Ms. Abu Ghazaleh has fought to empower them to participate in the economic, social and political activities that affect them. For example, she has advocated amending the Jordanian Medical Insurance Law to better represent the interests of women and to include children in their medical insurance.

Among other major contributions she made was her promotion of women’s human rights, peace and security and gender equality at both national and regional levels. She has also enhanced the accountability of the Jordanian government regarding migrant workers as she oversaw the introduction of legal amendments to ensure better protection of migrant workers, particularly women. Recognition of her amazing work on this issue came when UNIFEM received the Arab Gulf Programme for International Development Prize awarded for the regional program on Migrant Women Workers. The prize acknowledged her efforts in implementing programs in the Asia Pacific and Arab States.

Ms. Abu Ghazaleh’s commitment to peace and women’s rights was further recognized when she was asked to prepare two presentations on ‘The Language of Peace’ and ‘The Road to the UN Resolution 1325′ for the Peace Coalition in Egypt.

As part of this collaborative effort with the organization, she also produced a paper entitled ‘Investing in Opening a Window of Peace Women: The Sparks for Peace and Tolerance’, which has formed a large part of UNIFEM’s Arab States strategy.

As researcher, regional director, writer, media advocate, and member of many non-governmental organizations, Ms. Abu Ghazaleh has clearly been able not only to raise awareness about the socio-economic and political situations of many women, but also to implement and create actual policy prescriptions which sought to rectify social and familial inequalities. This remains precisely her ongoing goal: to improve the lives and opportunities of women who suffer gender inequalities and entrenched societal prejudices.

Despite her vision of a peaceful world in which women are empowered to be economically self-sufficient, Ms. Abu Ghazaleh encounters a number of obstacles in her work. First and foremost are cultural obstacles that exist between her goals and strategies. For many women in the Arab world, the political and economic situations are such that “women fail to see the protection of their rights, security and freedom, and the recognition and support for their strengths and aspirations”. Regardless of the obstacles, Ms. Abu Ghazaleh says, “I continue to work towards peace because I believe that it is my mission and I have to continue this work until I feel that one day it is fulfilled”.

Perhaps one of Ms. Abu Ghazaleh?s most remarkable achievements was centered around her idea of connecting and comparing the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and Shari?a (Islamic religious law). When she first began to propose the idea amongst her circle of organizations and colleagues, it was almost outright rejected, considered to potentially cause problems with Muslim religious authorities. Determined enough, Ms. Abu Ghazaleh remained steadfast in her belief that not only was the CEDAW and Shari?a compatible, but that there was little difference in principle between the two.

She later initiated roundtable discussions on the relationship between CEDAW and Shari?a in Amman, New York and Saudi Arabia. As part of this project, she also encouraged research and studies on the relationship. Ms. Abu Ghazaleh believes that this initiative has been positively accepted in the Arab world and has become a subject of considerable interest and debate. It was precisely her commitment and dedication to women?s rights that strengthened her to continue her pursuit despite the lack of support. Through her partnerships with governmental and non-governmental organizations, UN agencies and other international organizations, Ms. Abu Ghazaleh?s strategies focus on team-building and networking with a wide range of organizations.

This strategy of broad-based networking has been effective for her since these networks promote commitment and effective, efficient work from all interested parties. Ms. Abu Ghazaleh also strongly believes in networking as a form of resource mobilization to continue striving towards gender equality. “I believe in my capabilities and myself,” she says, “and this pushes me forward to achieve my dreams in protecting and enhancing women’s rights”.

By translating these dreams into realities, Ms. Abu Ghazaleh has affected the lives of women the world over, from Jordan, throughout the Arab world, and across the globe. Her future work on issues related to social justice, peace and gender equality will continue to be basic to her dreams and beliefs. (1000PeaceWomen).

See: UNITAR/ ICT policy issues for development (scroll down).

Read: First ever community radio station in Jordan.

Read: a helping hand.


World Social Forum 2007, a text;

another UNIFEM-page;

Al Sheikha Sabika Reinforces the Ability of Women, 2006;

Arabiyya21 – April 2000;


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