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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.

Humanitarians working on cash transfer and remittance researchers need to work together

Kevin Savage's picture
I had the pleasure of attending a workshop organized by KNOMAD at which a cross-disciplinary group of researchers (economics, anthropology, law, health, finance) came together to consider how to strengthen the evidence base of understanding remittances to and from refugees and IDPs.

Making development work for peace

Saroj Kumar Jha's picture

Welcome to Development for Peace, a blog we are launching today with great ambition, to create a space to listen, learn, think, and ignite a discussion that will help us tackle the challenge of fragility, conflict and violence.

You might ask why the World Bank Group is working in this area. In fact, it’s at the core of our mission to reduce poverty. When the Bank was founded in 1944 towards the end of World War II, it was in recognition that unless there was a massive effort to help rebuild countries impoverished by war, the peace would not be sustainable. Development policies are a central part of peacebuilding and stability efforts.
 

How do we measure impacts of refugees and IDPs on host countries and host communities?

Kirsten Schuettler's picture

Nearly 60 million persons were forcibly displaced worldwide due to conflict and persecution at the end of 2014—the highest number since World War II. Forced displacement is not only a humanitarian issue, but also has important economic, social, political, and environmental impacts on the places of origin and destination. The development impacts of forced displacement, however, remain poorly understood. There is very limited work to date on the socioeconomic impact of refugees on host and regional economies. Social scientists have largely neglected these important policy and conceptual challenges, in contrast to the countless qualitative studies on refugee livelihoods. As the number of protracted displacement situations is increasing, the lack of rigorous impact assessments is a major gap that needs to be filled. Recently, a number of calls for proposals on the topic have been issued and case studies have been undertaken by the World Bank, UNHCR, independent researchers, and other actors. Efforts have also been made to develop a coherent methodology on how to measure the impacts of forced displacement.

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.

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:

Getting Syrians back to work – a win-win for host countries and the refugees

John Speakman's picture
 John Speakman l World Bank

For the last six weeks or so I have been more or less full time engaged in thinking about how we can generate employment opportunities for Syrians in countries that are hosting them, particularly those located in Syria’s near neighbors.  I have reflected on my experience in working on private sector development in Syria nearly a decade ago.  As someone who had worked in virtually every country in the Middle East I was amazed at the country’s industrial potential. 

Counting the costs of the war in Syria

Ghanimah Al-Otaibi's picture


Measuring the impact of war on Syria is an ongoing challenge as the conflict continues to devastate the lives of people and their communities. However, efforts to understand the nature and extent of the damage are essential for identifying immediate needs, and for preparing reconstruction plans that can be launched at the first sign of peace.

Jordan’s Syrian Refugees – what a difference a year makes

Omer Karasapan's picture
 Shutterstock l Melih Cevdet Teksen

In February 2015 a blog in these pages tried to draw attention to the plight of the Syrian refugees in Jordan. This was before the drastic cuts in aid over 2015 by severely underfunded humanitarian agencies and before the massive refugee influx into Europe. For Syria’s neighboring countries, Europe’s “refugee crisis” was only the latest stage of a much bigger crisis they had been weathering since  2011. That same blog had also called for greater outside support for Jordan and its host communities - as well as for the refugees - and there are encouraging signs on both fronts, even as the severity of the crisis continues to grow.

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