WEF praises slow but sure progress in closing Saudi ‘gender gap’

Saudi women work inside the all-female call center in Riyadh. (File photo)
Updated 11 November 2017
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WEF praises slow but sure progress in closing Saudi ‘gender gap’

DUBAI: Saudi Arabia is making slow but steady progress toward closing the “gender gap” between men and women in employment, education and health, according to the World Economic Forum (WEF).
The WEF expects the recent decision to allow women to drive in Saudi Arabia to hasten their participation in society. But women remain well behind global norms in political participation.
Although Saudi Arabia still ranks toward the bottom on the WEF global index of progress toward closing the gender gap in public and social life, it has improved three places over last year to rank 138th globally, and is among the biggest improvers in the years since the report first appeared, according to Saadia Zahidi, the WEF’s head of gender and education.
“Saudi Arabia has actually made the most progress in terms of female economic participation since the report began in 2006. Admittedly it came from a low base, but proportionately it has been significant,” she told Arab News.
“We will only see the effect of the decision to allow women to drive next year, but you can expect that to be positive,” she added.
Another WEF source said: “This report shows how Saudi Arabia is slowly but surely paving the way for a stronger society where women are given the opportunity to live their full potential. Also, keeping in mind all the reforms happening at the moment, next year’s report results seem to be even more promising.”
But it has not been a good year for women elsewhere in the world. For the first time since the WEF report was launched in 2006, the “gender gap” — a measure of progress toward gender equity according to economic, educational, health and political criteria — has widened compared to last year.
Calling it “a bad year in a good decade,” the WEF said that gender equality had decreased in the workplace and politics, especially in some countries with big populations like China and India, which affected the weighted totals.
Among the G-20 countries, France is ranked highest on gender parity at 11th place in the global ranking, followed by Germany (12), the UK (15), Canada (16), South Africa (19) and Argentina (34). The US drops four places to 49, while at the lower end of the group, no fewer than six countries rank at or above 100. These are China (100), India (108), Japan (114), the Republic of Korea (118), Turkey (131) and Saudi Arabia (138).
Overall, 68 percent of the global gender gap has been closed — down slightly from the previous two years — and it will still take 100 years to fully close that gap worldwide, the WEF said.
In the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), at the current rate of progress, it will take 157 years to close the gap.
The country closest to fully bridging the gender gap is Iceland, followed by Norway and Finland. Rwanda, with a high number of female politicians, is in fourth place.
Among Arab countries, Tunisia is the highest ranked at 117, followed by the UAE at 120 and Bahrain at 126. “However out of the 17 countries covered by the index in the MENA region this year, 11 countries have improved their overall score compared to last year. The UAE is now very close to closing its gender gap in educational attainment,” the WEF said.
Zahidi said that the lifting of the driving ban in Saudi Arabia was an important factor toward greater female empowerment, but that other measures — like improved, safe public transport and remote digital working — would be needed to help lower-paid women.
She added that the history of Islam had many examples of powerful women who played a full part in business and society.


Muslim World League chief, Morocco leader issue warning on extremism

MWL Secretary-General Mohammed bin Abdul Karim Al-Issa meets Morocco’s Prime Minister Saadeddine Othmani. (SPA)
Updated 19 July 2018
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Muslim World League chief, Morocco leader issue warning on extremism

  • Al-Issa and Moroccan Islamic leaders reviewed the Sharia and intellectual prospects of the discourse of Islamic moderatio
  • The MWL signed a research and data-sharing agreement with Morocco’s Mohammadian League of Scholars to encourage enlightened Islamic speech and combat extremism

JEDDAH: Moroccan Prime Minister Saadeddine Othmani and Mohammad bin Abdul Karim Al-Issa, secretary-general of the Muslim World League (MWL), discussed joint counter-extremist measures during a meeting on Wednesday.

During their discussions, the two men agreed on the importance of cooperating to support moderate discourse against extremist rhetoric.

Al-Issa also visited the Moroccan House of Representatives and met with its speaker, Habib El-Malki, to explore areas of cooperation.

The MWL chief met with Moroccan Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation Nasser Bourita in Rabat and discussed matters of mutual interest.

He also met with Minister of Justice Mohammed Aujjar and discussed topics related to the concepts and controls of freedoms and its association with intellectual discourse.

After that, Al-Issa and his delegation were invited to a luncheon hosted by the president of Morocco in celebration of their visit.

Al-Issa also met with Moroccan Minister of Endowments and Islamic Affairs, Ahmed Al-Tawfiq, to explore areas of coordination and cooperation.

They also reviewed the Sharia and intellectual prospects of the discourse of Islamic moderation.

The minister then hosted a dinner to celebrate Al-Issa’s visit.

The secretary-general visited Dar El-Hadith El-Hassania Institute and met with its director, Ahmed El-Khamlichi.

He also visited the Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization in Rabat to meet with its officials and learn about its programs.

Al-Issa held several meetings with a number of senior Moroccan scholars and intellectuals and discussed ways of cooperation, especially with regard to Muslim communities in foreign countries and the need to raise religious and intellectual awareness among them to reflect the values of Islam and protect them against radical, extremist, and terrorist ideas.

On Tuesday, the MWL signed a research and data-sharing agreement with Morocco’s Mohammadian League of Scholars to encourage enlightened Islamic speech and combat extremism.

Along with information sharing, the agreement includes joint scientific research and publishing initiatives, and invitations to take part in conferences, panel discussions, cultural programs, and joint training programs and workshops. 

A committee from both organizations will decide on an annual executive program to identify joint projects.

The agreement follows an international conference hosted by MWL with the Mohammadian League of Scholars under the theme “Deconstruction of Extremist Discourse.”