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Seventy five participants from 17 countries throughout the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) gathered Nov. 17-20 at Harvard Kennedy School for a symposium dedicated to strengthening advocacy for gender equality in public policy in the MENA region.
The event, titled MENA Gender and Economics Symposium: Translating Research into Action, was co-sponsored by the Kennedy School’s Middle East Initiative (MEI), the Center for Arab Women Training and Research (CAWTAR), and the World Bank.
Participants traveled from Australia, Bahrain, Canada, Egypt, France, Iran, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, and Yemen to attend the gathering.
A primary theme of discussion was the empowerment of women -- enabling them to share in the development process within their communities, and to gain greater control over their lives through educational and employment opportunities.
The symposium featured an intensive two-day advocacy training workshop led by Marshall Ganz, lecturer in public policy, which focused on the goal of translating research into meaningful action.
Ganz described his model of mastering the art of social change through collective action, building relationships, emphasizing shared values and harnessing the passion of the community. Several participants shared their personal stories which poignantly illustrated Ganz’s emphasis on the power of narratives that resonate and motivate, connecting activists with their constituents through shared values and concerns.
Several economists from the MENA region presented their research findings pertaining to gender and policy, including health and family planning, education, entrepreneurship, poverty, migration, and division of labor. These experts were joined by leading voices in the U.S. advocacy and economics communities including Dr. Gary Becker, winner of the Nobel Prize in economics, and Kimberly Pfeifer, director of research for Oxfam America.
Jorge Dominguez, Harvard University Vice Provost for International Affairs, and MEI Director Hilary Rantisi welcomed participants to the symposium and Nicholas Burns, professor of the practice of diplomacy and international politics,and faculty chair of MEI, addressed the group at the Faculty Club. Participants were treated to a lunchtime guest appearance by Anousheh Ansari, the first female astronaut of Iranian descent.
“The symposium brought together a high-powered group of researchers and economists who share the goal of empowering women throughout the MENA region,” Rantisi said. “But this was as much a hands-on event as an academic one, intended to equip the participants with practical tools for influencing public policy. They shared findings and research results while learning pragmatic skills to put this knowledge to use in becoming effective advocates for promoting gender equity.”
The symposium concluded with networking meetings for participants allowing them the opportunity to debrief and discuss how to become more effective advocates for their constituencies, stay connected with one another, and build on the momentum of the conference to benefit women within their diverse communities. Several attendees reiterated the urgent need to translate academic research into solid policy recommendations to empower and support women in the MENA region.
For more information and photos on the symposium and MEI, visit the website: http://www.hks.harvard.edu/middleeast/