Women’s Economic Empowerment
What is the concept of women’s economic empowerment?
Women’s Economic Empowerment (WEE) is a process by which women can increase their ability to control basic economic and financial resources, such as capital, wages, and in-kind property, which helps in its transition from a lower economic position in society to a higher economic power and grants it material independence in the first place.
Confirming the interest of the Kingdom in the women’s economic empowerment, the former minister of media, Dr. Majid Al-Qasabi, delivered the speech of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques in the “Women’s Communication Group 20” which is the official communication group designated by the Group of Twenty (G20) to handle women’s affairs, and he said “The Kingdom has embarked on an unprecedented journey of reform, with the testimony of the international community, to empower women and support their participation in national development through this holistic approach. The Kingdom is proud to work for the “Women’s Communication Group 20” through its various tracks, and welcomes the group’s recommendations in this field, which are appropriate to its integrated approach in empowerment of women.”
The Importance of women’s economic empowerment
Women’s economic empowerment not only affects economic development, rather, it extends to social development, starting from the family, all the way to the communities or countries to which they belong, and other areas. The following are aspects in which the importance of women’s economic empowerment is evident:
Achieving a balance in job opportunities between the genders
The participation of women in the labor market in a equal manner with men is part of the sustainable development plan in the Kingdom for the Saudi Vision 2030. The concept of women’s economic empowerment gives them access to economic resources in the market, control over those resources, obtaining jobs that commensurate with their desire and skills, and thus the ability to participate meaningfully in economic decision-making at all levels of their lives, from the family to state institutions.
This was confirmed by the head of the Saudi Industrial Development Fund, who expected an increase in the number of women occupying leadership positions in the fund in 2022. The Fund is keen to increase the participation of women in its workforce, through several training programs for women’s leadership in the Fund, and the Unique Women Leaders Program that promotes women’s talents, trains them on the necessary skills, and provides them with guidance with the aim of empowering them in leadership positions in institutions. Moreover, enhancing their capabilities to face the challenges of the Saudi labor market.
Building healthier and happier families
When a woman gets her opportunity in the labor market, she lives a satisfying and more productive life, and her skills are better refined, which is reflected on her family as she provides a higher level of care and education for her children, thus giving them a healthy and happy life.
Achieving economic growth
Women’s economic empowerment increases productivity, contributes to increasing economic diversification, and raises the level of organizational performance in companies and institutions, due to the organizational skills that women possess. This achieves higher incomes overall and promotes economic growth in the countries concerned with this concept.
This is what the Kingdom seeks regarding the empowerment of women in Vision 2030. Many agencies, such as the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development, have given their attention to women’s economic empowerment in the Kingdom, by dedicating one of the goals of the Kingdom’s vision to ensuring an increase in women’s participation in the Saudi labor market. In fact, the Kingdom is finding remarkable success in this regard, as Saudi women will lead approximately 45% of small and medium enterprises in Saudi Arabia by 2022.
How can the economic empowerment of women be achieved?
The economic empowerment of women needs to establish a comprehensive and long-term plan to reach the results that countries seek in this field, and it requires devoted efforts. The following are the most important ways to achieve the economic empowerment of women:
Increasing educational opportunities for women
Education is the first step in the economic empowerment of women. Education promotes building and refining skills to keep pace with technological developments and the challenges of the labor market, which leads to better participation of women in the labor market. The rate of female literacy increased in the Kingdom, as shown in the following bar graph according to the UNESCO Institute for Statistics from 2000 to 2020. This confirms the increased efforts made to educate women in the Kingdom.
Providing programs that facilitate women’s participation in the labor market
Women may face some obstacles when entering the labor market and their continuity in it. Out of belief in the importance of helping and empowering them economically in society, the Human Resources Development Fund in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has provided programs that contribute to achieving job stability for them, including the “Wasool” program, which aims to help female employees working in the private and non-profit sectors to overcome transportation difficulties to and from their place of work, in cooperation with apps that provide high quality transportation service at an affordable cost.
The fund also introduced the “Qurrah” program, which aims to support working mothers in the private and non-profit sectors by establishing a link between them and hospitality centers to register their children and ensure that they receive appropriate care.
Supporting female entrepreneurs
In order for governments to achieve economic empowerment of women, they must support women’s entrepreneurship. From here women entrepreneurs play a significant role in the small and medium enterprises sector in the, as the SME Monitor Report showed an increase in enterprises led by women from 21.5% in 2016 to 45 % in 2022.
The initiatives and programs in the Kingdom also encouraged female entrepreneurs to pursue their goals and empower them, including the programs and initiatives of Monsha’at, as they enabled female entrepreneurs to enter and achieve success in specific sectors, for instance, beauty services and childcare, where it provides training workshops in these areas. In addition, providing programs that help in accessing credit facilities and financing.
As for the “Kafala” program, which constituted an important initiative to support women entrepreneurs, it helped to develop the activities of small and medium enterprises and expand their fields, by supporting them to obtain the necessary financing to achieve this, in addition to encouraging various financial institutions to deal with them, contributing to the development of the less economically active villages, and providing new job opportunities.
Providing a safe and suitable work environment for women
Part of the economic empowerment of women lies in providing them with a safe and healthy environment in the places of employment, in addition to ensuring that appropriate wages are provided to them to add new creative energies, and thus encourage a better pursuit of the growth and development of the institution in which she works.
Based on the importance of providing an appropriate work environment, the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development, showed at the level of the work environment within the project of achieving gender balance in the civil service, the need to activate childcare centers in workplaces in all sectors, with the aim of creating an encouraging work environment for working women, in addition to provide job and investment opportunities for women looking for work in specializations suitable for investment, and to work in these centers.