Deputy Secretary General of the Union for the Mediterranean (UfM) in charge of Social and Civil Affairs Laurence Pais stressed on Monday the importance of women's empowerment and increased involvement in economic activities, particularly in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, which has the lowest participation in economy in the world.
"It is widely recognized that women's empowerment is a precondition for prosperous, stable and sustainable societies. Strong evidence shows that increasing gender equality can enhance productivity and improve the performance of businesses and institutions", she said in an interview with Petra.
Pais said that the OECD (Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development) estimates that by further enabling women's economic empowerment, the MENA region could increase its GDP per capita by 25 percent, Petra reported.
She said that the project "Promoting women's empowerment for inclusive and sustainable industrial development in the MENA region," promoted in collaboration with UNIDO as part of the UfM Mediterranean Initiative for Jobs. It involves seven Southern and Eastern Mediterranean countries, including Jordan, and is the first regional best practice with an integrated approach to support women's entrepreneurship in the region.
She said that the project offers technical assistance to women entrepreneurs in order to create and grow their businesses and directly promotes women-led investments through training, coaching, identification, and facilitation of business partnership opportunities and access to finance.
Pais also referred to a recent gathering by more than 70 women entrepreneurs from the project in Barcelona for the Mediterranean Week of Economic Leaders, where they exchanged experiences and explored business partnerships and investment opportunities through networking activities and field visits.
She cited lack of access to finance as one of the main obstacles women face. "As part of the project, we are promoting with UNIDO (United Nations Industrial Development Organization) a survey targeting 1,200 women entrepreneurs from the region", she said, adding that among other conclusions, the main obstacles to entrepreneurship that were found are a lack of financing, lack of access to markets and lack of good networks.
"More and continued efforts are, therefore, needed by all stakeholders, to address these challenges. This is why the Union for the Mediterranean has put women's empowerment at the heart of its strategic priorities for the enhancement of regional cooperation in the Mediterranean" she pointed out.
Pais said that under the "active leadership" of the UfM Co-Presidency, currently assumed by the European Union and Jordan, and mandated by the ministers of its 43 member states, notably through the Ministerial Declarations of Istanbul, Marrakech, Paris and very soon in Cairo, the UfM has been "actively setting a regional, structured and inclusive agenda to promote women's economic, social and political rights in the region in close cooperation with all regional stakeholders through three dimensions: political fora, regional dialogue platforms and projects"
Source: International Islamic News Agency