Fostering Women's Economic Empowerment


Gender parity is not only a fundamental human right but also a fantastic economic opportunity for countries. With women in MENA countries increasingly well educated and skilled, their stronger participation in employment, entrepreneurship and public life could substantially increase growth.

  • MENA women’s participation rates in the labour force are the lowest in the world, varying among countries and averaging around 22%, as compared to more than 50% in OECD countries.

  • Women’s unemployment rates are among the highest worldwide despite low employment rates.

  • Women are well represented in numbers in the public sector but rates of female enterprise creation and development are very low.

  • Few women hold senior and executive positions in the private or public sector.


MENA-OECD Women's Economic Empowerment Forum (WEEF)



The MENA-OECD 2016 Ministerial Meeting in Tunis (English | French | عربي) called for better understanding the full range of challenges facing women in the region and identifying the right policy measures to empower them to fully contribute to MENA economies. The new regional MENA-OECD Women’s Economic Empowerment Forum (WEEF) will bring together MENA ministers and high-level OECD policy makers as well as representatives from business, academia and civil society to exchange experiences and advance concrete actions for policy reform.

H.E. Ms. Sahar Nasr, Minister of Investment and International Co-operation of Egypt (left) and H.E. Ms. Marie-Claire Swärd Capra, Ambassador of Sweden to Algeria (right) are the co-chairs of the MENA-OECD WEEF. 


 >> More information on the MENA-OECD WEEF: English | French | عربي  


The Forum will:


The launch of the new MENA-OECD WEEF will take place on October 8-9, 2017 in Cairo, Egypt.  It will address critical issues such as: equal access to economic opportunities, challenges in implementing legal reforms, gendered data collection, and achieving Sustainable Development Goals and benefit from the input of reputed experts from other regional and international organisations. 

(a detailed agenda of the launch will be available soon)




‌‌‌‌The Forum will open with the release of the new OECD publicatioWomen’s Economic Empowerment in Selected MENA Countries: The Impact of Legal Frameworks in Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Libya, Morocco and Tunisia. This report examines how current legal provisions in Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Libya, Morocco and Tunisia are impacting women’s ability to fully participate in economic life, both as employees and entrepreneurs. It is based on a comparative analysis of the various rights set out in constitutions, personal status laws, labour laws, in addition to tax and business laws. The report recognises the considerable progress made with the adoption of constitutional and institutional reforms to strengthen women’s status, and provides key recommendations to further advance gender equality.

 >> More information about the publication








Past achievements: The OECD-MENA Women’s Business Forum (WBF) 

The MENA-OECD WEEF ensures the continuation of the former OECD-MENA Women’s Business Forum (WBF). Building on the 2007 Declaration on Fostering Women's Entrepreneurship (English | Français | عربي) and the 2009 Action Plan on Fostering Women's Entrepreneurship and Employment (English | عربي), the WBF grew to a network of about 700 participants from MENA and OECD countries governments, the private sector, academia and civil society. The WBF was committed to improving policies encouraging women's entrepreneurship, women's access to finance, exchanges of information and develop support for women's business development services. It facilitated networking for a large number of women entrepreneurs and provided role models to upcoming female entrepreneurs in the region. It collaborated with regional and international instances advocating for gender equality, including notably: the Center for Arab Women for Training and Research (CAWTAR),  the League of Arab States, the Union of Arab Banks, the International Labour Organisatin (ILO), the Union for the Mediterranean, UN Women, and as well as national non-governmental organisations.

>> Read the main achievements and conclusions of key OECD-MENA Women's Business Forum meetings:

  • Women's Business Forum Meeting 2014: Tools supporting women's economic empowerment (English)
  • Women's Business Forum 2013 on nurturing entrepreneurship and improving women's access to services and financing (English | français | عربي)
  • Women's Business Forum and Conference on fostering youth and women's employment in the MENA region 2012 (English | French | عربي
  • Seminar on Women in Private Equity 2011 (English | Frenchعربي)
  • Women's Business Forum 2011 (English)










More OECD Resources

OECD Gender Data Portal



For further information, please contact Ms. Nicola Ehlermann, Head of the MENA-OECD Competitiveness Programme or Ms. Charlotte Goemans, Policy Analyst, Middle-east and Africa Division, OECD.




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