Bahrain – Accelerating Progress on Women’s Empowerment

Bahrain – Accelerating Progress on Women’s Empowerment

International Woman's Day on 8 March was an occasion to celebrate women’s achievements and assess the gains made in addressing the gender gap worldwide. 

In a recent report on the Future of Work, expert panellists speaking at a Bussola Institute webinar observed that, compared to other regions of the world, “MENA has still the furthest to go when it comes to gender parity… GCC countries have made a lot of progress, but they lag behind when it comes to women's economic participation”.  However, the panellists did observe that, “For instance, the UAE has introduced a law on equal pay as well as a law on women on company boards. Saudi Arabia has launched employment support programmes for childcare and for transportation. But much more needs to be done”.

Despite the challenges to be addressed across the MENA region, according to recent reports published by the United Nations (UN), the World Bank, and the World Economic Forum (WEF), the Kingdom of Bahrain made significant progress in this area in 2021. 

The Fastest Progression on the Women, Business, and the Law Index in the MENA Region

The Women, Business, and Law 2022 Report published by the World Bank provides revealing insights in this regard. In the report, the Kingdom of Bahrain ranks third in the Gulf region and fifth in the Arab world on the Women, Business, and Law index with a score of 65 out of 100, progressing by 18 positions since last year –the fastest improvement among Arab nations. According to the report, the progression is mainly due to the “Pay” factor of the index. The country managed to achieve such significant results owing to the regulations implemented by the Bahraini government to legally mandate equal remuneration for all work of equal value, regardless of gender considerations, with the objective of eventually achieving gender equality.

Significant Economic and Educational Progress

Bahrain also made significant progress in the WEF's 2021 annual report, which measures the gender gap in 156 countries around the world. The country ranks first in the Gulf region and second in the MENA region in terms of economic opportunities and participation. In 2021, Bahrain managed to close the gender gap by 63.2% – compared to the global average of 68 %, even closing the gap by 96 % in the area of health, thereby achieving an identical score to the international average. 

Bahrain also made remarkable progress in the field of education, closing the gender gap by 98.5% (compared to a global average of 95%): the country ranks first in the world in terms of net enrolment in secondary education and total enrolment in higher education. According to the 2020 World Bank's Human Capital Index report, Bahrain is also among the five countries in the world where girls outshine boys in terms of educational outcomes.

The Supreme Council for Women – A Regional and International Success Story 

These promising results were made possible with the support of the Supreme Council for Women, a national institution founded in Bahrain more than 20 years ago and dedicated to gender equality and the advancement of the status of women in all areas. The Council's success in its approach has made Bahrain a regional and international hub of expertise in gender equality and best practices for the advancement of women's rights. 

Over the years, the Supreme Council has developed a number of quantitative and qualitative tools to adequately carry out its mission and provide a clear insight into the progress of the country in terms of gender equality. Among these tools, we can find the national observatory responsible for the supervision of nearly 4,000 gender-related indicators, including one measuring the competitiveness between men and women in the country.

Bahrain has also established several high-level partnerships with regional and international entities aimed at advancing the status of women. In partnership with the UN, the Supreme Council notably launched the Princess Sabeeka bint Ibrahim Al Khalifa Global Award for Women's Empowerment, named after the President of the Council and wife of the King of Bahrain.

Even though more progress needs to be made in the region and further afield, Bahrain sets a commendable example in the regional journey towards gender equality. 

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