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An Open Letter to Jeff Bezos, From SWAAY

Lifestyle

Very recently, Jeff Bezos asked people to reply to his tweet with their ideas. Just a few hours later there were more than 3,600 such replies. A few days after that, tens of thousands of replies streamed in as numerous as they are varied. From Girl Scouts of America to funding a solution to the Flint, Michigan water crisis to international causes, the requests proliferated like mushrooms in northern Michigan springtime.


Bezos and his family have donated $35 million to the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle and $15 million to Princeton University, his alma mater. Crowdsourcing philanthropic ideas, especially presented in a single post, might lead to flooding. But at least it's a start. So, without further ado, a friendly letter to our friend Jeff is in order:

I'll respect your valuable time and keep this short and sweet: it's time for you to join us on the Feminist Jet as we fly off to visit four worthwhile causes that could greatly benefit from your fiscal intervention.

1. The first stop is Women on Wings. Founded by Maria van de Heijden and Ellen Tacoma in 2007, this organization connects women with entrepreneurs, who employ them and market their crafts, giving poor women living in India an independent income.

As you already know, as an admirer of India, it's a rapidly expanding economy with a population of 700 million people, who mostly still live on just $2 dollars per day. A quick visit to their website will reveal that they have created 221,000 sustainable jobs for women as well as saved 660,000 children from malnutrition, while additionally enrolling them in school.

2. The second stop, Girls on The Run, is dedicated to empowering girls to become healthy and confident young women. The organization achieves this by using a fun, experience-based curriculum which creatively integrates running. They envision a world where every girl knows and activates her limitless potential and is free to boldly pursue her dreams. GOTR was founded by Molly Barker and thirteen girls in Charlotte, North Carolina in 1996.

The following year Barker met Dori Luke and together they expanded programming in Charlotte and other communities. What began as one school is now more than 200 strong in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. In 2015 GOTR served its millionth girl and hosted more than 350 end-of-season 5K events across the United States.

3. Our third stop, Girls Not Brides, is a global partnership of more than 700 civil society organizations from over 90 countries committed to ending child marriage and enabling girls to fulfill their potential. Each year, 15 million girls are married before the age of 18 – the equivalent of 28 girls every minute, or one girl every two seconds.

The first global study on the economic cost of child marriage shows that this human violation also has a major negative impact on national economies.

The Economic Impacts of Child Marriage research, conducted jointly by The World Bank and The International Center for Research on Women (ICRW), shows that the biggest economic impacts of child marriage are related to fertility and population growth, education, earnings and the health of children born to young mothers.

The study highlights that investments in ending child marriage can help countries achieve multiple development goals. It explores the impacts of child marriage in five areas: fertility and population growth, educational attainment and learning, labor force participation, decision-making and investments, and health, nutrition and violence. The research found that child marriage could save the global economy trillions of dollars between now and 2030.

4. Our final stop takes you to the doors of SWAAY Media, a ground-breaking digital publication in Manhattan that harnesses the glamour of today's business-minded woman, and was founded by Ms. New York U.S. 2015, Iman Oubou. Offering an editorial platform for business-minded women, SWAAY serves as an innovative example of what female-focused media should embody: intellect, influence and a powerful visual of femininity.

Iman has also worked as a cancer research scientist and is a board member of 'Mission to Heal,' an NGO based in Washington, D.C. Like yourself, Iman boasts an engineering background and chose to pursue other passions.

Whatever you decide to do with your charitable donations, we appreciate you taking the time to invest in a good cause. The world needs more generous people like you.

Warm Regards,

Your friends at SWAAY Media

7min read
Culture

The Middle East And North Africa Are Brimming With Untapped Female Potential

Women of the Middle East have made significant strides in the past decade in a number of sectors, but huge gaps remain within the labor market, especially in leadership roles.


A huge number of institutions have researched and quantified trends of and obstacles to the full utilization of females in the marketplace. Gabriela Ramos, is the Chief-of-Staff to The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), an alliance of thirty-six governments seeking to improve economic growth and world trade. The OECD reports that increasing participation in the women's labor force could easily result in a $12 trillion jump in the global GDP by the year 2025.

To realize the possibilities, attention needs to be directed toward the most significantly underutilized resource: the women of MENA—the Middle East and North African countries. Educating the men of MENA on the importance of women working and holding leadership roles will improve the economies of those nations and lead to both national and global rewards, such as dissolving cultural stereotypes.

The OECD reports that increasing participation in the women's labor force could easily result in a $12 trillion jump in the global GDP by the year 2025.

In order to put this issue in perspective, the MENA region has the second highest unemployment rate in the world. According to the World Bank, more women than men go to universities, but for many in this region the journey ends with a degree. After graduating, women tend to stay at home due to social and cultural pressures. In 2017, the OECD estimated that unemployment among women is costing some $575 billion annually.

Forbes and Arabian Business have each published lists of the 100 most powerful Arab businesswomen, yet most female entrepreneurs in the Middle East run family businesses. When it comes to managerial positions, the MENA region ranks last with only 13 percent women among the total number of CEOs according to the Swiss-based International Labor Organization (ILO.org publication "Women Business Management – Gaining Momentum in the Middle East and Africa.")

The lopsided tendency that keeps women in family business—remaining tethered to the home even if they are prepared and capable of moving "into the world"—is noted in a report prepared by OECD. The survey provides factual support for the intuitive concern of cultural and political imbalance impeding the progression of women into the workplace who are otherwise fully capable. The nations of Algeria, Tunisia, Morocco, Libya, Jordan and Egypt all prohibit gender discrimination and legislate equal pay for men and women, but the progressive-sounding checklist of their rights fails to impact on "hiring, wages or women's labor force participation." In fact, the report continues, "Women in the six countries receive inferior wages for equal work… and in the private sector women rarely hold management positions or sit on the boards of companies."

This is more than a feminist mantra; MENA's males must learn that they, too, will benefit from accelerating the entry of women into the workforce on all levels. Some projections of value lost because women are unable to work; or conversely the amount of potential revenue are significant.

Elissa Freiha, founder of Womena, the leading empowerment platform in the Middle East, emphasizes the financial benefit of having women in high positions when communicating with men's groups. From a business perspective it has been proven through the market Index provider MSCI.com that companies with more women on their boards deliver 36% better equity than those lacking board diversity.

She challenges companies with the knowledge that, "From a business level, you can have a potential of 63% by incorporating the female perspective on the executive team and the boards of companies."

Freiha agrees that educating MENA's men will turn the tide. "It is difficult to argue culturally that a woman can disconnect herself from the household and community." Her own father, a United Arab Emirates native of Lebanese descent, preferred she get a job in the government, but after one month she quit and went on to create Womena. The fact that this win-lose situation was supported by an open-minded father, further propelled Freiha to start her own business.

"From a business level, you can have a potential of 63% by incorporating the female perspective on the executive team and the boards of companies." - Elissa Frei

While not all men share the open-mindedness of Freiha's dad, a striking number of MENA's women have convincingly demonstrated that the talent pool is skilled, capable and all-around impressive. One such woman is the prominent Sheikha Lubna bint Khalid bin Sultan Al-Qasimi, who is currently serving as a cabinet minister in the United Arab Emirates and previously headed a successful IT strategy company.

Al-Qasimi exemplifies the potential for MENA women in leadership, but how can one example become a cultural norm? Marcello Bonatto, who runs Re: Coded, a program that teaches young people in Turkey, Iraq and Yemen to become technology leaders, believes that multigenerational education is the key. He believes in the importance of educating the parent along with their offspring, "particularly when it comes to women." Bonatto notes the number of conflict-affected youth who have succeeded through his program—a boot camp training in technology.

The United Nations Women alongside Promundo—a Brazil-based NGO that promotes gender-equality and non-violence—sponsored a study titled, "International Men and Gender Equality Survey of the Middle East and North Africa in 2017."

This study surveyed ten thousand men and women between the ages of 18 and 59 across both rural and urban areas in Egypt, Lebanon, Morocco and the Palestinian Authority. It reports that, "Men expected to control their wives' personal freedoms from what they wear to when the couple has sex." Additionally, a mere one-tenth to one-third of men reported having recently carried out a more conventionally "female task" in their home.

Although the MENA region is steeped in historical tribal culture, the current conflict of gender roles is at a crucial turning point. Masculine power structures still play a huge role in these countries, and despite this obstacle, women are on the rise. But without the support of their nations' men this will continue to be an uphill battle. And if change won't come from the culture, maybe it can come from money. By educating MENA's men about these issues, the estimated $27 trillion that women could bring to their economies might not be a dream. Women have been empowering themselves for years, but it's time for MENA's men to empower its women.