The journey for women rights and equality is still ongoing, and even though the world still has a long way to go, one cannot deny the significant strides that the world has been making. Whilst it is reported that we will need around 135.6 years to close the gender gap, there are still countries who are making real change to mend the already wider gap they have.
Despite the fact that Arab countries might be decades away from giving women the rights they deserve, one cannot deny that some Arab countries are working towards giving women these rights. For instance, in countries like Saudi Arabia, where women were once not allowed to open their own businesses without the permission of a male guardian or hold high government positions, women are now able to do so much more than they were 10 years ago.
In February 2017, Sarah Al-Suhaimi became the first Saudi woman to chair Saudi Arabia’s stock exchange. Another empowering example is Tamadur bint Youssef Al-Ramah, the first Saudi woman to become the deputy minister of labor. In February, history was made when Reema Bint Bandar Al Saud was the first woman to become ambassador of Saudi Arabia in the US. Furthermore, as the kingdom witnessed some significant changes on many different levels, there is an apparent surge in the women’s representation in the workforce as well. It is reported that in just two years, the participation of women in the workforce increased from 20% to 33%. In fact, according to The Global Entrepreneurship Monitor 2020/2021 Global report, the number of female entrepreneurs exceeds that of males in MENA with Saudi Arabia leading. With Vision30 shedding light on the importance of empowering women and increasing their roles in the workforce, more and more girls and women are beginning to fulfill their career dreams.
“Vision 2030 changed everything…today, when I look at these young female entrepreneurs, the challenge isn’t regulatory anymore. The challenge isn’t really even financial anymore because the opportunities are there for financial development and support and growth. Mentorship is available. The limitation today is your dream.” - Her Royal Highness Princess Reema Bint Bandar Al Saud
Meet Rasha Alqahtani, a Saudi 18-year-old who is creating a video-game feature to help diagnose teens with anxiety.— About Her (@AboutHerOFCL) August 29, 2021
Her innovative tool, shattering mental health stigmas, won her a behavioral science award in this year’s Regeneron International Science and Engineering Fair. pic.twitter.com/Jecql1rGuP
Changes are also being made in women rights in the UAE. Ranked as the first Arab country and the 18th from 162 countries in its efforts to advance women rights, UAE is paving the way for women to become leaders in so many different areas. UAE’s support of women empowerment in the workforce is also reflected in having 23 Emirati women mentioned in Forbes’ 100 Most Powerful Women in 2020, the highest number of women from the same nationality. The UAE has also actively worked towards having equal pay for both men and women in the workforce. In September 2020, the UAE issued a presidential decree enforcing equal pay for men and women in the private sector for the first time. Not only that but women have a high level of representation in the public sector, in which they hold two thirds of jobs there. In 2015, Dr. Amal Al Qubaisi became the first woman in the region to become president of the FNC (Federal National Council). During that same year, the UAEGBC (UAE Gender Balance Council) was introduced to work towards bridging the gap found in gender inequality. The council's goal was to make UAE one of the top 25 countries leading the gender balance worldwide by 2021, and it proudly achieved that even before the end of 2020. In addition, the first UN Women Liaison office in MENA was in the UAE.
We set a goal for the @UAEGBC to make the UAE one the world’s top 25 countries in the field of gender balance by 2021. Even before the end of 2020, the UAE has been ranked No. 1 in the Arab world and 18th on the @UNDP Gender Inequality Index. pic.twitter.com/zt7nWiEE8s— HH Sheikh Mohammed (@HHShkMohd) December 15, 2020
The road to gender equality might be a long one, but with each passing year governments and businesses are beginning to see the importance of giving women fair and equal chances not only in the workplace but also in life as a whole.
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