UN Official to Asharq Al-Awsat: Increasing Support for Saudi Women Heralds Promising Future
Women’s issues are among the major concerns of international organizations and some local governments in the Arab world, where women represent nearly half of the population, according to the statistics of the United Nations’ Population Division in 2018.
In July 2010, the United Nations General Assembly established the UN Women organization, which has become the entity concerned with “gender equality and women’s empowerment”.
In an interview with Asharq Al-Awsat, UN Women acting regional director, Moez Dureid, said he was counting on a “new, conscious generation of youth” to “achieve contemporary gender equality”, despite what he referred to as “the current decline in indicators of women’s participation at the economic, political and cultural levels.”
Dureid noted that Arab women have made progress not only during the past few years, but over the past four decades.
“This was manifested in the scope of raising the capabilities of women, whether through education or health,” he underlined.
This was especially evident in the Gulf Cooperation Council countries, including Saudi Arabia, where women’s education jumped rapidly, and moved from low levels during the sixties and seventies to the global average.
According to the data of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), in 2018, the “highest rate of enrollment of girls in university education was recorded in Saudi Arabia, with an average of 68.48% in 2017, followed by Bahrain with an average of 63.09% during the same year.”
On the other hand, 42% of young women, compared to 23% of young men, suffer from unemployment in the Arab region, according to the UN Women gender and economics training manual, issued in 2017.
The decline in the representation of women in the labor market does not seem justified in Dureid’s opinion. He asserted that the capabilities and productivity of Arab women were “comparable to the highest levels globally, whether for men or for women, as they are similar to the productivity of Arab men, and they often exceed them.”
The UN Women acting regional director attributed the matter to what he described as “social, cultural and legislative obstacles, without which women would be able to move forward.”
“Arab women have proven themselves in some areas of modern work that are not burdened by the consequences of the past, such as the technology sector,” Dureid said.
He explained: “About two thirds of emerging Arab technology companies are led by women, which is higher than in Silicon Valley in California… This highlights the importance of removing old obstacles hindering Arab women’s progress.”
He emphasized that “we find a promising future in Saudi Arabia” in light of the current focus on modern technologies and the increasing support for the role of women in the Kingdom.