The low participation rates of women in the workforce in the Middle East and North Africa, lower than any other region in the world, has puzzled analysts for some time. A number of competing causes have been identified, ranging from Islam and geography to natural resource wealth and the character of MENA institutions. Yet what’s missing from the debate so far is an analysis of the microeconomic constraints limiting women from entering the workforce.
Children & Youth
The political transition in Egypt has gone through many phases, but the ability to deliver on the demand for bread, dignity, opportunity and social justice that epitomized the 2011 revolution will continue to stand as an arbiter of its ultimate success. This will be especially apparent in the distribution of economic opportunities and how they are shaped by public policies.
After several months of planning and consultations with our partners, which started in May 2011, the Egypt Development Marketplace (DM) was launched on November 8, 2012. As part of the outreach strategy, the Egypt DM team organized a series of information sessions in four of Upper Egypt’s major cities; Asyut, Qena, Aswan and Minya. The sessions were co-organized and co-hosted with Egypt DM partners International Labor Organization, Social Fund for Development, Sawiris Foundation, and others.
What if the hokey pokey is really what it’s all about? Last summer, the World Bank (thanks to the Youth Innovation Fund!) teamed up with Reclaim Childhood to host a sports camp for young girls in Jordan. Over the course of four weeks, 400 young girls from refugee communities in Amman attended the camp, learned new sports, and played games. What made camp especially unique was the cultural diversity of its campers and staff.
Last Thursday I had dinner with my friend Youssef. He told me he was disappointed with the way things were turning out in his country. A young Tunisian educated at the Sorbonne, Youssef took leave from his cushy management consultant job to volunteer for the government after the revolution. Like Youssef many Tunisians feel disillusioned. I replied that now is the time to redouble the efforts.
During our research for a report on climate change in the Arab world which will be released in Doha next week, I travelled the region extensively. I met a number of people struggling bravely against higher temperatures and sporadic rainfall, but it is really the children who tell the most eloquent stories about the negative impacts of climate, now and in the future.
Across MENA countries people are striving to improve their livelihoods in the face of multiple risks, ranging from economic crises, conflict or natural disasters, to unemployment, disability, and illness. For them, institutions that offer a chance to escape poverty and help build their resilience to crisis are essential. Key among these institutions are safety nets. This historic moment inspired our team to prepare the forthcoming report Inclusion and Resilience: The Way Forward for Social Safety Nets in the Middle East and North Africa.
“It’s messed up, I had to lose an eye to see things clearly” Alia said, shaking her head. My charismatic and confident classmate then carefully tucked her hair under her veil. “Bushwick Bill?” I asked. She smiled and showed off her perfect row of teeth. “Yes!” She seemed pleased, yet slightly embarrassed that I had noticed that she was quoting an old-school rapper.
It has been a year since WaterHackathon Cairo took place, bringing together Egyptian technologists with water specialists to brainstorm innovative ICT solutions for Egypt’s biggest water challenges. Since then, one of the WaterHackathon winners—Team Abu Erdan—has successfully turned their idea for a mobile farming tool linked to the cloud into a full-fledged mobile platform.
Similar to their peers around the world, young Palestinians do equate schooling with the prospect of getting good jobs. But what is most striking is that education has become a source of self-worth and social recognition. In the words of one young man from Old City in Hebron, “When you have a degree you have your respect wherever you go.”