Arab Spring Opportunities for Women

There is no doubt about the pivotal role played by women in the uprisings in the Arab world in early 2011. However as political transition got underway the message being felt by women has increasingly been to “go home”. 

Asserting the fact that opportunities that arise from the Arab Spring should benefit the whole of society, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) and Women for Women International came together on 20th June to host a conference exploring the creation of economic opportunities for women since the Arab Spring.

Attended by over 150 people, the conference provided a comprehensive overview of the role of women and the many different ways they can both contribute to and benefit from the economy and wider society. 

The notable line-up of panellists debated institutional and cultural barriers to female employment; discussed the success rate of micro-finance schemes; testified to the entrepreneurial appetite of women from the Arab world; and explored the key societal factors for gender equality.

Panellists also showcased practical successes including the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women’s mentoring programme; Womanity Foundation’s Nisaa 96 FM radio station for women in Palestine; and breakthroughs made by Women in Informal Employment: Globalising & Organising (WIEGO), a network of activists, researchers and policy-makers raising the profile of women in informal employment.

The event evoked a great deal of optimism evincing that with sustained momentum, the opportunities for women could significantly progress. During her keynote speech Zainab Salbi, the Founding Director of Women for Women International, emphasised that the ‘magnificent event’ that was the Arab uprising represented a crucial opportunity to champion the cause of women.

 “We are in that pivotal moment – do we capture it and move forward? Or do we regress?”