The notion of empowerment refers to the ability to make choices and is inherently bound up with the condition of dis-empowerment; it refers to a process whereby those who have been denied the ability to make choice obtain such an ability. Thus, empowerment refers to a process of change, a process that is undeniably taking place within the MENA region. The majority of Arab countries are patriarchal, whereby men control most of the resources, however the dynamic is changing as the number of female university graduates within the region continues to increase. Unfortunately, the many strengths and skills of this growing number of educated women are not always translated well within the workplace. Hence it is imperative to have a strategy in place that ensures that the skills of women can be recognized and utilized effectively within a working environment.
Primarily, in order to ensure that women can be truly empowered within the workplace, there must be high-level support and direct top-level policies that promote gender equality and human rights. It is important to ensure that all policies are gender-sensitive in order to advance equality and inclusion by identifying factors that impact women and men differently. It is also crucial to ensure that the working environment is free from gender discrimination. This includes ensuring equal pay, including benefits, for work of equal value and striving to pay a living wage to all women and men. Similarly, it is important to ensure that an organisations recruitment process is gender-sensitive; proactively recruiting and appointing women to managerial and executive positions and to the corporate board of directors is imperative.
In order to fully empower women, organisations should also offer flexible work options, as well as leave and re-entry opportunities to positions of equal pay and status. It is also essential to support access to child and dependent care by providing cost effective services, resources, and information. Respecting the rights of workers and their right to time off for medical care for themselves, as well as those that depend on them, is also important to enhance women's ability to work effectively without having to sacrifice their other responsibilities. In order to empower women, their security at work should be a priority; security staff and managers should be trained to recognize violence against women as well as have a full understanding of laws and company policies on human trafficking, labour and sexual exploitation.
The principles laid out by UN Women and UNGC also highlight the importance of community engagement; promoting inclusion and leveraging influence to advocate for gender equality with community leaders can significantly enhance women's empowerment. Lastly, upon incorporating these principles, it is essential to establish benchmarks that quantify the inclusion of women at all levels; measuring and reporting on progress, both internally and externally, using data that is disaggregated by sex. As highlighted earlier, the empowerment of women in the workforce has multiple benefits, not only for women and their families, but also for communities and organisations. Companies that fail to utilize the skills and knowledge of women within the MENA region will fail to achieve their full capacity.
MENTOR's strategic solutions, organizational development tools, and human capacity building programs promote women empowerment across the MENA region.
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