On March 30, 2023, the Asfari Institute for Civil Society and Citizenship at the American University of Beirut (AUB) organized the first Interactive Regional Multistakeholder Dialogue on Care in the Arab Region, in collaboration with the Government of Mexico (INMUJERES) and UN Women under the umbrella of the Global Alliance for Care. The Global Alliance for Care is a commitment from the Generation Equality Forum to mobilize engagement towards the care economy, focusing on placing social reproduction and care work at the heart of COVID-19 recovery works.
The dialogue opened with remarks from José-Ignacio Madrazo, Ambassador of Mexico to Lebanon, who highlighted the importance of care work as a fundamental right and an essential job for society’s well-being. He urged 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.
The opening conversation between Lina Abou-Habib, Director of the Asfari Institute, Nadine Gasman, President of INMUJERES, and Jemimah Njuki, Chief of Economic Empowerment at UN Women emphasized the importance of feminist voices in holding governments accountable and building momentum for a significant shift in the care work in the region. They highlighted the role of the Global Alliance for Care in promoting the care economy and fostering multistakeholder engagement and political will towards the consolidation of a Care Economy Regional Strategy through the gender equality lens, and the importance of securing the resilience and sustainability of care to protect society and advance women’s economic autonomy.
Following the opening, a short interview with Amal Charif, Disability Advocate and Managing Director of HalTek, was screened, which highlights the intersection between disability and care work.
Ms. Susanne Mikhail Eldhagen, Regional Director of UN Women for the Arab States, gave the keynote remarks, highlighting the unequal distribution of care work in the region, with women 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 towards women’s autonomy and gender equality. In the Arab States, the formal Care Economy meets around 10% of the actual needs, leaving much of the demand uncovered and further 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 conversation continued with a discussion 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 with Farah Daibes, Senior Programme Manager at Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung’s Political Feminism Program, Nadia Mahmood, Co-Founder of Aman Women’s Alliance, 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,”, Dr. Vivienne Badaan, Assistant Professor of Psychology at AUB, Rafah Anatabwi, General Director of Kayan Feminist Organization, Mozn Hassan, Executive Director of Nazra for Feminist Studies, and Fahima Hashim, Founder and Director of the Salmmah Women’s Resource Centre in Khartoum in Sudan.
Overall, the Interactive Multistakeholders’ Dialogue to Mobilize Engagement on Care in the Arab States emphasized the importance of care work as a public good and essential work for society’s well-being. The event concluded with an announcement of a call for proposals for academic research projects on the care economy in the Arab Region.
Watch the full recording here:
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