New initiative to boost women graduate employment

A scheme to promote self-employment and entrepreneurship among young female university students in four North African countries and seven European and Mediterranean states was launched last month.

This is the second phase of a two-year Union for the Mediterranean project titled Young Women as Job Creators.

The project is promoted by the Association of Organisations of Mediterranean Businesswomen and the second phase will include Egypt, Tunisia and Albania along with countries of the 2013 first phase including Morocco, Palestine, Jordan and Spain.

The third phase will start in 2015 in the seven countries of the second phase plus Algeria, Croatia, Lebanon and Turkey. When the project's three phases are concluded, a total of 11 countries, including the four North African and the seven European and Mediterranean states, will have participated.

Although the number of male and female college graduates in Arab countries is about the same – 5.1 million women as opposed to 5 million men – Arab women outperform men even in the hard sciences, according to a report released last April titled "Women in the Workforce in the Arab World".

"Not only are women’s labour force participation rates in Arab countries among the lowest in the world, female unemployment rates are far above the region’s averages," the report stated.

To deal with this problem, the Young Women as Job Creators project focuses on facilitating the transition of young, talented women from education to work. It also advocates a stronger role for women in social and economic development, and contributes towards gender equality.

The project includes a series of "Women Entrepreneurship Days" and provides free business start-up advice through collaboration with partner businesswomen associations, local universities and higher education centres.

This enables young female university students, who are about to graduate and already have a business idea, to acquire the knowledge and skills needed to transfer their potential and talent into concrete women-owned businesses. In the process they will be trained to become future successful businesswomen and employers.

The projects expects 10,000 female students will be trained, with a minimum of 400 participants receiving dedicated business creation advice and possibly starting up their own private business projects, according to the project snapshot.