The Support and Accelerate Women's Inclusion (SAWI) Project, an interdisciplinary, multi-country, multi-sector, multi-lingual and multi-generational collaborative network of organizations and individuals, is committed to accelerating progress towards more inclusive workplaces and workforces. Based at the American University of Beirut and in partnership with Telfer School of Management, the SAWI project has grown to be a scholar activists’ model for participatory impact. In collaboration with their numerous partners, SAWI supports the creation of human resources policies and practices for the dignified and sustainable inclusion in workplaces and workforces across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA).
The SAWI Project webinar series: Multistakeholder mobilizing for economic inclusion
In the early months of 2023, the SAWI Project presented a virtual three-part webinar series on the role of multi-stakeholder mobilizing in strengthening women’s economic inclusion and creating inclusive workplaces. The series focused on work undertaken in the MENA region and was co-hosted by the American University of Beirut and the Telfer School of Management, University of Ottawa.
Attracting over 260 attendees, the series fostered a transnational conversation on multi-stakeholder mobilization for inclusive human resource systems and dignified labour markets, showcased SAWI’s efforts in the MENA region, and celebrated various achievements in mobilizing for change. SAWI invited influential keynote speakers to share their knowledge, such as Nada Al-Nashif, United Nations Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights; Sally Abi Khalil, Oxfam International’s Middle East and North Africa Director; and Dr. Bessma Momani, Senior Fellow, Centre for International Governance and Innovation (CIGI), Fellow Arab Gulf States Institute in D.C., and Professor at the University of Waterloo.
Featuring experts from multiple regions across the globe, the webinars discussed three core themes: multi-stakeholder mobilizing for inclusion, mobilizing employers for inclusive HR policies and practices, and actioning policy change at the national and organization level. Charlotte Karam, professor at the Telfer School of Management and Director and Primary Investigator of the SAWI project, commented on the series, saying “Such webinars are important forums for reflection, sharing of experiences, and fostering further multi-stakeholder conversations for further forward-focused momentum for inclusive organizations and economies.” She further explained that the SAWI project is a great example of the power of bringing together many hands and minds to advance diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives in the MENA. “In partnering early on with our country partners, SAWI was able to bring together, mobilize, and work closely with employers across different sectors and countries. And then to work together to co-create change through co-drafting concrete action plans toward inclusive HR policies and implementation strategies”.
To date, SAWI has worked with 61 employers and drafted 112 policies and strategies for implementation across eight countries: Algeria, Bahrain, Jordan, Iraq, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, and Tunisia. This policy change is taking place within four sectors: banking, healthcare, higher education, and STEM. Pioneering employers who partnered with SAWI in the MENA region talked about their experiences during the webinars.
"SAWI helped us a lot in reducing turnover and increase retention in our institution, and this is the main goal in any institution that works within a certain strategy that aims to reduce the risk of employees turnover.”
- Ikhlas Abu Sharkh, Quality Manager at The Royal Hospital in Jordan
The series also included panel discussions with representatives from SAWI’s implementing partners (IPs) in Lebanon (LLWB), Algeria (Apotheox Business Services), Jordan (BPWA), Tunisia, Bahrain (Warsha), and Morocco (Economia HEM). The live discussions in the three webinars were moderated by Rami Khouri, AUB’s Co-director of Global Engagement Initiative, and journalist-in-residence; Dr. Carmen Geha, Co-Principal Investigator, Senior Researcher in Migration and Gender, Pompeu Fabra University, and Founder and Managing Director, Soltara Consulting; and Olfat Khattar, SAWI Regional Program Manager.
The presence of these diverse voices fostered rich discussion and debate, and highlighted key lessons and challenges faced when attempting to effect change through multistakeholder initiatives. Amira Marzouk, Executive Director of the Center Democracy for All, Former Parliament Member of the Tunisian National Constituent Assembly, and representing SAWI’s IP in Tunisia explains: "Recognizing the importance of women's economic inclusion is not enough; we should multiply efforts to break down the barriers and create an enabling environment that supports women's full economic participation." According to Dr. Manal Abboubi, Professor at the University Mohammed V Rabat, Morocco, Research Affiliate at Economia, HEM Research Center, and SAWI’s IP representative in Morocco, “Women’s inclusion in the workplace is not a matter of employers' policies only. It is a multi-stakeholder dynamic that leaves no one behind.”, hence the importance of actioning for policy change as part of the partnership with the SAWI Project.
The SAWI project and the webinar series were made possible through funding awarded by the Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI) at the U.S. Department of State. The full webinar series was recorded and is available on YouTube. To learn more about the SAWI project and its webinar series please visit SAWI’s webpage and stay engaged with us on our social media platforms:
This article was written by Mariam Omar. Mariam is a Research Associate at SAWI, Telfer School of Management, and a PhD Candidate (ABD) in Population Health at the Interdisciplinary School of Health Science, University of Ottawa.