Isobel Coleman

Democracy in Development

Coleman maps the intersections between political reform, economic growth, and U.S. policy in the developing world.

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Showing posts for "Women and Development"

Women and Sports in Saudi Arabia

by Isobel Coleman
Saudi Arabia's Sarah Attar (R) starts her women's 800m round 1 heat during the London 2012 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium on August 8, 2012 (Lucy Nicholson/Courtesy Reuters). Saudi Arabia's Sarah Attar (R) starts her women's 800m round 1 heat during the London 2012 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium on August 8, 2012 (Lucy Nicholson/Courtesy Reuters).

Last summer, I wrote about two young women from Saudi Arabia, Wojdan Shaherkani and Sarah Attar, who were the first Saudi women ever to compete in the Olympics. They had to endure criticism from conservatives at home and lots of discussion about what they would wear to compete, but they served as a powerful symbol of a better future for Saudi women’s athletic participation. Read more »

Guest Post: Women in the Workforce in the Arab World

by Guest Blogger for Isobel Coleman
Students study in the laboratory at the Faculty of Science at the University of Misrata December 19, 2011 (Esam al-Fetori/Courtesy Reuters). Students study in the laboratory at the Faculty of Science at the University of Misrata December 19, 2011 (Esam al-Fetori/Courtesy Reuters).

Women in the Middle East stand to play a vital role in the region’s economic and political future, if given the opportunity. This week at the Council on Foreign Relations, the World Bank’s senior adviser to the chief economist for the Middle East and North Africa, Nadereh Chamlou, spoke about women’s economic empowerment in the Arab world. Today, my colleague Reza Aslan–author of books including No god but God: The Origins, Evolution, and Future of Islam and adjunct senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations—writes about Chamlou’s remarks and the challenges to women’s participation in the workforce. Read more »

The Internet’s Ongoing Gender Gap

by Isobel Coleman
An Afghan woman browses the YouTube website at a public internet cafe in Kabul, September 12, 2012 (Mohammad Ismail/Courtesy Reuters). An Afghan woman browses the YouTube website at a public internet cafe in Kabul, September 12, 2012 (Mohammad Ismail/Courtesy Reuters).

Although the Internet seems ubiquitous, for many people in the developing world it is barely a reality—and women are left behind at greater rates than men.

An extensive report from Intel and Dalberg Global Development Advisors, “Women and the Web,” quantifies the Internet gender gap, explains some factors contributing to it, and proposes ways to tackle it. The report estimates “that 21 percent of women and girls in developing countries have access to the Internet, while 27 percent of men have access. This represents 600 million women and girls online—200 million fewer than men and boys.” Because of the spread of the Internet, an additional 450 million women and girls will likely become connected in the next few years, but the report’s authors believe that with the right interventions, an additional 150 million women could get connected. Read more »

Youth, Change, and the Future of Saudi Arabia

by Isobel Coleman
Saudi students attend a class at the Technology College in Riyadh in this October 30, 2010 file photo (Fahad Shadeed/Courtesy Reuters). Saudi students attend a class at the Technology College in Riyadh in this October 30, 2010 file photo (Fahad Shadeed/Courtesy Reuters).

Saudi watchers have for years debated the stability of the kingdom. In the 1960s, with internecine rivalries dividing the royal family and the kingdom struggling to pay its debts, some American diplomats predicted that the House of Saud wouldn’t last but a few more years. When extremists took control of the Grand Mosque in Mecca in 1979, pundits warned that Saudi Arabia’s monarchy, like that of the Shah in Iran, would be the next to fall to religious revolution. In recent years, as the Arab revolutions have swept the Middle East, new questions about Saudi stability, especially given the limitations of its ruling gerontocracy, have come to the fore. Karen Elliott House, in her recent book On Saudi Arabia, paints a dire picture of a “disintegrating society, and the deterioration is only accelerating.” Read more »

Women’s Security in the Middle East and North Africa

by Isobel Coleman
A woman holds a placard during a protest to mark International Women's Day in downtown Sanaa, Yemen March 8, 2013. The placard reads "Not with weapons we build the country." (Khaled Abdullah/Courtesy Reuters). A woman holds a placard during a protest to mark International Women's Day in downtown Sanaa, Yemen on March 8, 2013. The placard reads "Not with weapons we build the country." (Khaled Abdullah/Courtesy Reuters).

“It is time for an uprising of women in the Arab world,” writes Hanin Ghaddar, managing editor of NOW News in Lebanon in the second annual publication to mark International Women’s Day by the Woodrow Wilson Center’s Middle East Program. Read more »

Ongoing Struggles for Women’s Rights in Libya and Egypt

by Isobel Coleman
A woman shouts slogans against Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi and members of the Brotherhood during a march against sexual harassment and violence against women in Cairo on February 6, 2013 (Amr Abdallah Dalsh/Courtesy Reuters). A woman shouts slogans against Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi and members of the Muslim Brotherhood during a march against sexual harassment and violence against women in Cairo on February 6, 2013 (Amr Abdallah Dalsh/Courtesy Reuters).

This week at the Council on Foreign Relations, I hosted two women’s rights leaders visiting New York from Libya and Egypt for the UN’s Commission on the Status of Women (CSW). The two leaders, Zahra Langhi and Fatemah Kafaghy, are participating in the CSW as part of a delegation from Karama, a nonprofit that aims to empower Arab women leaders. Read more »

Fawzia Koofi: A Leader for Afghanistan

by Isobel Coleman
Fawzia Koofi speaks during an interview in Kabul on April 12, 2012 (Mohammad Ismail/Courtesy Reuters). Fawzia Koofi speaks during an interview in Kabul on April 12, 2012 (Mohammad Ismail/Courtesy Reuters).

This week, I had the pleasure of hosting courageous Fawzia Koofi at the Council on Foreign Relations. Koofi is one of sixty-nine female members of Afghanistan’s 249-seat lower house of parliament. As she likes to note, she was elected to her seat by beating out a male candidate–above and beyond the quota system that preserves 25 percent of parliament for women. Elected as parliament’s first female deputy speaker, she plans to run for president in the 2014 elections. Read more »

Malala Yousafzai and Girls’ Education in Pakistan

by Isobel Coleman
Pakistani schoolgirl Malala Yousufzai (C) waves with nurses as she is discharged from The Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham in this handout photograph released on January 4, 2013 (Courtesy Reuters). Pakistani schoolgirl Malala Yousufzai (C) waves with nurses as she is discharged from The Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham in this handout photograph released on January 4, 2013 (Courtesy Reuters).

Yesterday, people around the world watched in admiration and awe a clip from an interview with Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani teenager who was shot in the head by the Taliban for standing up for girls’ education. “I want every girl, every child to be educated,” she said bravely in comments given before she had surgery at a hospital in England–apparently, she is now recovering well–and discussed the new Malala Fund to do just that. The fund’s inaugural grant will help girls from the Swat Valley, where Malala is from, receive an education instead of entering the workforce prematurely. Read more »

Women, Representation, and Politics in Egypt

by Isobel Coleman
A general view shows protesters against Egypt's President Mohamed Mursi gathering at Tahrir Square in Cairo on January 24, 2013 (Mohamed Abd El Ghany/Courtesy Reuters). A general view shows protesters against Egypt's President Mohammed Morsi gathering at Tahrir Square in Cairo on January 24, 2013 (Mohamed Abd El Ghany/Courtesy Reuters).

Tomorrow is the second anniversary of Egypt’s revolution, an occasion likely to attract widespread reflection, and no doubt some protests. In the wake of the controversial constitution, many Egyptians—particularly women—are worried about whether the government will protect their rights and interests. The new draft law for parliamentary elections gives additional cause for concern about female representation. Read more »

Women in Politics in Saudi Arabia

by Isobel Coleman
ndia's Prime Minister Manmohan Singh (bottom L) greets members of the Shura during his visit to the Saudi Shura Assembly in Riyadh on March 1, 2010 (Fahad Shadeed/Courtesy Reuters). India's Prime Minister Manmohan Singh (bottom L) greets members of the Shura during his visit to the Saudi Shura Assembly in Riyadh on March 1, 2010 (Fahad Shadeed/Courtesy Reuters).

On Friday, Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah made history when he named thirty women to the kingdom’s Shura Council, an appointed advisory body that cannot enact legislation but is still the closest institution to a parliament in that country. He also amended the Shura Council’s law to ensure that women would make up no less than 20 percent of the 150-person council going forward. Read more »