As Mother’s Day approaches we are inundated with ads for special gifts, unlimited offers, and countless ways to give tribute to our mothers. We are reminded of the wonderful, selfless love mothers give us and how many of us fail to give them our time and show them our love and gratitude because of our busy lives and exhausting work schedules. In fact, just yesterday, my husband, who saves every article he finds interesting, pulled out an Ann Landers column from May 8, l994 (many of you will have to Google Ann Landers to know who I’m talking about) in which she reprinted a letter from one of her columns a few years earlier, from “anonymous”. In this letter, the author regrets the time not spent with her mother, the lack of understanding of her mother’s advice when she was younger, and her not saying “I love you” often enough. After reading this I began to think of myself as a daughter but also as a mother of three adult children with busy, interesting lives and I felt the need to address them and the many daughters and sons out there who begin to feel a pain in the pit of their stomachs as Mother’s Day approaches and their guilt sets in for not having done enough for that very special mom that has been too good to them so often. This list is not, by any means, a “get out of Mother’s Day” card. It is a reminder to not let your past actions, however hurtful you think they might have been, keep you apart from your mother. Nothing is worse than silence.
"In this letter, the author regrets the time not spent with her mother, the lack of understanding of her mother’s advice when she was younger"
Here’s what this mom has to say to my daughters and my son, and to all sons and daughters out there:
- Don’t ever underestimate my unconditional love for you, even when you are not at your best;
- I always forgive and forget hurtful things you do or say in a moment of anger, even when I don’t say so;
- Forgetting my birthday, not seeing you often, not talking enough is hurtful, but not irreparable. Just talking it out erases that hurt instantly;
- I understand you more than you realize so don’t keep on repeating, “You don’t understand. You never had to go through this”;
- Life is not that different for you as it was for me. Believe it or not, the same frustrations, fears, anxieties that bothered you growing up also bothered me;
"It’s ok to disagree with me, in fact, I expect it. You should be developing your own ideas, ideologies, and finding your own way of dealing with this ever-changing crazy world we live in."
- I too fought with my mother, didn’t accept her advice, and had many disagreements with her only to find out later in life that she was right 90 percent of the time;
- I won’t always agree with your wardrobe decision; that doesn't mean I think you’re a “slut”; I just have different tastes;
- That look in my eyes and that face that says “I don’t like that” means just that: “I don’t like that”. It doesn’t mean any more or less and it certainly doesn’t mean I don’t like you;
- It’s ok to disagree with me, in fact, I expect it. You should be developing your own ideas, ideologies, and finding your own way of dealing with this ever-changing crazy world we live in;
"I will always tell you honestly what I believe is best for you without any self-interest"
- I know I often made you do things when you were young that you didn’t like to do like clean your room, dress up for church, go to church, attend adult family functions, but I think you would agree today that all these things have helped to turn you into adults with humility and integrity;
- I know that often I am not the first person you go to for advice, but when you do come to me, remember that although I may not say what you want to hear, I will always tell you honestly what I believe is best for you without any self-interest;
- I know we don’t spend too much time together doing fun things like we did when you were younger, but believe me, I understand that you have a life all your own now full of activity and knowing that you’re happy is my greatest joy;
- I am not perfect!! I know I made mistakes along the way and that you will probably do many things differently when you become parents, but I promise you that you will be surprised at how many things you’ll do the same.
- No, I don’t expect you to be perfect either. I do want you to be self-sufficient, healthy, and happy at whatever you choose to do in life because I believe that these are the fundamentals of a good life, the rest is icing.
- Ultimately, the important thing for you to remember this Mother’s Day is that I love you now and always will, whether you tell me you love me or not, whether you call me once a day, once a week, once a month or once a year.
So this Mother’s Day instead of daughters and sons feeling guilty about what they haven’t said or done, just bask in your mother’s love which is boundless and eternal.
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.