When it comes to women rights (and more specifically women economic development that I am more familiar with), I like to think of it as human rights. Women rights are human rights! But then I remind myself of how overwhelming the social injustices are for women globally -who make up most (70%) of the world poor (solely on an economic lens -sorry for the insensitive word-); and just feel the surge to set aside a separate class of human rights shedding lights on the unique challenges facing women and girls.

In the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, women economic participation rate is the lowest in the world,  it is as low as twenty-eight percent of the labor force (World Bank, 2016). According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), women labor force representation in MENA region is three times lower than the average rate in the other developing countries: Had women economic participation in MENA been increased to the fullest, the economies of the region would have gained not less than $600 billion annually (Elborgh-Woytek et al., 2013),  which would result in an increase of the regional GDP by forty percent in a decade. But this also means that millions of pipelines of resources and potential are critically underused while missing the incredible economic gains that would result from an increased women economic participation in the region.

In addition, sustainable development goals to fight poverty and inequalities could only be achieved when women are actively included as part of the solution. Besides boosting the economy, empowering women result also in healthier and better-educated families (World Bank, 2011). Indeed, not only does women’s access to employment, education and entrepreneurship opportunities reduce micro-level poverty, but there is also evidence that women’s expenditure function entails investments associated with enhancing the human capital within the household in ways that benefited children (Dwyer and Bruce, 1988; Kabeer, 2003). Therefore, carrying out the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in the MENA region (Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, 2016) could only be achievable if women are fully empowered as economic agents and provided with end-to-end access to markets on competitive and fair terms (United Nations, 2016).