Women in Public Life

Gender, Law and Policy in the Middle East and North Africa

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Public institutions play a critical role in promoting gender-sensitive policies and gender equality more broadly, in the MENA region and around the world. Advancing gender balance in public institutions and public life more generally, including the judiciary, parliaments, and the political executive constitutes a major step towards gender-responsive policies and non-discrimination and serves as a key milestone in promoting gender equality. This report provides a comparative overview of the policies affecting women’s participation in public life across the MENA region. It examines the existing barriers to women’s access to public decision-making positions, and provides a cross-country assessment of current instruments and institutions to advance women’s empowerment in the MENA region. The report undertakes an analysis of the existing legal barriers for gender equality in public life, including with regard to political and economic rights, freedom of movement, labour law, family law, access to justice and gender-based violence and provides focused policy-recommendations to close legal and institutional gaps. The report has been prepared by the OECD, in partnership with Centre for Arab Women Training and Research (CAWTAR) and with the support of the Arab Administrative Development Organisation (ARADO) and covers the following countries: Algeria, Egypt, Morocco, the Palestinian Authority, Jordan, Lebanon, Tunisia, the United Arab Emirates and Yemen.


Women in political decision making and public life in MENA countries

This chapter provides an overview of trends of women’s participation in public life in the MENA region, including in parliaments, the political executive, courts and civil society. Similar to trends in other regions, women tend to be under-represented in top positions in these institutions, although some countries are making important strides to close the identified gender gaps. The chapter is based on a literature review, findings from the MENA-OECD Survey on National Gender Frameworks, Gender Public Policies and Leadership, and interviews with representatives of civil society, parliaments and governments. Overall, women’s participation in public life is hampered by multiple factors such as legal barriers, curtained political rights and freedoms, the reluctance of political parties to support women candidates and cultural barriers. The chapter also underlines the importance of the freedom of movement for women’s public and economic empowerment, and highlights the persistent gaps in this area. The chapter concludes with examples of good practices and policy recommendations to support governments in their efforts to enable women in reaching top public positions.


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