Challenge Lab 1: economic impact of COVID-19 on women and girls
How can women entrepreneurs in MENA become more resilient and adapt and diversify their businesses to meet the new challenges and opportunities resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic?
We look forward to receiving your solutions!
Micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) account for over 90% of enterprises in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region and are a major source of job creation. At the same time, women in MENA have lower rates of financial inclusion. Only 38% have a bank account, compared to 57% of men, and fewer women have bank loans–which may be channelled into their husbands’ businesses rather than their own when they do receive them.
The negative impacts of the Covid-19 crisis are already being felt by SMEs. While the majority of MENA entrepreneurs are men, women-owned businesses are likely to be particularly vulnerable to long, enforced closures and lost income. Some countries are already reporting a high proportion of women-run SMEs closed down due to the crisis.
The pandemic does, however, represent an opportunity for women entrepreneurs, if they know how to pivot and take advantage of it. Finding themselves unemployed, some women in MENA have set up businesses in the social and solidarity economy, or responded to demand for products like masks. Other women-led domestic businesses have continued trading thanks to e-commerce. Most interestingly, a unique opportunity now exists for women-led SMEs to take the lead in the information technology sector, and for the region to leverage its large number of successful STEM women.
About the Challenge Lab
Despite significant advances in equality in the Euro-Mediterranean region over the last 25 years, we are still far from achieving gender parity in many areas. Conflicts, crises, social upheaval and emergencies all hinder progress and have a disproportionate impact on women and girls. The Covid-19 pandemic is no exception, deepening existing inequalities, threatening economic stability and putting a strain on essential services, all of which amplifies gender-based impacts.
At the same time, women play a key role in pandemic response as they provide vital services in education, health and social care, retail and supply chain, among other sectors. In health and social care alone, women account for 70% of the workforce and deliver care to around 5 billion people.
Now more than ever we must identify practical solutions to the unique challenges facing women and girls at home and at work during the Covid-19 crisis.
With this in mind, our Challenge Labs are a space for participants to contribute project ideas or good practices in advance of the2020 Women4Mediterranean Conference. The aim is to provide food for thought, stimulate debate, share inspiration and ensure the Conference gives rise to actionable solutions to drive real change.
- Submit your proposal using the Challenge Questionnaire until 16 November.
Submissions will be reviewed by experts and selected proposals will be presented during the Conference in the Challenge Lab live sessions on 18 November at 14:30-15:00 (CET). The most voted solutions will also feature in the UfM press release and be published on the UfM website.
Who can participate?
Anyone who has a good practice or a project proposal they would like to share. Proposals must:
- Demonstrate an understanding of the specific Challenge and the needs of its beneficiaries in the region, as well as incorporate their inputs and any relevant supporting evidence or research.
- Clearly explain how the project idea or good practice will positively impact women and girls in the region affected by the Covid-19 pandemic within the specific Challenge context.
- Be innovative, or propose a new way to use an existing approach.
- Be sustainable over time, scalable and with high impact potential.
- Be considered desirable by experts.
If you have any questions please contact: [email protected]. Thank you!