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25 Years After Beijing: Women’s Leadership in the MENA Region

Date & Time

Oct. 13, 2020
12:00pm – 1:30pm

25 Years After Beijing: Women’s Leadership in the MENA Region

The Middle East Program commemorates 25 years since the Fourth World Conference on Women and adoption of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, with a discussion of progress on women's leadership and empowerment. Three women experts, Dr. Hala Al Ansari representing Bahrain, Dr. Salma Nims representing Jordan and Mehrinaz Elawady representing ESCWA-UN will contribute their insight into women's political participation with a focus on leadership and decision-making.

Merissa Khurma

We often see women appointed ministers to portfolios that now are called feminine portfolios, such as the Ministry of Culture, the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Social Development,  while other portfolios, such as defense, economy, industry, traditionally go to men. One of the most important conclusions of our work in this particular study is that women are more than ready to be at the top tier of government positions.”

Hala Al-Ansari

“National development will not be possible unless the operations are based on the principles of equitable participation of women and men in public life, and that women's needs are mainstreamed in the national development programs. Indeed the commitment demonstrated by the Kingdom of Bahrain towards the advancement of women is deeply rooted in our history, through which the progress of women is characterized by its early beginnings in education and participation in the municipal elections; in addition to early economic participation and vital sectors of the labor market, such as health, banking, finance, justice, engineering, etcetera. As a result, our country has witnessed escalating progress in women's participation and decision making positions.”

Salma Nims

 “When it comes to the public sector, and this is where I want to focus on, we feel that there is a problem in the entry, sustainment, advancement of women in the public sector. And we know that this is the maker, this is the factory of leadership. We know we have women in leadership in the private sector, we know women have proven themselves even in [the] local community that they are leaders, and [that] they are leaders of change and initiators and decision makers. They are in the security sector as well, but when they start looking for leaders to select for ministers, they do not find women because they are not sustained in the public sector. They do not reach the highest level of decision making in the public sector to actually have a pool of these women. So this is one of the problems then. We do have to ask ourselves why, why we don't have women in this highest level.”

Mehrinaz El Awady

“Networking is important and I think men [are] able to network, not because they do have strong skills in networking that women do not have, but because there are many men who are able to reach senior positions. And by default, if they're going to network they're going to network with each other. Like, if I'm a CEO and I'm a man, I'll be networking with another man because there are not many women as CEOs. So it's natural, in their positions, due to the fact that they were able to reach that. But what’s more important than networking is mentorship, which my colleagues had referred to. And this could be a very complex aspect and it could be as simple as, ‘Get your chair and come sit next to me and let me show you how we're going to do that,’ and providing on-the-job training, which is very important and key to junior people and fresh graduates. And they need that to gain confidence in themselves.”

Hosted By

Middle East Program

The Wilson Center’s Middle East Program serves as a crucial resource for the policymaking community and beyond, providing analyses and research that helps inform U.S. foreign policymaking, stimulates public debate, and expands knowledge about issues in the wider Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region.  Read more

Middle East Women's Initiative

The Middle East Women's Initiative (MEWI) promotes the empowerment of women in the region through an open and inclusive dialogue with women leaders from the Middle East and continuous research.  Read more

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