The strength of women in the Middle East cannot be directly measured using international indices and metrics. It can be exemplified in the strength of the mothers in the region who have pulled through despite the numerous challenges and revolutions that they have experienced.
The mothers who raised today’s young adults have gone through a complete overhaul that the Arab region saw in the 1960s and 1970s. Arab mothers of today have seen independence in the Gulf states, the founding of oil, wars in Palestine, Syria, and Iraq and the liberation of Kuwait. They have successfully put aside the hardship that they have faced in order to empower their children.
The same mothers who have had their lives changed time and time again are the ones who have managed to raise a generation of entrepreneurs, business leaders, and political revolutionaries. It is the values instilled by Arab mothers that the region is expected to close the gender gap in 129 years – 29 years faster than North America’s projection of 158 years.
The heart of family businesses
It is somewhat contentious to claim the success of Generation-Y to their mothers as their fathers have undoubtedly also been involved. However, the fact remains that if the employment trends of women in the 1980’s are considered, there is a clear high academic attainment but poor participation in the labor market.
This leads to highly educated women being pushed into stay-at-home positions, either by personal choice or social pressures. Home is where mothers run the real family business.
In the western world, a stay-at-home mother’s salary has been valued at $143,000 per year, according to Salary.com. This takes into account the contributions to childcare, tutoring for homework, grocery shopping and more.
In the Middle East, a mother’s worth cannot be equated to a salary. On top of the “chores” that mother do, they often carry with them a heavy burden that society forces them to carry. This is the burden that forces them to smile while they flawlessly execute their job, despite what hardships they may have faced.
The same mothers who have had their lives changed time and time again are the ones who have managed to raise a generation of entrepreneurs, business leaders, and political revolutionariesYara al-Wazir
Mothers seeking refuge
This Mothers Day should be dedicated to the women who have been forced into single-handedly providing for their children without a male presence in their life. This Mother’s Day should be dedicated to those forced to become refugees. To the mothers who do not quite belong here, there, or anywhere but somehow make their children feel like they are worth every inch of this planet.
My mother taught me that when life beats you down seven times, the only thing you have the power to do is to stand up eight times. Looking back, sometimes I feel that my mother has spent her life dodging curveballs.
From living through wars, travelling for education, and continuously being forced to adapt to new locations, my mother taught me that there is no time for self-pity; there is only time for self-development.
It is her very strength that inspires me to get through whatever curveball life throws at me. My mother is special to me, but the truth is that there are thousands in the region who share her hardship and still get through.
While the strength of women in the region is exemplified by the strength of Arab mothers, it is important to focus on strengthening the community even further. There is no recipe or standardized metric for success; however there are learning’s that the community can take further.
To the mothers of the region, I say thank you for unconsciously sharing the same key attributes as world-class business leaders: determination in the face of adversity, maintenance of high standards, and compassion.
In the case of the Middle East, a region that is still developing, the community must steward these attributes as much as it stewards the international metrics of success. As long as the region does not lose sight of these attributes, it will continue to flourish.
Yara al Wazir is a humanitarian activist. She is the founder of The Green Initiative ME and a developing partner of Sharek Stories. She can be followed and contacted on twitter @YaraWazir.
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