Gallup Examines Post-Revolutionary Factors Limiting Women’s Empowerment
Amidst growing concern about women’s rights following the rise of Islamist political parties in the post-uprising Arab political theater, a newly released Gallup report, “After the Arab Uprisings: Women on Rights, Religion, and Rebuilding” suggests that economic challenges – as opposed to religious beliefs – are the most significant impediments to women’s empowerment.
Asma Ajroudi | 27 June 2012
The “Arab Spring” has thrust MENA (Middle East and North Africa) into the international spotlight. Countries that have undergone successful revolutions are in turn expected to introduce revolutionary reforms that will initiate the transition toward democracy. Equality between all citizens, men and women, is a requisite for civic democracy. With Islamist parties leading the political scene in post-uprising countries, such as Tunisia and Egypt, important questions concerning the future of women’s rights have been raised.
The report conducted multiple surveys of adult men and women from Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Yemen, Bahrain, and Syria between 2010 and 2011.
While examining the factors contributing to the struggle for women’s rights, Gallup’s report concludes that economic conditions may restrict women’s empowerment more than previously thought. The study revealed that only one-quarter of the region’s female population takes part in the work force, which makes the rate of women’s participation in the MENA labor market among the lowest in the world.
According to the Gallup poll, “If the economy continues to suffer, women’s rights may as well.” This assessment is based on findings from the survey that suggest that, “Men’s support for women’s equal legal status and right to hold any job they are qualified for was positively linked to their level of life satisfaction, employment…and not support for Sharia.”
Additionally, “After the Arab Uprisings: Women on Rights, Religion, and Rebuilding” challenges the stereotype that “Arab women are suffering more after the revolutions due to political Islamism.” In fact, Gallup’s report reveals that both women and men “rate their current lives worse in the post-Arab-uprising world than before the revolutions” and in fact, “Women are more likely than men to rate their lives better overall in 2011.”
The report also found that the majority of Arab men surveyed agreed that women should be guaranteed the same legal rights as men, although at a slightly lower percentage than among the female participants in the survey.
Shockingly, however, the widest gender disparity in regards to support of equality between men and women is in Tunisia. 87% of surveyed women believed they should be equal to men while only 59% surveyed males agreed with this sentiment – in spite of the fact that Tunisia is known to be more progressive and secular than its counterparts. The report does not provide further explanation for these statistics.
The report stated, “A religious outlook and support for women’s rights are compatible.” The report’s findings suggest that regarding surveyed men’s attitudes towards women’s rights, there are only a few differences between men who rate religion as “important” and surveyed men who rate it as “not important.” This analysis minimizes the correlation between the degree of religiosity among men and their resistance to gender parity.
Furthermore, the report found that “The majority of women and men across countries experiencing political upheaval do want some level of religious influence in law.” This indicates that Arab men and women agree that Islam should be present in some form in legislation and the development of laws.
As a matter of fact, according to the report, “Gender-specific concerns were not mentioned as top priorities for Egyptian women. It is economic struggles and security issues.”
The findings of the Gallup poll indicate that local perspectives regarding the challenges facing women’s empowerment in the region may be linked to economic circumstances that sparked the “Arab Spring,” as opposed to the subsequent rise of Islamist political dominance.