The Paradox of Female Economic Participation in the Middle East and North Africa
The issue of women’s empowerment in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) has gained much momentum over the past few decades. The World Bank selected the topic of gender equality and development as the main theme for its annual flagship publication in 2012, followed by a special report focusing on the MENA region, reflecting the growing importance and the exigency of the topic—especially amid rising political and social uncertainties in the region. These reports, as well as many other studies, concluded that despite mounting efforts toward achieving gender equality, the MENA region continues to rank the lowest worldwide in women’s economic participation and opportunity. It is increasingly clear that focusing solely on educational attainment may not be the most effective strategy for achieving women’s economic empowerment in the region. Several obstacles on the sociocultural, structural, institutional and legal levels must be concurrently resolved to realize full gender parity in MENA.