On this day, January 19, 2019, the World Bank Group and the Governments of Lebanon and Canada convened the first high-level Mashreq Conference on Women’s Economic Empowerment. Conference participants representing governments, private sector, civil society, academia, international organizations, multilaterals, and donors noted with concern the low levels of women’s participation in the economy in the Mashreq countries (Iraq, Lebanon and Jordan).
Conference participants expressed their appreciation to the Government of Lebanon for hosting the event in Beirut on the eve of the Arab Summit for Economic and Social Development.
There was unanimous consent among conference participants that gender equality is smart economics, contributing to poverty reduction, peace and prosperity. Participants commended the gains made in the Mashreq countries in women’s access to education and health, but noted the persistent challenges in the areas of women’s economic opportunities, voice and agency.
Iraq, Jordan and Lebanon presented their respective Women’s Economic Empowerment Action Plans and committed to their implementation over the coming five years, and each country defined its target to increase women’s labor force participation rates by 2025.
Recognizing that the implementation of the Women’s Economic Empowerment Action Plans in each of the three Mashreq countries is integrally linked to regional and country development efforts, in accordance with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs); we-, as representatives of international institutions, the donor community, the private sector and multilateral development partners-, commit to support the efforts of the Governments of Iraq, Jordan and Lebanon to advance the gender agenda (SDG number 5) through a “whole-of-government” approach, and to reinforce this agenda as a priority for achieving inclusive growth to eradicate poverty (SDG number 1), and for building peaceful societies (SDG number 16).
The Government of Iraq aims to increase the Female Labor Force Participation Rate by 5 percentage points over the next 5 years, and commits to, inter alia, strengthen its social, legislative and administrative frameworks; incorporate gender in policies and budgets; produce gender diagnostics and enhance the capacity of public administrations; increase awareness among public and private sector employees, and the community at large, on the importance of gender equality; increase the number of female-led SMEs through providing access to finance and simplifying related procedures; and reduce the gender gap in education towards building human capital.
The Government of Jordan aims to increase the Female Labor Force Participation Rate to 24 percent, aligned with the Jordan Vision 2025, and commits to, inter alia, amend the Labor Law and relevant legislations to promote women’s economic participation and expand gender-responsive budgeting; strengthen the capacity to produce gender-sensitive data; support the creation of family-friendly and non-discriminatory work environment; enhance the employment of women in the private sector and increase the number of female-led MSMEs and cooperatives supporting their growth; improve the education curricula to mainstream gender; and launch campaigns to change attitudes towards women’s work and economic participation.
The Government of Lebanon aims to increase the Female Labor Force Participation Rate by 5 percentage points in the next 5 years, and commits to, inter alia, improve the legal framework by amending and issuing laws that impact women’s economic participation in public and private sectors; mainstream gender in policies and budgets; close the gender data gap; increase female employment and retention in the private sector; facilitate women’s access to the entrepreneurship space; increase the number of female-led SMEs; develop programs to facilitate vulnerable women’s employment and protection; equip women and men with market-relevant skills; and implement a comprehensive advocacy campaign to address the issue of gender stereotyping.
Conference participants welcomed the establishment of the Mashreq Gender Facility that aims at enhancing women’s economic empowerment as a catalyst for more inclusive, sustainable, and peaceful societies. The Facility, specifically designed for the Mashreq region, will enable relevant stakeholders to effectively identify and address gender constraints to women’s full participation in society, and will work towards improving women’s access to economic opportunities. The World Bank and the Government of Canada, in close coordination with development partners and stakeholders, will collaborate towards ensuring that the Facility adequately supports the implementation of the Women’s Economic Empowerment Action Plans.
The World Bank commits to support Iraq, Jordan and Lebanon in implementing their Action Plans to achieve their targets. The Bank will continuously engage with all partners and stakeholders, and will mobilize its resources and instruments towards elevating the dialogue and strengthening the ownership of the gender agenda in the Mashreq. The World Bank will work closely with the Governments of Iraq, Jordan and Lebanon to ensure that 100 percent of Bank-financed projects apply the gender lens, through identifying and addressing gender gaps effectively, and will encourage wide inclusion and equitable participation of women and men in country-level consultative processes. In addition, the Bank will produce rigorous analytical pieces for the provision of analyses and data in social and economic sectors, to help inform country policies and programs. Through its Human Capital Project, the Bank will seek to reduce gaps in endowments, particularly access to health and education, and will design operations to enhance women’s and men’s digital skills for meeting labor market needs and achieving a thriving digital economy.
The International Finance Corporation (IFC) commits to work with counterparts in Iraq, Jordan and Lebanon to close gender gaps in private sector participation through: (i) expanding women’s representation across the organizational structure, (ii) boosting women’s economic opportunities by expanding women’s access to finance, and supporting linkages of female entrepreneurs to business networks, (iii) increasing women’s digital access and skills through supporting female tech entrepreneurs; and (iv) supporting better collection and reporting of gender data by both the public and private sectors to inform policies and reforms, and to track progress in narrowing the gaps between women and men in commercial activity, employment, business leadership, procurement, and supply chains.
The Government of Canada commits to support Iraq, Jordan and Lebanon in the further detailing and implementation of the Action Plans, by ensuring that the Mashreq Gender Facility has immediate access to adequate funding, through a contribution of 10 million CAD to the Facility. This funding is part of Canada’s commitment under its Feminist International Assistance Policy to place gender equality and women’s empowerment at the core of Canada’s policies and programming. Canada firmly believes that increasing the participation of women in the economy in Mashreq countries will help reduce poverty and economic disparities, and contribute to more peaceful, prosperous and inclusive societies.
The Second High-Level Mashreq Conference on Women’s Economic Empowerment will convene in Amman, Jordan in 2020.