Mashreq Conference on Women’s Economic Empowerment

January 19, 2019

Beirut, Lebanon


The Mashreq Conference on Women’s Economic Empowerment will be held on January 19, 2019, at the Grand Serail in Beirut. It will take place at the margins of the Arab Economic and Social Development Summit in Beirut.

The conference will be held under the Patronage and with the presence of H.E. Saad Hariri, Lebanese Prime Minister with high level representation from the Governments of Jordan and Iraq, as well as heads of international organizations, ministers and members of parliament.


  • Gender equality is smart economics, contributing to poverty reduction, strengthening resilience and boosting shared prosperity. In the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, women only generate 18 percent of GDP, compared to a world average of 37 percent, and increasing female labor force participation to the levels of men could boost regional GDP by 47 percent. Today, the majority of women in MENA are jobless, that is facing high inactivity and high unemployment rates. Only 20 percent of working age women participate in the labor force in MENA, compared to 47 percent in middle-income countries and 53 percent in LAC. In Mashreq countries this rate is even lower, ranging from 14 percent in Jordan, 15 percent in Iraq to 25 percent in Lebanon.

    Empowering women and girls has an intrinsic value and is instrumental to achieve more inclusive institutions, sound policies, and effective development outcomes. In the Mashreq countries, important gains have been made in women’s access to education and health, but persistent challenges remain in the areas of women’s economic opportunities, voice and agency.

    Working towards this goal, the World Bank, International Finance Corporation (IFC) and the Government of Canada have come together to support Mashreq Governments’ efforts towards enhancing women’s economic empowerment as a catalyst towards more inclusive, sustainable and peaceful societies, where economic growth benefits all.

    This high-level conference aims to elevate the dialogue and overall awareness of the importance and benefits of enhanced economic participation of women in the Mashreq region, and create a space for the Governments of Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq, in collaboration with the private sector, civil society and development partners, to share their commitments to this agenda. Specifically, the conference will:

    1. Highlight key challenges and constraints to women’s economic empowerment in the Mashreq from a holistic perspective bringing in experiences from the policy side, from private sector and from civil society; 
    2. Identify best practices from different types of stakeholders that address challenges and enhance women’s economic empowerment and participation in the labor force in the Mashreq, and discuss how they can be scaled up and replicated; 
    3. Announce specific country level commitments to enhance women’s economic empowerment that each country will focus on, with clear monitoring and reporting mechanisms (progress to be reported preferably on a yearly basis); and 
    4. Launch the “Mashreq Gender Financing Facility” aimed at supporting client countries in achieving their commitments towards enhancing women’s economic empowerment. 

    It is proposed that this conference become an annual event to review progress and make new commitments each year to advance women’s economic empowerment.



    Description and Objective

    8:30 – 9:30


    9:30 – 10:30

    Welcome and Opening

    ·         World Bank Group

    ·         Government of Canada

    ·         Prime Minister of Jordan

    ·         Prime Minister of Iraq

    ·         Prime Minister of Lebanon

    10:30 – 11:00

    Press Conference

    11:00 - 1:00

    Why Women’s Economic Empowerment is good for Growth: Towards a more enabling policy environment for women’s economic participation in the Mashreq


    Objective: Making the case of the importance of women’s economic empowerment and its contribution to growth. Identify and provide examples of policy changes, including legal ones, that can unblock women’s access to jobs, enable women’s entrepreneurship, and help achieve women’s economic empowerment.

    1:00 – 2:00

    Networking Lunch

    2:00 – 3:30

    Key drivers for Private Sector as a catalyst for providing innovative solutions

    Objective: Highlight innovative, commercially viable, women-empowering business models – including in the banking sector - that have overcome, addressed or circumvented challenges women face in accessing the work force and entrepreneurship space (e.g. access to finance, childcare solutions, flexible-work arrangements, etc.). The session will also present the perspective of the female beneficiaries of private sector initiatives (entrepreneurs) and will explore link between private sector and social and policy change.

    3:30 – 4:45

    Catalyzing social change to enable women’s economic empowerment in the Mashreq


    Objective: Showcase innovative actions from civil society, local government, academia and the media that address existing barriers, social norms and gender stereotypes to change behaviors for increased economic participation among women.

    4:45 – 5:30

    Closing Session:  Gender Commitments and Launch of the Gender Financing Facility


    Objective: Presentation by Mashreq countries to confirm their forward-looking Action Plans to enhance women’s economic empowerment. It will also be the platform from which the establishment of the Mashreq Gender Financing Facility will be announced.


  • The Mashreq Conference on Women’s Economic Empowerment is organized in partnership with:

    • The Government of Lebanon;
    • The Government of Canada;
    • The Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs;
    • The World Bank and IFC.

    The Conference will bring together the following stakeholders:

    1. Ministries and government entities in Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq: Prime Minister’s Office, Ministries of Women’s Affairs/ Labor/ Justice/ Social Affairs/Economy/ Planning/ Finance/ Education…, Mayors, Central Banks, and Women’s National Commissions.
    2. Members of Parliament.
    3. The private sector, e.g. firms implementing initiatives to attract and retain women, business associations and chambers (e.g. commerce, industrialist, private banks), business and professional women foundations, and executive women organizations.
    4. Civil society representatives – international and national
    5. Development partners, e.g. UN agencies, donors, international organizations.


  • Event: Mashreq Conference on Women’s Economic Empowerment
  • Date: January 19, 2019
  • Location: Beirut, Lebanon
  • CONTACT: Nada Dallal