UN­LOCK­ING ECO­NOMIC PO­TEN­TIAL

Why women’s rights is ev­ery­one’s busi­ness

Executive Magazine - - Front Page - Yasser Akkaoui Edi­tor-in-chief

Le­banon still has peo­ple, right? While this may sound like a dumb ques­tion, it was the only thing run­ning through my mind af­ter a 90 minute meet­ing with Par­lia­ment Speaker Nabih Berri on Fe­bru­ary 23. We were talk­ing about Le­banon’s eco­nomic op­por­tu­ni­ties, but the speaker had a sin­gu­lar fo­cus: nat­u­ral re­sources. He talked about oil. He talked about gas. He even talked about ex­port­ing wa­ter. What he ig­nored was our most valu­able as­set: hu­man cap­i­tal. Fe­male Le­banese, for ex­am­ple, are be­ing un­der­uti­lized as agents of eco­nomic growth. Em­pow­er­ing them would boost both pro­duc­tiv­ity and GDP. We know Le­banese women are well ed­u­cated, so we sim­ply must en­sure they are bet­ter rep­re­sented in the work­force for the ben­e­fit of the en­tire coun­try. We have proof that, de­spite all the ob­sta­cles they face to­day, women can and do suc­ceed in the Le­banese work­place. We need to help more women join the work­force by both of­fer­ing them more legal pro­tec­tions such as laws against sex­ual ha­rass­ment, in par­tic­u­lar, and cre­at­ing more job op­por­tu­ni­ties in the coun­try, in gen­eral.

We’re a na­tion of cre­ative minds and en­tre­pre­neur­ial spir­its. We should have a larger and more dy­namic knowl­edge econ­omy in which both our men and women can pros­per. In­stead, we have an $80 mil­lion fiber op­tic back­bone for in­ter­net traf­fic sit­ting un­used. Sim­ply turn­ing on what we al­ready have can spur in­no­va­tion, growth and job cre­ation. And it can be done quicker than wait­ing for politi­cians to agree on ex­ploit­ing what may or may not be buried be­neath the seafloor.

More than oil, gas or con­vo­luted schemes to sell wa­ter we don’t even cap­ture in a large enough quan­tity to meet our own de­mand, Le­banon needs hope and more in­vest­ments in its hu­man cap­i­tal — things not even our po­lit­i­cans can steal.

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