Working women across the Muslim world now at 155 million, says economist

Saadia Zahidi
Updated 08 March 2018
0

Working women across the Muslim world now at 155 million, says economist

DUBAI: An incredible increase in female employment in the Muslim world during the past 15 years means that there are now more women working in the region than in the US or EU.

“Just after the turn of the millennium, across the largest emerging markets of the Muslim world 100 million women were working,” said economist Saadia Zahidi, head of education, gender and work, and a member of the executive committee at the World Economic Forum. “Today, that number is 155 million, more than a 50 percent increase in just a decade and a half.”

Speaking exclusively to Arab News ahead of International Women’s Day, Zahidi told how her book, “Fifty Million Rising,” published in January 2018, sheds light on this change in employment patterns through the stories of some of the Muslim women playing crucial roles in their economies.

However, the Western world might continue to view and stereotype Muslim women. She points out that their combined income now ranks them as a major economic force.

“My book is about this remarkable rising of an additional 50 million working women across the Muslim world, focused in particular on 30 economies including many in the Arab world as well as Pakistan, Iran, Turkey, Kazakhstan, Indonesia and Malaysia,” said Zahidi.

“The combined income of the 155 million working women across the Muslim world is nearly $1 trillion, making them the 16th largest economy in the world. As consumers, employees, employers, entrepreneurs and taxpayers, they are a newfound economic power and this in turn is changing both the economy and society in their countries.”

The quality and availability of education for women in Saudi Arabia is much better than many other countries, Zahidi pointed out.

“Half of all university-age women in Saudi Arabia attend university,” she said. “This proportion is more than in Brazil, India and China and is a unique education success story. The potential of this talent
is unparalleled and, if unleashed, it can contribute to the goals of Vision 2030 and the diversification of the economy.

“The changes in regulations around driving and being able to register a business are a good start. More must be done to ensure that women can fully integrate their skills into the economy through employment and entrepreneurship.”

A lack of role models remains a hurdle for many young Arab women but change is happening regardless.

“For many young women who are joining the workforce today there are no working women in their mothers’ and grandmothers’ generations, said Zahidi. “A lack of positive role models is often a drawback.

“However, the positive is that young women in the Muslim world today believe nothing can hold them back. They are trailblazers themselves and therefore extremely skillful negotiators in carving new roles for themselves, setting a new standard in the society around them and inspiring a new generation.”


Arrests follow rape of Indian anti-trafficking activists

Updated 9 min 29 sec ago
0

Arrests follow rape of Indian anti-trafficking activists

  • At least 60 NGOS in four networks are working on a memorandum asking the state to protect activists
  • More recently it brought in the death penalty for those who rape children under the age of 12 following a national outcry over the gang rape

NEW DELHI: Police have made a series of arrests in connection with the abduction and rape at gunpoint of five anti-trafficking campaigners in the central Indian state of Jharkhand early this week.

Khunti police station officials, where the incident happened, told Arab News that three people have been arrested, including the head of the school where the play was being performed. 

Police superintendent Ashwini Kumar Sinha said a leader of a local movement called Pathalgadi instigated the accused, saying that the play performers were against the movement and should be taught a lesson. 

Pathalgadi is a political movement whose followers recognize their village councils as the only sovereign authority and views all outsiders suspiciously.

Activists working in the area say the incident has left them shocked and worried for their safety.

Earlier this week, nine activists were abducted while performing a street play in Kochang village and driven into a forest, where they were beaten and the women raped.

The activists were from the nonprofit organization Asha Kiran, which runs a shelter in the Khunti district for young women rescued from trafficking. Activists say that while such incidents are rare, the abductions have shaken the community.

“There is definitely fear now,” said Rajan Kumar, of Sinduartola Gramodaya Vikas Vidyalaya, a nonprofit group campaigning against people trafficking in the district. 

“But people have to work. We need to do more to take members of the village council into our confidence.”

Rajiv Ranjan Sinha, of the Jharkhand Anti-Trafficking Network, a coalition of 14 organizations, said the incident has frightened everyone.

“We’ve never had to face this before,” Sinha said. “But it will definitely have an implication. New people will be scared to go into the field.”

On Saturday, several non-profit organizations called for a silent protest march at 10 a.m. in the state capital Ranchi on Sunday.

At least 60 NGOS in four networks are working on a memorandum asking the state to protect activists and to take seriously the issue of violence against women.

“We are not only NGO workers, but we are female also,” a spokeswoman said. “There is a lot of fear among workers now.”

India has a poor record of sexual violence against women — at least 39,000 cases were reported in 2016, the latest government data available. Activists say many more incidents go unreported.

The country changed its rape laws and introduced Protection of Children Against Sexual Offences legislation after the rape and murder of a 19-year-old student in December 2012 in the Indian capital.

More recently it brought in the death penalty for those who rape children under the age of 12 following a national outcry over the gang rape and murder of an 8-year-old girl in the northern state of Kashmir.

The girl was kidnapped, drugged and raped in a temple where she was held captive for several days before being beaten to death.