The last OECD-MENA Women’s Business Forum Annual Meeting and Conference on Fostering Youth and Women’s Employment, that took place this fall 2013, sought to identify actions to support women’s entrepreneurship development in the MENA region, and to boost skills and jobs for women and the youth. During the last three forums that took place each year at the same period, the Women’s Business Forum focused on the importance for women to access financial education, in order for them to know how to build a proper entrepreneurial plan.
The MENA region participants this month of november, gave also their input on the current economic and political context related to women’s economic situation. In light of this , participants decided to address barriers to women’s economic opportunity. This will include projects to monitor and improve knowledge on entrepreneurs’ access to financing and business development services. The Women’s Business Forum will also work on developing synergies and building partnerships with local, regional and international organisations involved in women’s economic empowerment.
Following a morning session dedicated specifically to the Women’s Business Forum’s activities, an open afternoon session discussed public and private sector actions to promote jobs and skills for youth and women.
All the delegates and Participants OECD MENA and on the left in brown the tunisian Delegate Fériel Berraies Guigny President UFFP
But women aside from lacking education on financial opportunities and bearing in mind the disastrous consequences of the » arabic spring » on them, have also to bear with some persistant taboos: cultural, gender equality and religious dogmas. If women tend to have difficulties to build good projects and business plans in the long run and if they are not very visible at the economic level, it certainly is not due to the fact that they are not competitive enough, but because paradigms have changed for them with islamist fundamentalism. A subject that OECD MENA seemed to « avoid »‘ during this last session, certainly politically « incorrect » !
But certainly Tunisia being a counter example in the arabic map, we have to consider this historical subtility.
Tunisia has or had we should say, all the legislative field to enable women to be reliable entrepreneurs, but political unrest is jeopardising all our rights. So it is hard in such circumstances, to build and predict the future in an entrepreneurial coherent way.
For this last session of the Business Forum, it was convened to try to identify a pilot project that could be adapted to each country of the region in order to attract financial institutions and potential partners that could potentially help women to enter this very competitive world. Financial institutions would also allow the OECD to have a clean outlook of what’s really happening in terms of statistics on women employment.
As we commonly know, when women have access to financial credits, they are responsible, reimburse fast and easily, so what is really lowering their access to the markets in reality ?
Here are the key speeches of some of the participants, prior to agreeing to key outcomes
Gabriela Ramos OECD Chief of Staff and Sherpa
With the financial crisis in the world, it is more and more difficult to find ways to push women entrepreneurs. So How can we find the proper tools in such circumstances? Yet if we want any society to move on, creating job opportunity is crucial because it will allow proper sustainable development and will increase economic growth.
Soukeina Bouraoui President of Cawtar
Only 3 % of women in the Women in the MENA region benefit from microcredit. When we speak of the difficulty of access to microfinance, even in presence of laws in Tunisia or Morocco, we must also bear in mind that one of the causes are the non-access of information “Acessing financial information for women can be very challenging in the region” explained Soukeina Bouraoui. Yet it is fundamental, like for democracy in a society. All this, includes informations provided by banks to clients, knowing the rules, the financial possibilities of investment etc
Nicola Elerhman Cache Program Coordinator OECD MENA Women Business Forum
The Women’s Business Forum of the OECD MENA is three years old now and is starting to be recognized, even more now with the launch of the book that was the result of a joint effort of the OECD MENA business Forum and the women participants. This book gathered the conclusions and key notes of the three years and will be examined by a steering Committee. This document is crucial because it will help giving ideas and foster initiatives that will hopefully create female entrepreneurial initiative. As well a creating employment for women of the region. This will help also bring the good reforms needed in the Arabic societies.
As key outcomes, OECD-MENA Women’s Business Forum members agreed to:
Nominate Ambassador Birgitta Holst-Alani, Director of the Swedish Institute in Alexandria, Egypt, as the new OECD country Co-chair;
Build up local task forces, develop pilot projects to respond to emerging challenges, and seek new support and partnerships from business, government and civil society;
Launch a pilot financing project to monitor the impact of funding set asides for women entrepreneurs, with the support of the General Confederation of Moroccan Enterprises, the French Banking Federation, and the Union of Arab Banks;
Develop a stocktaking of business development service provision for women entrepreneurs in the MENA, with a view to identifying good practices; and
Collect information on existing initiatives supporting women entrepreneurs in MENA economies and support knowledge-sharing between them.
The conference brought together over 80 participants, representing business, government and civil society from 11 MENA and 11 OECD economies.
Women’s Business Forum :
Since its inception, the Women’s Business Forum has sought to mainstream women’s issues in broader policy dialogue on business climate reform. A draft version of the event’s conclusions (were presented at the Steering Group meeting of the MENA-OECD Investment Programme held on 22 November, thereby helping to achieve this important goal.
An online directory of initiatives supporting women entrepreneurs in 18 MENA economies is currently under development. The online directory will list the names and websites of initiatives that offer business support, financing and networks to women entrepreneurs. It will also help fill an important information gap by hosting contact information and addresses of initiatives that do not have dedicated websites.