In the SCEME office, we’re often consumed by passionate discussions about the importance of continuing our work to promote women’s participation in society. Not just because women’s participation is an absolutely fundamental right – because it is – but because this is the only way to secure a better future for all. This week, Trust Law Women hosted a ground-breaking conference to put the rule of law behind women’s rights. Noting the importance of tackling global discrimination of women, Monique Villa opened the two day event by reminding men and women from the legal, financial, government, corporate and non-profit sectors that:
And it’s true.
In short, there is a growing body of evidence that shows that enhancing women’s participation improves the economies of their countries, increases their family income, boosts their children’s standard of living and increases the possibility that their daughters will benefit from secondary and further education, thereby securing better lives for their own future families.
Great strides have been made towards the empowerment of women and their families in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. Primary school enrolment is high or universal in most MENA states; the gender gaps in secondary school enrolment have already disappeared in several countries and women are also more likely to attend university than previously. However, despite these improvements, most MENA states are still much more likely to have lower levels of women’s education and labour force participation than other regions with similar income level.
Efforts to improve the participation of women and girls in Middle Eastern and North African societies needs to move past roundtable discussions, rhetoric and discussions over coffee at high level conferences. We need real social programmes and governments need to take real action. Only by putting women’s empowerment and gender equality at the heart of all government policies can the region we are so committed to begin to see the change it deserves.