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

Saadia Zahidi
Updated 08 March 2018
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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.”


India launches first sex offenders register amid wave of assaults

Updated 11 min 38 sec ago
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India launches first sex offenders register amid wave of assaults

  • The database will be accessible only to law enforcement agencies and not to the public
  • India was named the most dangerous in the world for women by experts in a survey
NEW DELHI: India has launched its first national register of sex offenders in a bid to stem crimes against women as the country reels from a series of high-profile rape cases.
The database will be accessible only to law enforcement agencies and not to the public, with 440,000 names registered, including those convicted of rape, gang rape, child sex crimes and sexual harassment, according to a home ministry statement.
It will also provide their photos, addresses and fingerprints, without compromising “any individual’s privacy.”
“The National Database on Sexual Offenders (NDSO) ... will assist in effectively tracking and investigating cases of sexual offenses,” the ministry said in the statement late Thursday.
The register comes as a spate of sexual assault cases have rocked the country, which was named the most dangerous in the world for women by experts in a survey published by the Thomson Reuters Foundation in June.
Earlier this week, police arrested the principal and four staff members of a boarding school in northern India over the rape of a teenage student.
Police said they detained four male students for the rape, which left the girl pregnant. The school staff are accused of destroying evidence and covering up the crime.
In southern Kerala state, protests and calls grew this week for the arrest of a bishop accused of repeatedly raping a nun over a period of two years.
In August, police in northern Uttar Pradesh state rescued 20 girls and three boys from a home where they were sold for sex.
That raid came just weeks after police rescued nearly 30 girls who were sexually assaulted and tortured at a shelter in Bihar state.
The urgency to establish a sex offenders register gained momentum following nationwide outcry over the rape and murder of a Muslim girl in a Hindu-dominated area of Jammu and Kashmir state earlier this year.
The accused, all Hindus, are currently on trial.
The case prompted the government to approve the death penalty for the rape of girls under 12, and also increase the prison term for the rape of older girls and women.
Despite various measures, India’s rape epidemic has shown no sign of dying down. More than 100 cases were reported daily in India in 2016, the latest government data shows.
An op-ed piece in the Hindustan Times newspaper on Friday called the new sex offenders register “timely,” but worried the government could overreach and misuse data, and warned it “may tarnish a person’s life forever if he is reformed.”
Many countries, such as the US, Britain and South Africa keep a record of people who have been convicted of sexual offenses such as pedophilia and rape.