Economic integration of women in the MENA region

Project description

Title: Economic integration of women in the MENA region (EconoWin)
Commissioned by: German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ)
Country: Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, Tunisia
Overall term: 2010 to 2016

In spite of successful modernisation and progress in the field of education, the countries of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) continue to have the world’s lowest participation rates of women in economic life. In the countries in which the project operates, an average of only 25 per cent of all women are in employment.

Fundamental socio-cultural barriers impede the economic integration of women. In addition, there are institutional and legal barriers, such as poor access to vocational training or jobs in the formal (particularly private) sector, a lack of child care provision, inflexible working times and negative incentives in employment market policy.

Conditions have improved for the integration of women in business and employment in Egypt, Jordan, Morocco and Tunisia.

The project consists of four components:

  1. Changing attitudes and perceptions of women in employment
    In close cooperation with civil society organisations, the project has conducted a media campaign on the subject of women and work in order to promote a discussion of the traditional role perceptions. In all four countries, it screened eight specially produced films, and followed the screenings with public debates in community centres, educational institutions and companies.
  2. Advisory services and implementation of gender-sensitive economic and employment policies
    The partner countries have introduced labour market laws favourable to women and families but these are often inadequately implemented. The project therefore gathers examples of good practice from the private sector and supports the development of new measures to demonstrate the advantages of the greater employment of women.
  3. Economic empowerment of women
    The project has developed a gender-sensitive approach to value-chain analysis. It has carried out seven such analyses in the four partner countries, in selected rural sub-sectors, which it has followed up with support projects.
  4. Professional orientation for women in higher and lower-qualified segments
    The transition from university to employment for women is often hampered by socio-cultural barriers. The project is therefore assisting universities with the creation of mentoring systems for women. Women with successful careers act as mentors for one year, staying in touch with a female student who is preparing for her own start in work. As a financially disadvantaged class, women are given grants as well as support for their training and professional transition.

20 partner organisations have held 325 film events on the subject of women and work, through which they have reached 6,000 participants and secured 200 reports in the media; they have their own website and Facebook page, as well as YouTube and Twitter channels, all of which help reach a broader public.

The project has held roundtable talks in the partner countries, through which it helped over 150 sector representatives discuss publicly the implementation of supportive labour laws for women and families.

Nearly 30 regional business advisors and 25 business associations have been introduced to the concept of gender diversity management. Local companies are currently being encouraged to develop measures to promote women, through a call for submissions to a gender diversity competition.

In the first evaluation of the value chain project in the agricultural sector, a good two thirds of the 250 women involved said they had achieved success with their business, as well as becoming more self-assured and receiving greater acceptance for their work. The Jordanian Ministry of the Interior has integrated the gender-sensitive value chain approach into its rural development policy.

The first year of mentoring in Egypt and Morocco has led to greater self-confidence on the part of the roughly 40 participants in preparation for their transition from university to a career, and has given the young women a better idea of particular jobs.

In Tunisia, some 30 young women from financially disadvantaged backgrounds have received grants. They will benefit from further support to train for, and take their first steps in a career in tourism.