Few people will forget the images of people taking to the streets of Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Yemen, and now Syria, to overthrow autocratic regimes. These images belie long-held notions of the lack of popular democratic aspirations in the Arab world. So, too, did images of women, standing alongside men, undercut stereotypes of voiceless, invisible Arab women.
In Tahir Square and Change Square, on the streets of Tunisia and Libya, women and men marched together to demand change and a new order. These were the actions of people seeking a new political future.
How Can the U.S. Help?
Real and lasting change will take time, so we must take advantage of every opportunity to work with our allies to hold to the path to democracy and inclusiveness. We must support national voices calling for women's inclusion and empowerment. This need not be solely direct or financial, moral support in our public and private messaging is key. In addition, helping women build organizational capacity and greater connections to civil society, regionally and internationally, will be vital.
One of the chief lessons of the Arab Spring is that democracy is everyone's business -- women and men, Muslim and Christian, young and old. Success comes when everyone participates. The revolutions were not about pitting one group against another, but people coming together to bring about sustainable societal change for a better life.
This is an excerpt from a longer article in Foreign Service Journal available at http://www.afsa.org/FSJ/0512/index.html#/24/
Follow Melanne Verveer on Twitter: www.twitter.com/MelanneVerveer