ROME, 4 April 2017 – Leaders of six women's business associations in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) came together today to discuss how to best support women in business in Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Palestine and Tunisia. The round table was organized by the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO); the Directorate General for Development Cooperation (DGCS) of the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs; the Italian Agency for Development Cooperation (AICS); and the Union for the Mediterranean (UfM).
Participants explored the different measures governments can adopt to ensure more women entrepreneurship. They also shared good practices to accelerate access to finance for women's economic empowerment. Present at the event were ministers of industry, gender specialists from international organizations and development agencies, and leading women entrepreneurs.
"The glass ceiling is still weighing on women," said Laura Frigenti, Director of the AICS, as the panelists were discussing the challenges faced in the MENA region.
Gerardo Patacconi, Head of UNIDO Department of Agri-Business Development, added that "women are not given opportunities, and we are all losing."
Ambassador Pietro Sebastiani, Director General of the DGCS, later noted that "women are solution-makers, peacemakers, and game-changers," while Delphine Borione, Deputy Director of the UfM, said that "women are an engine for development and stability."
Hussein El Hage Hassan, Lebanon's Minister of Industry, noted that "it is fundamental to share know-how and increase trade opportunities with the European Union." He also reiterated the support of the Lebanese government for the inclusion of women in the economy.
Franca Audisio Rangoni, President of the Association of Women Entrepreneurs and Corporate Executives (Associazione Imprenditrici e Donne Dirigenti d'Azienda), concluded the opening session by saying that "women have the power to change the scenario that is preoccupying the Mediterranean."
A UNIDO study on women entrepreneurship development in Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Palestine and Tunisia was also launched during the event. Based on an extensive survey conducted with over 1,200 women entrepreneurs in the region, the research was part of the UNIDO project, "Promoting women empowerment for Inclusive and Sustainable Industrial Development in the MENA region", funded by the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation. Monica Carco, Senior Industrial Development Officer and focal point for youth entrepreneurship and women's economic empowerment at UNIDO, announced that Algeria would also be joining the project.
Panelists discussed the key takeaways from the study and how stakeholders can implement its recommendations to enhance women's economic empowerment in the region. They also examined the challenges that women entrepreneurs face such as the regulatory environment, access to markets and, in some cases, the cost of public services and the lack of economic growth.