Report: Qatar fares poorly with gender equality

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Sam Agnew/Flickr

Countries in the MENA region, including in Qatar and the rest of the Gulf, have once again scored low on this year’s Gender Gap Index, released this week by the World Economic Forum.

According to the report, which evaluates countries based on economic, political, education- and health-based criteria, Arab countries collectively fell in the rankings since last year:

“The Middle East and North Africa is the only region not to have improved its overall standing in 2013. The highest placed country in the region is the United Arab Emirates (109th), which has achieved parity in education. Nevertheless most countries in the region, including Bahrain (112th), Qatar (115th) and others are still failing to adequately capitalize on the investments in education through greater economic and political contributions from women…”

Qatar’s overall score has improved slightly since being included in the index in 2007, when it was ranked 109th out of 128 countries. Though its ranking has dropped to 115th this year, the index now includes 136 countries.

Iceland, Finland and Norway kept their rankings as the top three nations with the narrowest gender gaps. The worst included Syria, Chad, Pakistan and Yemen.

GCC comparisons

Qatar fared particularly well in offering equal educational opportunities to women. But while economic participation is rising, it has a widening gender pay gap.

And with only one woman serving on the Central Municipal Council, and only one woman as a minister, the nation falls down when it comes to political empowerment of females, according to the index.

The report also groups and ranks countries by their income levels. All of the GCC countries, with the exception of Bahrain, are near the bottom of the high-income group list.

Though the UAE fared best in the region, it still dropped two places, due to issues with wage equality. Kuwait came in at 116th, Oman 122nd, and Saudi Arabia 127th.

The report’s release comes just as activists in Saudi Arabia canceled a much-anticipated “drive-in” campaign to challenge the ban females face on driving in the kingdom. Though the country has no laws prohibiting women from driving, they are not granted driver’s licenses and can be pulled over and ticketed for doing so.

Citing threats from the government, organizers of the Oct26 driving effort (whose website has been hacked) opted to make their campaign open-ended. Despite this, more than 60 women reportedly got behind the wheel yesterday in defiance of the driving ban, Al Jazeera English reports.

Meanwhile, a video satirizing the driving ban, which was produced by a few Saudi men, has gotten more than a million views on Youtube since it was posted yesterday:

As countries work to close their gender gaps, the WEF reminds leaders that the extent of women’s participation could hold widespread implications for future competitiveness and therefore, success:

“Countries will need to start thinking of human capital very differently – including how they integrate women into leadership roles. This shift in mindset and practice is not a goal for the future, it is an imperative today,” said Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum.

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