Fostering Women's Economic Empowerment


The WEEF brought together high-level MENA and OECD policy makers and representatives from business, academia and civil society for an interactive and action-oriented discussion around the central themes of good practices on legal reform and enforcement, gender sensitive data gathering, gender mainstreaming across policy areas, and financial inclusion. 

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.
Recently, countries throughout the region have made changes to their legal frameworks in favour of women. The 7 March 2018 OECD session on March on Gender: The Impact of Legal Frameworks on Women’s Economic Empowerment around the World showed that the MENA region is a front-runner in terms of awareness on gender equality and women’s empowerment as compared to other regions where the debate might be much more under the radar. 

All countries of the MENA region have committed to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, which represent important opportunities for the region to accelerate action on gender equality and women’s empowerment.

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

The MENA-OECD Competitiveness Programme has been working for over a decade to advance women’s economic empowerment in the region. In 2009, it created the OECD-MENA Women’s Business Forum (WBF), which grew to become a network of over 700 participants from MENA and OECD governments, international and regional organisations, the private sector, academia and civil society.  Building on the WBF, a new MENA-OECD Women’s Economic Empowerment Forum (WEEF) was launched in 2017 in Cairo under the aegis of its co-chairs, H.E. Dr Sahar Nasr, Minister of International Co-operation and Investment of Egypt and H.E. Marie-Claire Swärd Capra, Ambassador of Sweden to Algeria. 


The WEEF has the following main objectives:

  • Provide a regional network for government and non-government representatives from OECD and MENA economies to foster discussions on challenges and opportunities related to women’s economic empowerment in the MENA region. 
  • Monitor countries’ policy actions and regulatory developments, taking account of policy recommendations and standards to advance equality, non-discrimination and women’s economic and social inclusion.
  • Identify strategic data collection needs to assess women's economic empowerment and provide support for strategic gender data development and collection.
  • Building on the MENA-OECD Competitiveness Programme, ensure gender mainstreaming in critical policy areas such as investment, trade, employment, skills, entrepreneurship or support to conflict affected economies.

The WEEF works in close collaboration with international and regional organisations advocating for gender equality such as UN agencies, the League of Arab States, CAWTAR, the Union of Arab Banks, and the Union for the Mediterranean.


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