Around 30 participants coming from various Egyptian organisations gathered on the 25th and 26th of June at the Association of Upper Egypt for Education and Development (AUEED) to reflect on women’s invisible work at the global, regional and national level and strengthen their communications and social media capacity, within the framework of the Collective for Research and Training on Development – Action led project Sustainable Economic Opportunities for Women, currently being implemented in Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt and Morocco.
Participants came from all over Egypt from the Future Eve association, the New Woman Foundation, the Association of Upper Egypt for Education and Development, the Badia Foundation, the Egyptian Association for Sustainable Development, the Forum of Women in Development and the Evangelical Association for Comprehensive Development.
During two days, participants worked on the meanings of women’s work amidst political changes in Egypt. The first day of the workshop was dedicated to a short summary of what has been achieved so far in terms of research and round tables on the topic of women’s work in the informal sector and of domestic work. Papers prepared by CRTD.A consultants Ms Rabea Naciri and Tina Wallace, dealing with women’s informal work in the MENA region and in Lebanon, were briefly presented, along with the debates that have been organised in Lebanon on mainstream indicators and the ideologies underlying them and on women’s informal work in Lebanon. The glaring results of these studies so far have been that women’s work at home and in the informal sector, while being absolutely crucial to household economics and society as a whole, is rarely recognized, let alone valued and accounted for. This is particularly oppressive to women as in the MENA region, the overwhelming majority of women work in the informal sector and/or at home, carrying the bulk of society’s reproduction, while official indicators still estimate the female activity rate at around 20%, one of the lowest in the world.
The issue of accounting for and accurately measuring women’s participation to the economy has been extensively tackled afterwards by the resource person coming from the WIDE Network, Ms Bénédicte Allaert who questioned in her presentation mainstream indicators that we usually take for granted, such as the GDP or what constitutes work under the ILO definition. Ms Allaert went on to demonstrate that these indicators indeed did not paint an accurate picture of economic realities, globally and in the region. Participants were then invited to break into groups and work on the concepts of women’s informal work, women’s work in the household, gender stereotypes pertaining to what is perceived as “women’s work” and the three roles women have to play (productive, reproductive and in the community) paid work/unpaid work, and women in the formal sector. The outcome of the group work was the very purpose of it: participants had different understandings of the concepts, highlighting that what is being measured and studied in the economy is only the tip of the iceberg, with most of economic relationships happening unnoticed and invisible. This knowledge and research will serve as a basis to inform and influence future and global public policies in order to improve the protection, respect and fulfilment of women’s economic rights.
The role of neo-liberal policies and their impact coupled with the impact of the economic crisis on Egyptian women were also discussed. In Egypt, lack of employment opportunities and long-standing weak social protection and work conditions systems were only worsened by the decrease in foreign investment brought about by the economic crisis, as well as the decrease in tourism. The impact of that depression in the economy was first and foremost borne by women who had to endure massive losses of jobs, and carry on the majority of the housework load.
The second day was articulated around social media and on how can Facebook Twitter and blogs help raise awareness on this topic and allow for partner to stay in touch in between physical meetings. The workshop ended with participants drafting action plans to carry the project forward, with the ultimate aim to change not only policies and laws, but also mentalities.
Stay in touch as we will soon publish interviews with Egyptian women on their points of view on why the issue of women’s work is important and relevant!
Ever wondered why mainstream economic indicators almost never took into account women’s domestic work and work in the informal sector, even though it plays a crucial part in the economy and society?
Did you know that the overwhelming majority of women in the MENA region work in the informal sector, yet their work remains unrecognised, unvalued and unaccounted for?
To answer these questions and go deeper in analysing the definition of women’s work and making women’s invisible work visible, the Collective for Research and Training on Development – Action is organising within the framework of the Sustainable Economic Opportunities for Women project a round of capacity building sessions in partner countries.
These workshops are within the continuation of CRTD.A’s commitment to highlight women’s economic participation in the region, with the long term objective of influencing public policies and actions towards the realisation of women’s economic rights and a reshaping of how economic indicators are built.
Following two round tables in Lebanon women’s informal work and economic indicators, the next capacity building workshops will take place in Egypt on the 25th and 26th of June and in Morocco on the 10th and 11th of July. During these sessions, partner organisations and their own local partners will discuss concepts pertaining to the definition of women’s work, such as domestic work, women in the informal economy and the gendered division of labour. Resource person Ms Bénédicte Allaert from the WIDE Network and Ms Rabea Naciri will facilitate discussions respectively in Egypt and Morocco around concepts and indicators while participants will also receive sessions on using social media for awareness raising and advocacy.
Participants will also share their own experience working on women’s rights in various local contexts and will strategize on the next steps to follow to raise awareness on the issue of women’s work and reach labour gender equality and social justice.
As the region is undergoing so many upheavals and transitions, it has never been more important to keep women’s rights at the top of the agenda and carry on our struggle for gender equality that translates in policy and practice. Stay Tuned for updates on the workshops and discussion on women’s work!
The Collective for Research and Training on Development- Action (CRTD.A) has organised a seminar on the 12th of May on women’s informal work in Lebanon. This event is part of a debate initiatied in Lebanon for the first time by the CRTD.A, around the question of feminist economics and women’s work, and comes following a first seminar that took place in March 2012 around mainstream economic indicators and the ideologies underlying them. CRTD.A has been working in women’s economic empowerment for nearly a decade now, and is currently implementing a regional project in Lebanon, Morocco, Egypt and Jordan on women’s informal work and women’s participation to the economy in these four countries and on how to visibilise women’s work.
The seminar was moderated by Ms Lina Abou Habib, CRTD.A’s Executive Director while Dr Christina Wallace, resource person, introduced the concepts of informal work and domestic work and detailed what is currently being measured worldwide with regards to women’s work. This introduction was then narrowed down to the specificity of Lebanon and of how patriarchal attitudes and beliefs, coupled with the Lebanese sectarian system and neo-liberal policies, ensured that Lebanese women’s work was rarely valued and its contribution to the economy, seldom recognized.
The audience was composed of members of the Lebanese civil society and of the women’s movement, but also of women working in the cooperatives in different regions of Lebanon. Following Ms Wallace’s intervention, participants were broken up into groups to discuss what would be the next steps to take sure the situation in Lebanon pertaining to women’s work shifts in their favour.
We have recorded women’s replies and points of view with regards to what is women’s work and how it should be valued. We’re posting one video here, and you can watch them all on our YouTube Channel here
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The report of the event is being finalised and CRTD.A will follow up on the main outcomes of the event with participants, to make sure a coherent strategy to visibilise women’s work. So stay tuned to updates here, and submit your feedback anytime!
The AWID Forum has come and gone, and it took us some time to process all the energy, commitment and reflection that happened from the 18th to the 22nd of April 2012.
The Collective for Research and Training on Development – Action (CRTD.A) wasn’t only a mere participant to the event: with a delegation of five people, it played an active role in the sessions, either by organizing break out or in-depth sessions, or by participating to panels or by asking questions and looking deeper into issues.
The theme of this AWID Forum was “Transforming Economic Powers to Advance Women’s Rights and Justice”, a key priority for the CRTD.A who has been working on issues of economic justice for women in the Middle East for the past ten years now, advocating for the economic empowerment of women via skills-building projects, the setting up and partnerships with cooperatives, facilitating their management and access to market for example. Besides, the CRTDA has recently started opening up the debate in Lebanon, Morocco, Egypt and Jordan on women’s work, the indicators measuring the work women do and its contribution to the economies of these four countries, as well as on women’s work in the informal sector.
These questions being central to the Forum, CRTD.A has been invited by the AWID Education Corner at the Forum to be part of a panel on sharing experiences on skills building sessions on women economic rights. The panel was shared with NGO workers, activists and academic from all over the world, includingIndia, theUSA, andBolivia. During this panel, CRTD.A was able to share its experience building the capacity of its constituency within the Sustainable Economic Opportunities for Women (SEOW2) project. It was interesting to study the similarities of experiences between the panelists despite the diversity of contexts: indeed, the global patriarchal system undermining women’s participation and contribution to the economy, along with the global conservative neo-liberal agendas impact all contexts present during the panel, which prompted panelists and the audience as a whole to have a conversation on what could be done to counteract the adverse effects on women of these two oppressive systems. While not one size-fits-all answer would be relevant, participants emphasized the need for solidarity and networking not only with and between national partners, but also among women’s rights defenders worldwide. The question of resources was also heavily debated, with the conundrum many NGOs and activists face: while donor funding is crucial to achieving sustainable work, it is also a form of dependence, and sometimes, imperialism, and civil society organizations should come up with alternative, independent ways of funding.
In that logic, the Resources Mobilization corner at the Forum provided a great platform to ask and discuss these questions.
CRTD.A organized as well a session on Collective Advocacy in Muslim-majority countries with panelists Bénédicte Allaert from the WIDE Network, Egyptian activist Amal Abdel Hadi and Tunisian activist and doctor Ahlem Belhaj. This session started with a presentation on the CRTD.A’s SEOW2 project, as the project is regional and deals with economic empowerment of women in four Muslim majority countries: therefore, examples of collective advocacy in such contexts were given from the CRTD.A’s perspective. Ms Allaert shared then with the audience the research she has been working on on mainstream indicators and the ideologies underlying them. What is being measured at a global and regional level? Are there some best practices from governments who actually measure and take into account women’s work? “We value what we measure” has been a good maxim to show the poor level of measuring women’s work, and therefore of valuing it. The example of Liberia, which integrates the contribution of women’s work in the informal economy within the active women statistics was a good illustration that alternative measurements of the economy are possible and that the GDP-based, classical model did not reflect the reality of many Southern economies, and more particularly, the reality of many Middle Eastern contexts, where women account for roughly 70% of the informal work force, if not more.
Amal Abdel Hadi and Ahlem Belhaj spoke about the specific context of revolutionaryEgyptandTunisia, and on how women’s work remained invisible despite the change in regime and despite women being so active and present during the uprisings. Vigilance with regards to the pervasive patriarchal agenda seemed to be their words of warning for the future. Many questions were asked by a predominantly Middle Eastern and North African audience, notably on the issue of Qiwama and dialogues lasted long after the session was over, with ,many contacts being exchanged to carry on the conversation and collective action.
One of the innovation of this edition of the Forum was the organization of in-depth sessions, allowing for a strong focus on a certain topic, running for three hours and a half every day of the forum, a bit like an intensive lecture/participatory session. CRTD.A took active part in this pilot by co-organising with its partner the Women’s Learning Partnership the in-depth session on women’s rights and transition democracy in the MENA region. After a plenary in which Rabea Naciri from Morocco and Asma Khader from Jordan spoke about the constitutional processes and changes in the region, participants broke into groups to discuss constitutional reforms, the role of media and social media in making women’s claims visible and processes on transitional justice. I was lucky to be part of the group on constitutional reforms: it felt incredibly empowering sitting at the heart of a women’s cluster, reflecting and suggesting strategies on the core laws and processes of the countries of the region.
Women’s invisibility and the lack of gender perspective in the current constitutional assemblies (notably in Tunisia and Egypt) lead us to emphasize the need first of all of popular education on the importance of constitutional reforms and second of all, on the absolute necessity to have assemblies of women drafting their own version of the Constitution. The issue of negotiations with conservative powers came up: as feminists, where should we draw the line? What are the non negotiable? Should we have a long term vision and keep our radical agenda and invest on education and awareness-raising or should we cede on some points in the short to mid-term to insert ourselves in the debates and decisions? But if we do, would that keep the integrity of our thoughts and vision or who would be compromising the aims of our struggle? There are no clear cut, one size-fits-all answer to these questions, they take in-depth research, historical perspective, thinking and anticipation, input from different experiences and expertise to have a clearer picture of how to influence and shape the society we hope to see and want. We are still working on what the ideal gender sensitive constitution would be, but Rabea Naciri outlined some relevant, core points that Constitutions in post revolution countries should include, such as clarity of language and terminology so as to prevent any harmful-to-women interpretations and explicit prohibition of any type of discrimination based on gender on top of calling for substantive gender equality. Constitutions should also specifically speak to the rights of political opposition and mention and include civil society and its contribution to society as a whole.
CRTD.A’s delegation was also very active on social media, linking online then offline with partners, following sessions that were relevant to their work but also sessions that were related to issues of women’s rights they might not have been familiar with in order to build their own capacity, initiative new contacts and widen their perspectives and reflections.
The AWID Forum has been a whirlwind of events, sessions, conversations and experiences, and CRTD.A felt proud to be a part of this event, and to carry on the work and priorities it has set for itself, feeling stronger now more than ever having this visit to the Feminist family.
Posted first on 02 April 2012 by lina Abou Habib on WLP Website
On March 29, 2012 WLP-Lebanon/CRTD.A organized a round table discussion on economic indicators and how they measure women’s economic participation, contribution and empowerment.
CRTD.A has been working on the issue of women’s economic rights and participation for more than a decade.
During the past few years, CRTD.A engaged in a regional initiative including five MENA countries with the aim of exploring sustainable economic alternatives for women. The initiative investigated, amongst other things, the issue of women’s invisible work and its contribution to the economy. Research conducted in Lebanon, Egypt, Syria, Algeria and Morocco revealed that:
• Conventional statistics and indicators fail to capture all the work that women do, especially all the care work that they do for others;
• Women’s care work, including household work, is often a non-negotiable obligation and expectation;
• Household and care work constitute a tangible obstacle towards women’s participation in public and political life, and are major hurdles to their entering and re-entering the job market, as well as to career advancement;
• With states in the MENA region systematically retreating from service provision and securing social entitlements, women are more and more bearing the brunt of care work;
• The entire sector of the care economy in the MENA region is by and large feminized and continues to be hidden, unrecognized, and not valued.
The main conclusion is that indicators measure only what is valued in society and exclude women’s work mainly in view of the poor value attributed to it!
Over the past few years, CRTD.A has been furthering the analysis on the issue of what constitutes women’s work? How is the value of this work attributed? In which way does this value contribute to excluding women not only from public life but also from public policy?
As a result of this work, a round table discussion was organized on March 29, 2012 to look specifically at the mainstream economic indicators with a view to analyze what these indicators measure. How do they measure it? What are the underlying ideologies which determine what is measured and what is left out? What are the implications at the level of policy making? What are the proposed alternatives that serve not only to capture women’s actual contribution to the economy but also to better inform inclusive policies?
The round table discussion was attended by some 40 participants including a small group of researchers and academics from the Lebanese University, the American University of Beirut, the Lebanese American University and the University of Balamand. Other participants included representatives of local women’s organizations, development organizations, political parties, and UN organizations.
The round table discussion began with an overview of mainstream economic indicators, including a critical analysis of the most commonly used indicators (GDP, GNP, Employment and Unemployment rates, Economic Activity Rates, etc.) and the ideologies on which these indicators are based, namely economic growth, monetary transactions, “trickle-down effect,” etc. The case was made that these indicators fail to recognize the more important non-monetary transactions, which constitute the bulk of work that is required for securing well-being and livelihoods, and exclude costs in terms if depletion of natural and human resources. Alternative indicators were also discussed whilst emphasizing their complex and composite nature and the experimental ways in which they are being implemented in a number of developing and developed countries.
In kicking off this round table discussion, CRTD.A intended to mobilize local actors in engaging in an in-depth and critical debate on women’s economic rights and participation through understanding and critically analyzing how mainstream economic indicators reflect a patriarchal ideology and how they can, alternatively be challenged.
Several of the participants provided excellent commentaries and suggestions on moving forward with the discussion. We have retained further research on the key concepts that underline the feminist analysis of the economy, notably household work, care work, invisible work, formal and informal work, etc. Capacity building on these concepts was also put forward as a priority for action, especially in regards to women’s economic participation and the visibilization and valorization of women’s invisible care and reproductive work.
CRTD.A / WLP-Lebanon is continuing its engagement in the issue of women’s economic rights and participation with a view to produce further pedagogical material, adding to the leadership, political participation, and other training material already produced by the Partnership.