The Asfari Institute for Civil Society and Citizenship at the American University of Beirut (AUB), in partnership with the National Institute of Women of Mexico (INMUJERES) and UN Women, organized an Interactive Multistakeholder Dialogue to Mobilize Engagement on Care in the Arab States under the Global Alliance for Care. The event was held on March 30th, 2023, and brought together diverse stakeholders, including governments, civil society organizations, and young researchers, to discuss the state of paid and unpaid care work in the Arab States and the challenges and opportunities for advancing the care agenda in the region.
The dialogue began with remarks from José-Ignacio Madrazo, Ambassador of Mexico to Lebanon, who emphasized the importance of care work as a fundamental right and essential job for societal well-being. He called on governments to invest in expanding private sector care services, particularly early childhood care and education services and social care, to enable women to pursue other roles and income-generating opportunities.
An opening conversation between Lina Abou-Habib, Director of the Asfari Institute for Civil Society and Citizenship at the American University of Beirut, Nadine Gasman, President of INMUJERES, and Jemimah Njuki, Chief of Economic Empowerment at UN Women, highlighted the importance of feminist voices in holding governments accountable and building momentum for a significant shift in the care work in the region. Nadine Gasman emphasized the role of the Global Alliance for Care in promoting the care economy and fostering multistakeholder engagement and political will toward the consolidation of a Care Economy Regional Strategy through the gender equality lens. Jemimah Njuki highlighted UN Women's programmatic care work in the region and stressed the importance of securing the resilience and sustainability of care to protect society and advance women's economic autonomy.
In her keynote remarks, Susanne Mikhail Eldhagen, Regional Director of UN Women for the Arab States, highlighted the unequal distribution of care work, with women in the region performing 4.7 times more unpaid care work than men, the highest ratio globally. She stressed the need to recognize the value of and invest in the care economy to achieve bold progress toward women's autonomy and gender equality. In the Arab States, the formal care economy meets only around 10% of the actual needs, leaving much of the demand uncovered and directing it to the informal sector. Hence, investing in the care sector will create millions of formal jobs for women worldwide and in the Arab States.
The event continued with an interactive discussion led by Lina Abou-Habib and featuring Amal Charif, Managing Director of HalTek and disability activist, Fahima Hashim, Founder and Director of the Salmmah Women's Resource Centre in Khartoum, Sudan, Farah Daibes from Jordan and Senior Program Manager at Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung's Political Feminism Program in the region, Nadia Jabiri, AmanWomen Alliance Iraq, Mozn Hassan from Nazra for Feminist Studies, Rafah Anabtawi from Kaya Palestinian Feminist Organisation, and June Barrett, Executive Board Member at the Miami Workers Center and leader of the Jamaican National Domestic Workers Alliance's "We Dream in Black Project." The discussion focused on the interlinkages between care work, migration, conflict-post-conflict settings, and how to break the invisibility of unpaid care work in the Arab States.
The panelists emphasized that care work is about power relations and that equal arrangements of care work demand breaking down patriarchy and social norms and stereotypes that have women out of the public agenda. They also stressed the need for an intersectional approach to recognize and address the different challenges women in their diversity face in paid and unpaid care work, including in the informal sector, in urban and rural settings, and as indigenous, refugees, and migrant workers. The speakers highlighted that unpaid care work is essential to enable other work to happen and is a barrier to women's economic empowerment. They called for a cultural change that situates and values care work in the economy and urged immediate action to invest in a care economy to ensure the health and prosperity of the state.
Overall, the Interactive Multistakeholders’ Dialogue to Mobilize Engagement in Care in the Arab States emphasized the importance of care work as a public good and essential for society's well-being. The event concluded with a call for proposals for academic research projects on the care economy in the Arab Region. This official call for proposals will be released by the end of May 2023 with the awards set to be announced towards the end of June 2023. This research will form the basis for the next collaborative multi-stakeholders convening on Care in the MENA region and which will focus on care-friendly public policies.
Generation Equality is the world’s leading initiative to accelerate investment and implementation on gender equality. It brings together organizations from every part of society to catalyze progress, advocate for change and take bold actions together.
The Generation Equality Action Coalition on Economic Justice and Rights promotes gender equality by addressing economic and social barriers that prevent women and girls from realizing their full potential.
The Global Alliance for Care is a collective commitment of the Action Coalition on Economic Justice and Rights, convened by the National Institute of Women of Mexico (INMUJERES) and UN Women. It constitutes a multistakeholder platform with organizations across sectors committed to advancing the care agenda, recognizing the importance of care work as a fundamental right and an essential job for society's well-being.
Launched in 2021 at the Generation Equality Forum under the umbrella of the Action Coalition on Economic Justice and Rights, the Alliance promotes a transformative shift towards a care economy that values and invests in paid and unpaid care work, recognizing that it is essential to achieving gender equality and women's empowerment.
Learn more about Generation Equality here: https://forum.generationequality.org/
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