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#Get2Equal

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

Bassam Sebti's picture
Also available in: العربية | Español | Français

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:

Say “yes” to evaluation, then communicate findings clearly

Rachel Coleman's picture
Experts who measure the effectiveness of women’s economic empowerment programs recently gathered at the Center for Global Development (CGD) to take on a number of questions—from how to design monitoring and evaluation frameworks to how to translate their findings into accessible lessons learned.
 
CGD Conference Panelists

Leveling the field for women farmers in Uganda

Derick H. Bowen's picture
In Uganda, farming employs a massive 66 percent of the working population and accounts for a quarter of GDP. Population growth is among the highest in the world, with the number of Ugandans likely to at least double by 2050. It would be difficult to overstate  the urgency of creating enough jobs and producing enough food for everyone in this landlocked East African country.

Gender-smart development starts with the right questions (Pt. 2 of 2)

Steven R. Dimitriyev's picture
See Pt. 1: Gender-smart development starts with the right questions

We had great difficulty finding any married female business owners—and learned that under national laws, a married woman couldn’t register a company, open a bank account, operate a business, or own property without the prior written consent of her husband.

Gender-smart development starts with the right questions (Pt. 1 of 2)

Steven R. Dimitriyev's picture
WASHINGTON, May 14, 2015—Six hundred million jobs. That’s what the world must generate over the next decade just to keep up with population growth. And that’s not even counting the 200 million or in developing countries who are jobless now, and the millions more, mainly women, who are either underemployed or shut out of the workforce entirely.

Most of these new jobs will come from the private sector, so private entrepreneurship solves part of the problem. But unleashing the untapped productivity of female entrepreneurs will be essential.

Three Lessons Learned on the Road to Gender Equality

Bahar Alsharif's picture
What is a game changer for women in business and management? That was the topic on everyone's mind at the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) HQ in London this week. I had joined private sector leaders, including representatives from employer organizations around the world, for a one-day conference organized by CBI, the International Finance Corporation (IFC), and the International Labour Organization (ILO). Together, we reflected on latest research, shared best practices, and identified approaches to overcoming "stubborn bottlenecks" in achieving greater gender diversity at top. 
 

​To find solutions for rural women, ask the right questions

Victoria Stanley's picture

Today is International Women’s Day--though personally I think women deserve to be celebrated more than one day a year!

My colleagues and I who work at the Bank on enabling equity in agriculture celebrate women every day and recognize their contributions to their families, communities and countries.  We wanted to use this global celebration to update you on some of the things we’ve learned from our work to make women’s lives better.

Women have a big need for reliable and timely access to technical and market information: We believe that information and communication technologies (ICT) have the potential to completely change rural women’s lives, especially women farmers who often have less access to information compared to male farmers. Our recently completed study , which looked at practical ways to integrate ICTs into agriculture projects in Zambia and Kenya, found that rural and agricultural women have a lot to gain from access to ICTs. However we know that the use of ICTs to help women farmers depends on a number of factors, such as literacy, infrastructure and cost. Among the things we learned: ICT can enhance and expand the impact of  programs for rural women; it is essential to listen and learn through focus groups and other research approaches to understand women’s specific information needs that can be met by ICT; and women often learn better from other women. This study is the first step in a growing program to understand how we can best support women farmers with ICT.

​Putting ourselves in women’s shoes: Experiences from rural Bolivia

Francisco Obreque's picture
Also available in: Español


I recall a visit to a Bank-funded project in a rural Bolivian community. An enthusiastic Quechua woman was proudly telling me that she was about to undertake the 3-hour journey to Sucre with her “wawa” (baby) to get the three price quotes she needed to purchase wire for the community fences. She was participating in one of over 600 investments designed to help vulnerable rural communities in Bolivia lift themselves out of poverty, within the scope of the Community Investment in Rural Areas Project (PICAR) executed by the Ministry of Rural Development of Lands.    
 
“You just have one wawa, right?,” I asked. She replied: “Well, this is the youngest of six children; the others will stay home. My ten-year-old daughter will look after the younger ones. Right now my husband is working in the Chapare, harvesting coca leaves. He only comes home occasionally.”
 
After talking with her I had mixed feelings. One the one hand, I was worried that our gender-targeted project was asking too much of her and might be harming her kids in some way. On the other hand, I realized that it was giving her a unique chance to engage in tasks historically performed by the men.

Why we have to #Get2Equal

Sri Mulyani Indrawati's picture
Also available in: Español | Français | العربية | 中文
Also available in Bahasa Indonesia

Women are emerging as a major force for change. Countries that have invested in girls’ education and removed legal barriers that prevent women from achieving their potential are now seeing the benefits.

Let’s take Latin America. More than 70 million women have joined the labor force in recent years. Two-thirds of the increase in women’s labor force participation in the last two decades can be attributed to more education and the fact that women marry later and have fewer children. As a result, between 2000 and 2010, women's earnings contributed to about 30% of the reduction in extreme poverty in the region.
 
Women are often paid far less than men, while they also perform most
of the world’s unpaid care work. © Mariana Ceratti/World Bank

In fact, for countries to leave poverty behind, both men and women need to get to equal and push the frontiers of equal opportunities even further. But to get there, we need to tackle three issues.

First, violence against women needs to end. More than 700 million women worldwide are estimated to have been subject to violence at the hands of a husband or partner. Domestic violence comes with great cost to individuals but also has significant impact on families, communities, and economies. Its negative impact on productivity costs Chile up to 2% of its GDP and Brazil 1.2%. 

Many girls and women have little control over their sexual and reproductive health: If current trends persist, more than 142 million girls will be married off over the next decade while they are still children themselves.

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