Answers of Mrs. Judith Neisse

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Judith Neisse is the new director of the 'Euromed gender equality' program. Interested in women status since the beginning of her career, Judith Neisse has worked on gender issues in Mediterranean countries within the framework of projects funded by the EU, the Belgium cooperation, the German cooperation and the UNDP.

Biography of Mrs. Judith Neisse

  • Judith Neisse has an M.A. in Languages and Civilization of the Arab-Muslim World.
  • In 1995, she cofounded an NGO named “Action in Mediterranean”, which aims at promoting women rights in Mediterranean countries and enhancing dialogue between women living in conflict zones.
  • From 1994 to 1997, Judith Neisse worked as an expert at the European Commission (Directorate General, External Affairs) where she was in charge of the creation of the “Euromed Heritage” regional program that aims at promoting cooperation in the field of cultural heritage between the EU and its partners of the South and the East of the Mediterranean.
  • In 1998, she creates MEDIANA, a consultancy office specialized in community-based programs related to vocational training, equal opportunity, culture, new technologies and international cooperation.
  • In 2009, Judith Neisse was chosen as the director of the “Euromed Gender Equality between men and women” program.

Answers of Mrs. Judith Neisse


1. To whom falls the task of fighting for gender equality? Man or woman? What responsibility each of them is called to assume?

In everyday life, equality begins in the private sphere. Equitable sharing of responsibilities is defined within the couple and the family, with a line of conduct on the basis of equal rights and equal obligations beyond individual differences. However, love and mutual respect are not sufficient. Sometimes the influences of the past and traditions have repercussion on mentalities. It is thus the role of public institutions and civil society to carry on. Each government holds legal and political responsibility towards the principle of equality between all citizens: human rights are women’s rights too.


2. Do Southern Mediterranean women show reluctance or apprehension regarding projects carried out to improve their situation?

Just like some men, some women are affected by the mentality prevailing in their country. Others express a desire for improving their conditions and obtaining entire emancipation, in spite of their social background. They all have the right to equality. This is why the adoption of international rules and universal values of equality is an essential issue. Citizenship education and governments’ volunteer approach will help destroying psychological fences.

3. What type of activities is being implemented in Southern Mediterranean countries within the framework of the Euromed Gender Equality program? Can you give us an example of a project that reached, in your opinion, the heart of the problem and contributed to its resolution?


The program has an atypical approach. It is addressed to state actors in charge of equality policies. It offers an accompaniment in the form of expertise services, studies, training sessions and capacities reinforcement so that they can be able to improve the situation in their country and then in their region, as they know it better. The program does not allocate grants for short-term projects, like other initiatives do. We work on social changes, and this takes time. Currently, we are collaborating with many countries to analyze the situation of women in each of them and to lead studies about gender-based violence, according to common criteria and methodologies. Later on, action plans will be drawn up at a national and a regional level.

4. Are differences in perception between women from the two shores of the Mediterranean a hindrance to cultural exchanges in the framework of the Euromed program?


Dissimilarities and diversities are never a hindrance but challenges and opportunities for mutual learning and co-development. Division no longer exists between the “North” and the “South”, but between Mediterranean countries that adhere to international norms and values, and those who are still resisting the advantages of equality.

5. Should we reread religious scriptures in order to shed light on gender equality, considering that those who contest women and men equality pretend that it is a religious prescript?


Textual exegesis allows a rereading and a reinterpretation of millenary scriptures according to contemporary norms. And these texts should be aligned to international rules and conventions, which promote human and women rights.

6. We are interested in the Euromed initiative, but it seems difficult to take part in it. How is it possible, for example, to answer the needs of Moroccan NGOs, especially those working to promote women’s rights?


Our program works with public entities. However, there is another Euromed regional program (Investing in People – Euromed Gender Equality) that allocates grants to civil society actors for the same purposes.

7. In spite of the numerous initiatives launched by Human rights associations and the projects carried out by the EU, rates of violence against women are continually increasing in the Arab world. Are the reasons behind this situation cultural, social or religious?

Gender-based violence is an international and a global phenomenon. On one hand, it is related to historical factors (tradition and culture). On another hand, only a legal and an economic autonomy could help women escape violence. With education and better legislation, their struggle will be facilitated.

8. Do you think that gender equality is still relevant today? In Tunisia, for example, women benefit from men’s rights and in the same time, they do not assume same responsibilities: they don’t serve in the army; women are allowed to remain home under the protection of fathers until marriage, whereas men are automatically considered responsible for themselves from age 20… These are few examples of special privileges that women enjoy, what else are they asking for?

The world equality infers that equal treatment is essential before the law. It also leads to a mutual respect. Such perception excludes privileges and discriminations towards one group or another.