The Center for Inclusive Business and Leadership for Women (CIBL.W) at the Suliman S. Olayan School of Business (OSB) at the American University of Beirut (AUB), has launched a new series of webinars called KIP Hiwar. The aim of the webinars is to share the results of the KIP index study. These results will serve as a basis to help find local solutions, launch context-specific initiatives, and identify policies foundational to building more women-inclusive systems at both the government- and employee-level in the Arab MENA.
Recorded on December 11, 2019, the first webinar was called Transportation as a Challenge to Women's Economic Participation. The webinar highlighted some of the key findings from the KIP Index 11-country research study on the recruitment, retention and promotion of women into formal employment across the Arab MENA region.
With speakers from Yemen, Libya, Saudi Arabia and Lebanon the episode invited discussion and debate about how the lack of safe and reliable public transport is a salient regional challenge. This data was gathered as part of the Center's inaugural project focused on developing a regional index - the KIP Index - on women's participation in the formal economies of the region.
Dr. Charlotte Karam, Director of CiBL.W introduced the center and its inaugural research project the KIP index, while Dr. Carmen Geha, co-principal investigator at the KIP index, moderated the discussion.
Ms. Abir El Danaf, Research Associate at The KIP Index presented some research findings indicating how the unreliable public transportation system in most Arab countries, due to poor infrastructure, high cost and safety measures, leads to many concrete barriers to employment. For example, due to the transportation issues faced by many women, they are often forced to seek work that is in close proximity to their homes leading to restricted job choices, lower wages, informal work arrangements, and often the choice to not engage in paid work at all. Ms. El Danaf also highlighted the growing body of research describing the various forms of violence against women (e.g., sexual harassment, moral reputation tarnishing) experienced by women due to the unsafe, unreliable and often avoided public transport systems in the region. These factors further reinforce prevalent social and cultural norms often preventing women from seeking and securing equal and fair employment opportunities.
Joining us from Yemen, Ms. Amal Nasser, an economist with the Sana'a Center for Strategic Studies notes that: “Yemen suffers from a lack of personal safety and economic stability, the presence of family restrictions, and the lack of a public transportation system. The war has worsened these pre-existing problems, and while some local “primitive" initiatives were implemented to cope with the transportation deficiencies, no government initiatives were set to respond to the issue."
Dr. Zahra' Langhi, Co-Founder and CEO of the Libyan Women's Platform for Peace similarly noted that: "Libya lacks integrated transportation networks due to the legacy of the authoritarian system that impeded development and, as consequence, women are suffering and deprived from their right to work."
Our third panelist speaker Ms. Chaza Abou Daher, Research Manager at Alnahda Research Center in Saudi Arabia shared relevant findings from a recent study in the Kingdom, noting that: “In KSA women spend around 30% of their salaries on transportation. Many reforms and initiatives were newly implemented in response to women's need for transportation. Women have begun to drive themselves and a metro system has been proposed."
The economic burden placed on women to get to and from work, is an added barrier to the women's participation that is not equally carried by their male counterparts.
About the KIP Index
The KIP index will be the first Arab MENA measure of the recruitment, retention and promotion of women in formal sector companies. Tracking employer perspectives and practices across 11-countries, the index will provide data about the contributions of, and challenges faced by, women at work. With this data, decision-makers will be better equipped to engage in evidence-based dialogue to lead effective change in local policies and to strengthen gender-inclusive workplace practices overall.
The Center for Inclusive Business and Leadership for Women is an interdisciplinary regional reference point focused on readying gender-inclusive businesses and other employers across the region. We are committed to improving and supporting women's dignified work, successful careers and leadership roles in organizations across the region.