Bahraini women weaving. Photo courtesy of Sophie Middleton.
Women’s economic integration and empowerment is a global issue
that has a particular resonance in the Arab world. Women represent
just one quarter of the labor force, and less than 1 in 7 of the
5,887 firms in 10 MENA countries surveyed by the World Bank between
2003 and 2010 were female owned.
To celebrate and catalyze organizations who are “being the change”, Ashoka Changemakers and General Electric recently launched The Women Powering Work: Innovations for Economic Equality in MENA competition (which also includes Afghanistan, Turkey and Pakistan). The deadline is next Wednesday, November 6th. Interested parties can apply here.
Encouragingly, there are many examples to look to if you need some inspiration!
Starting with the two Early Entry Prize winners that were awarded by Ashoka last week, here are 12 initiatives working to empower women in the Middle East:
Roudha Center is a one-stop-shop for women
entrepreneurs in Qatar that is focused on fueling the economy
through entrepreneurship and providing a holistic approach to
equipping women with the skills, knowledge and confidence they need
Women’s Digital League is a women-owned
digital services firm that economically empowers Pakistani women-
even in the most remote areas of the country- without them having
to leave their homes.
is a Saudi-based social enterprise that aims to drive women’s
participation in the Saudi workforce. The first portal dedicated to
female recruitment in the GCC has already placed 3,000 women in the
workplace and found work-from-home employment for another 500. SAS
Holding recently invested around $16 million in Glowork, which will
help scale its model across the Arab world.
Women in Technology (WIT) is a Beirut-based
organization that acts as a platform to empower professional women
by encouraging them to use ICT to enhance their exchange of ideas
Trochet – which is a
combination of the word “trash” and “crochet” is upcycling women
out of poverty. The project gathers recycled plastic bags and sends
them to low-income women to knit or crochet into creative designs
and products like coasters, bean-bag chairs, or even new bags. The
proceeds from the products support the women.
Artistry Egypt, which was a semi-finalist at
the MIT Enterprise
Forum Arab Business Plan Competition last year, provides
artisan training to low-income communities. Artistry Egypt trains
female youth to make handmade carpets and high quality eco-friendly
- Ruwwad is a
community empowerment organization founded by a group of
entrepreneurs to help disadvantaged communities overcome
marginalization. Ruwwad’s women empowerment program operates in
Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt and Palestine, providing women with
education, income generation and social justice.
- How Women
Work in Qatar empowers women to grow and succeed while
breaking down barriers and promoting understanding between cultures
and genders through conferences that create a sense of community
Diva Events & Media aims to empower Bahraini
women, by marketing their products, and positioning them as local
and international leaders.
Youth Organization - with support from the Cherie
Blair Foundation for Women and other leading organizations in
Nablus and Lebanon - provides women with customized
entrepreneurship programs focusing on skills and personal
development. In cooperation with the PalTel Group Foundation, they
also offer Women’s Incubation Services for Entrepreneurs
Byoot which means “Women of the Home” is an online
portal that provides socially disadvantaged women in Jordan with
the opportunity to sell handmade goods ranging from gold-accented
abayas to wicker baskets. The social enterprise provides training
in sales and online marketing to the women and offers them
incentives as well.
- Wamda for Women: in addition to featuring women entrepreneurs on its portal, W4Women organizes a roadshow of two-hour roundtable discussions across several Arab cities, to debate the challenges that women entrepreneurs face, focusing on how women can lead the way in supporting each other and effecting change.
The Women Powering Work competition will accept entries up until November 6, 2013, 5pm EST. The initiative seeks social entrepreneurs who are enabling women to achieve full economic equality, strengthen their families and communities, and benefit equitably from economic growth. The entries will be evaluated based on innovation, social impact, and operational sustainability.
Three prizes, each totaling US $25,000 in
unrestricted funding, will be awarded to the winning entries.
We look forward to meeting the winners. In the meantime, please add your favorite women's initiatives in the comments section below!