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Middle East and North Africa

Celebrating women entrepreneurs on International Women's Day

Cecile Fruman's picture
WomenX – Taking It To Scale – Women At The Helm


It takes a special type of woman to be an entrepreneur.

I didn’t quite know what to expect when, earlier this year, I met with a group of women entrepreneurs in Karachi who are participating in the World Bank Group’s womenX program. I had read a lot about the low numbers of women running businesses in Pakistan, the challenging environment they operate in, and their many constraints. But I was struck by the positivity and drive of the women I met. They shared with me how they are improving their business and financial practices, building their confidence, and expanding their networks.

Take for instance, Mussarat Ishaq, who runs Al-Karam Packages. Mussarat was a Karachi-based housewife, pregnant with her third child, when her husband divorced her. With no work experience, little education, no money and no plan, she learned the ropes of polythene production and with a business partner, started out small – purchasing the raw material from local markets, using outdated machinery to produce plastic bags, and supplying them to small businesses in their area. Today, they have purchased more sophisticated equipment and they employ 250 employees, working to provide low-cost, high-quality, reusable and environment-friendly packaging materials to Pakistani clients.

Tunisia: Bringing the global market to rural women weavers

Christine Petré's picture
 Aatik

In El Aroussa, a small village in Tunisia’s north-western region of Siliana, a group of women of all ages have gathered in a small pebble house for training. They are all weavers, some more experienced than others, and the aim of the training is t to help local artisans become self-sufficient and to expand the market for their wares by gaining access to global customers.

Why countries in Middle East and North Africa should invest in Youth Volunteering

Rene Leon Solano's picture


There were over 1,000 Lebanese youths together in one large auditorium, all from different communities, confessions and party affiliations. Some were chanting the Lebanese national anthem, waving the country’s flag. Others were holding hands, and screaming every time their pictures or that of their new friends appeared on a large screen. These young men and women all had one thing in common: they put aside their different socio-economic, religious, and political backgrounds and gave up their spare time to jointly identify and implement community projects across Lebanon.

5 Arab women who are breaking down stereotypes and building their countries

Bassam Sebti's picture

There is a horrible old saying in some Arab countries: Women belong to their homes and husbands only. They shouldn’t be educated, work, or have an opinion. This belief, unfortunately, still dominates some areas in the Arab world. But modern, educated, and strong-willed Arab women and men find this saying backward and unfitting.

Women are 49.7% of about 345.5 million people in the Middle East and North Africa region. Some in the West think of these women as zipped up in a tent in the desert, probably beaten up by their husbands, a stereotype many of today’s Arab women fight and prove wrong.

Yes, there are still many barriers remaining in the way of closing the gender gap in the Arab world, but many advances have been made in education, politics, entrepreneurship, labor, and health. Arab women today are entrepreneurs, leaders, activists, educators, Nobel Prize winners, and much more. They are reshaping their societies and building a better road to gender equality and girl empowerment for generations to come.

Here are some of many stories on how women from different Arab countries are reshaping their societies and fighting gender inequality:

Focus on the “day before” to better plan for the “day after”

Raja Rehan Arshad's picture
Recovery efforts from the conflict in the Ukraine can learn much from reconstruction after natural disasters. Photo Credit: Alexey Filippov for UNICEF


Lessons learned over time from post-conflict recovery and reconstruction efforts reflect the need to reinforce stabilization immediately following the end of a conflict.

Being ready in advance with a recovery and reconstruction plan is one way to ensure that critical interventions can be implemented quickly following the cessation of hostilities.This can be achieved to a large extent by coordinating with humanitarian efforts in the recovery continuum during active conflict.
 
Such a plan helps to identify actionable opportunities that can help to support local-level recovery. This includes immediate improvements in services and enhancing livelihood opportunities essential to establishing popular confidence in state institutions and to fostering social cohesion.

Fragility, conflict, and natural disasters – a ‘one-size fits all’ approach to resilience?

Francis Ghesquiere's picture
A partner from the EU assesses damage to an apartment building in Ukraine. Photo credit: EU

It’s a simple yet essential idea: war and disaster are linked, and these links must be examined to improve the lives of millions of people around the world.

Alarmingly, the total number of disaster events – and the economic losses associated with those events – keep increasing. This trend has been driven by population growth, urbanization, and climate change, leading to increasing economic losses of $150-$200 billion each year, up from $50 billion in the 1980s. But here is another piece of information: more than half of people impacted by natural hazards lived in fragile or conflict-affected states.

A Libyan debate show keeps discussion alive

Christine Petré's picture


You never know what you might hear on the Libyan debate show Hiwar Mushtarak, or ‘Shared Debate.’ The show aims to foster an open dialogue about the country’s current challenges and its potential future by bringing together Libyans of all stripes. There are panel discussions featuring a diverse range of Libyan politicians and civil society activists, and the audience is encouraged to engage, giving a voice to ordinary Libyan citizens.

The legal problems of refugees

Paul Prettitore's picture
Refugees - Lukasz Z l Shutterstock

Like other vulnerable people, refugees are likely to encounter legal problems. These problems are often linked directly to their displacement, but also reflect general problems poor people encounter related to family, civil, and criminal matters. The longer a person’s displacement, the more legal problems that tend to arise, especially those problems that are less closely linked to displacement.  And these problems begin to strain local institutions.  The Ministry of Justice has reported increased caseloads of 84 percent in Mafraq, 77 percent in Irbid and 50 percent in Amman, all of which are areas with considerable refugee populations.

To foster youth energy into social enterpreneurship in Egypt, government and international organizations are necessary

Rania Salah Seddik's picture

(c) World Bank GroupYoung Egyptians have an amazing potential that is not yet being utilized. We have a well-established business sector, but with the establishment and success comes an aversion to trying new things. To innovating. While the business sector has made incredible impact on my country, there are still gaps. Gaps in jobs and gaps in services that would allow our most marginalized citizens to escape poverty. This is where entrepreneurs, especially young ones, can help.

4 smartphone tools Syrian refugees use to arrive in Europe safely

Bassam Sebti's picture
Syrian refugee Yusuf holds his smartphone, which he describes as “the most important thing.” With this, he said, he is able to call his father in Syria. © B. Sokol/UNHCR


If you look inside the bag of any refugee on a life-threatening boat trip to Europe, you see a few possessions that vary from one refugee to another. However, there is one thing they all carry with them: a smartphone.

Those refugees have been criticized for owning smartphones, but what critics do not understand is that refugees consider these expensive devices as their main lifeline to the wider world, helping them flee wars and persecution. They are also the tools through which they tell the world their stories and narrate what is described as the biggest refugee crisis since World War II.

The refugees’ escape to Europe is the first of its kind in a fully digital age. It has changed how the exodus is unfolding. Technology used by the refugees is not just making the voyage safer, but also challenging stereotypes held against them. Many Syrian, Iraqi, Afghan, and other refugees fleeing to Europe have shown through their use of smartphones that not all refugees are poor. They flee because they fear for their lives.

Here are a few of many stories on how refugees are using smartphones to survive and tell their stories to the world:


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