I had never dreamed of getting the chance to pose a question to a president, but I got my chance a few months ago. In September 2012, Yemeni President Abd Rabbo Mansur al-Hadi paid a visit to Washington DC. Having grown up in Yemen, I was intrigued by his arrival. And as a woman, I wanted to hear about his vision for women’s role in the new Yemen.
A forthcoming World Bank report entitled “Building Effective Employment Services for Unemployed Youth in the Middle East and North Africa”, concludes that in order to help unemployed workers in the region obtain the skills required for the available jobs, there is an urgent need to reform existing employment programs.
For defenders of women’s rights in Tunisia, the figure of Tahar Haddad looms large. For generations of women’s rights activists in Tunisia, he has been seen as the brains and heart behind the country’s progressive legal status of women. Houda Bouriel, director of the Cultural Center of Tahar Haddad in Tunis, notes that for Haddad, “a society in which women are not liberated is not truly free.”
This month marks the midpoint of the transition process in Yemen. As agreed upon in the peace initiative in November 2011, the transition will include a national dialogue that brings together a broad geographic and political cross section of the country, the drafting of a new constitution, and concluding with new parliamentary and presidential elections.
If you think you are immune to the lure of a soap opera then try watching an Egyptian soap. At first, you will be amused and perhaps even laugh at all the melodrama, but in the end you will most certainly find yourself wondering: Will Alia expose her evil twin sister? Will Omar learn how to read, propose to his beloved and be accepted by her upper-class family?
With the limited prospects of a formal job, a growing number of young people, especially the less educated ones, are attracted to the prospects of self-employment. It is seen as a way out of inactivity, low pay, long working hours, and the hazardous work conditions often associated with the informal sector. But their lack of access to business training and finance constitute major barriers towards setting up viable micro-enterprises.
The top blog in 2012 was by far the one calling on people to “Join Our Team”. In a region where youth employment is scarce, this call for applications to a new youth program for Arabic speakers at the World Bank received over 3000 views in Arabic and more than twice as many in English.
When the Arab Spring broke out and regimes began to fall under the pressure of their own citizens, a revolution on social media also took hold. During this critical period, the use of Facebook and Twitter was ubiquitous, especially in Egypt and Tunisia. Social networks and cell phones played an important role.
In light of recent political and social unrest in the region, foreign investors are taking a “wait-and-see” attitude to projects in the Middle East and North Africa. For the region’s investment promoters, this demands better, more proactive performance than in the past. Fortunately, although much remains to be done, the investment agencies of the 19 MENA governments are, as a group, off to a good start.