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Feminae Carta: Combining digital activism and research to advance gender equality globally.

Maryam and Nivaal Rehman share their latest project.

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Like many people who have had to pivot during the pandemic, activists have had to reimagine the way they advocate for the causes they care about in an online environment. Not only have we had to make the switch to organizing and engaging people in our advocacy efforts online, but have also had to recognize the increased inequalities amid the pandemic. 

Particularly when it comes to women’s issues, gender-based violence, school dropouts, child marriages have been increasing over the past year and a half, with more women at home and lack of access from community allies. 

As we thought about how we can take action, and reimagined possibilities for creating the needed policy changes globally to ensure that gender equality is achieved, we came up with the idea for Feminae Carta. Feminae Carta is the world’s first Digital Advocacy tool of its kind, which aims to make gender equality a policy priority in countries globally. We have more than 20 researchers from all six continents who have been working with us over the past few months to develop our initial background guide, which presents research on the current status of women’s well-being, voices and participation in society. 

In this article, we hope to share the thoughts of some researchers and their findings, to give you a sneak peek into our work. 

 

Yasmine Nassereddin, Canadian and Palestinian Researcher

Area of Focus for Feminae Carta: Girls’ Education in Oceania and South Asia

Education is a powerful tool capable of  breaking down and eradicating poverty; reducing child mortality; supporting economic and professional growth, development, and well-being; and most importantly closing the gap in gender inequality (UNICEF). From an economic viewpoint, investment in education expands business opportunities by strengthening a nation’s human capital. A larger and more educated labour force results in better wages and income for stable living. Investing in girl’s education can lead to an increase of females in future leadership positions and new perspectives to old persisting problems. While slight progress is occurring in gender parity in education, girls continue to face many barriers to schooling in all levels of education. In the same year, it was estimated that for every 100 boys only 86 girls were enrolled in secondary schools (United Nations, 2015). Girls education is necessary for acquiring sustainable and healthy futures for everyone. Giving girls access to equitable education is a vital investment for our world. When girls thrive by learning and developing their own passions in life, the world becomes more peaceful and sustainable as new ideas and perspectives are shared. Multiple studies and research has shown the economic, political, social, and environmental benefits of having educated women and girls. Oceania and MENA countries have definitely progressed in making improvements to their female population’s access to education, however, many structural and societal barriers block girls from achieving education they feel respected, included, and celebrated in.

 

Rosella Cottam, British Researcher

Area of Focus for Feminae Carta: Girls’ Education in Europe, Middle East and North Africa

Empowerment has a “transformative ability to affect power relations in societies”, and therefore the empowerment of women is an essential component of the development and interests of nations around the world (Moghadam, 2016). In Europe, the current status of women’s empowerment is dependent on the access of women to services and opportunities within their lives. Women’s empowerment in Europe has been shaped by the legacies of colonialism and this affects the structures and rights of women in the world today. In the case of nations in the European Union, there have currently been some successful outcomes related to increased women’s active role in decision-making in the workplace, yet there are still institutional and resource structures related to leadership, healthcare, and services for the poor which hinder empowerment (Sustainable Solutions).  In the Middle East and North Africa (the MENA region), women’s empowerment is currently characterised by significant change in fighting the challenges to the lack of power and discrimination of women in society. There have been efforts towards improving empowerment through raising the voices of women in policy making roles, and increasing opportunities to influence laws and debates.  An example of this can be seen in Algeria, where there have been efforts to increase women’s empowerment in national parliaments, and by 2013, this has led to 31.6% of women in parliament. This example shows that efforts have had success, yet progress is still needed to reach greater empowerment.

Change can also be created through increasing public knowledge through innovative processes and research suggestions, which creates opportunities for more inclusive solutions for women.  On the ground, young activists have also needed resources in order to deliver change, and this includes technology, networks, skills, and collaboration with governmental and non-governmental organizations to empower women within their communities (UNGEI, 2014).

 

Soukaina Tachfouti, Moroccan Researcher

Area of Focus for Feminae Carta: Women in the Workplace in the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia

The inclusion of women in professional and technical jobs can contribute to drastic changes across all sectors and industries, it can turbo-charge economic growth in regions that will be significantly impacted by the Fourth Industrial Revolution—making their participation all the more critical.  While very few women are breaking through the glass ceiling to top managerial posts, entrepreneurship is gaining importance as an alternative avenue for their economic empowerment, however it is still a widely untapped source of economic growth and social progress, and job creation. 

It is extremely critical that women are included in decision-making and hold formal positions so that their voices can be heard and the interests of women, as well as men, are taken into consideration.  Integration into employment is not limited only to the will of individuals but to a set of factors that are often interlinked, preventing women from unleashing their talent and full potential. Women in South Asia and the MENA region continue to face a range of cultural, financial, and legal barriers more than their female counterparts across the globe. The economic and labour market specificities have positioned women in a weak starting point compared to men, leaving them with a lot of catching up. Moreover, many of the barriers that render women economically inactive also haunt working women in their careers and slow down their progression. In other words, what hinders women from entering the workforce in the first place also naturally hinders their growth into business and management leadership positions.  

There are several policy prescriptions which can help create progress for women in the workplace, not only in the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia, but also all over the world. Some of these include ensuring girls’ get access to education and the tools they need to access work, and also improving the workplace environment by ensuring that women have equal pay.

While there is a lot of work yet to be done, the progress that has been made and the current work for gender equality is incredibly inspiring, and leaves us hopeful for the future. You can stay updated with Feminae Carta by visiting https://www.theworldwithmnr.com/feminaecarta.

Through their non-profit, The World With MNR, their YouTube channel and social media platform, Maryam and Nivaal Rehman are using advocacy, storytelling and development to take action and inspire others to do the same. You can learn about the 20-year-old activists and find more of their writing on their Perspectives page.