According to Yemen’s National Population Council, maternal deaths in Yemen are the highest in the Middle East. Barely a third of births take place with the help of experienced health workers, and barely a quarter in hospitals or clinics, meaning that most Yemeni women give birth at home with only the help of unskilled health workers, exposing them and their newborns to greater risk.
Equality for women means progress for all. That is this year’s theme for International Women's Day, which falls on March 8 every year. To mark the occasion, we asked women from across the Middle East and North Africa region to share their views on what it's like being a woman in the Arab world; the challenges they face and what they need most to overcome them. After reading their views, we invite you to share yours.
In last week's op-ed for the Washington Post, World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim provided the broader context for the Bank's concern about discrimination in general, and more specifically about anti-gay laws: "Institutionalized discrimination is bad for people and for societies. Widespread discrimination is also bad for economies. There is clear evidence that when societies enact laws that prevent productive people from fully participating in the workforce, economies suffer."
Among the olive groves, almond blossoms, lush grass, and views of small towns nestled on hilltops and in valleys, World Bank colleagues and I hiked a trail in northern Palestine. Ducking into cool, dark, ancient aqueducts used by civilizations centuries ago, we paused for tea brewed by our local guide in a kettle over an open flame. A homemade meal by a local family topped off our trek.
There have been a regular series of meetings in Yemen that gather together women from all walks of life, female politicians, civil servants, current and former cabinet ministers, parliamentarians, lawyers, and representatives of the civil society. I had the chance to attend several of these meetings, as did women from the international community, either female ambassadors or representatives of donor organizations.
Almost everyone has heard of the annual International Women’s Day, but have you heard of the Arab Women’s Day? Although I grew up in Syria, I had not heard of it. When I mentioned this day to my family and friends living throughout the MENA region, most them responded with a confused: “You mean Mother’s Day?”
In a conservative society where the majority of men believe that the role of women should be confined to domestic work within the household, Yemeni women are attempting to break the chains of social and cultural constraints.
If you are up for a challenge, hop on a bus or flag a taxi in one of Morocco’s larger cities. If one thing is certain, relying on urban public transport in Morocco is a frustrating, time-consuming and sometimes risky experience. These were the conclusions drawn by civil society organizations in a recent World Bank-sponsored consultation held in the capital, Rabat.