IFAD-ILO Close-up Event

Mainstreaming youth and women’s employment in rural investments in MENA

The challenge of tackling unemployment among rural women and youth in the Middle East and North Africa gave rise to a unique partnership between IFAD and the ILO


Unemployment rates in most Middle Eastern and North African countries remain the highest globally. Youth unemployment is particularly high, reaching 29.7 per cent in the Middle East and more than 28.6 per cent in North Africa in 2017. The participation of female youth in the labour force in the Arab States is the lowest in the world at about 13.5 per cent. Unemployed young women and men in rural areas are particularly disadvantaged. Women make up the majority of the agricultural workforce in the NENA region, accounting for 43 per cent of agricultural employees. Poor employment outcomes for women in the region can be attributed to prevailing cultural attitudes, gendered laws and weak support services. Women in the region are concentrated in low productivity jobs. They work on small farms and run small firms. They are overrepresented among unpaid family workers and in the informal sector. And they rarely rise to positions of power in companies, politics or their communities.

The challenge of tackling unemployment among women and youth in rural areas gave rise to a unique partnership between IFAD and ILO’s Employment Policy Department. This jointly supported three-year partnership on Strengthening gender monitoring and evaluation in rural employment in the Near East and North Africa (also known as the Taqeem Initiative ) seeks to strengthen the capacity of 17 youth- and women-focused institutions for evidence-based research and rigorous measurement of gender empowerment in rural employment-related interventions. Beyond institutional capacity development, the project has also allowed for evidence generated through impact evaluation to be taken up in policy processes in Egypt, Jordan and Morocco through the production of targeted policy notes and multistakeholder policy labs. A special focus is placed on measuring women’s empowerment in labour market interventions – this is achieved through the Women’s Empowerment in Agriculture Index (WEAI), which is being piloted for the first time in the NENA region in Tunisia. In the process, the initiative aims to contribute to increased employment and self-employment outcomes for more than 10,000 rural women and young people in the NENA region.

This Close Up event will provide an overview of new evidence on the effects of rural-focused, active labour market policies in NENA. This includes results from an IFAD-ILO randomized controlled trial study on rural financial literacy in Morocco; a quasi-experimental study on a field intervention combining business, vocational and life skills training to rural Egyptian women; and preliminary results from WEAI Tunisia. A panel session will follow involving rural and employment experts from ILO, IFAD and the University of Passau, as well as a discussion around implications for IFAD lending operations. The discussion will focus on how unemployed young people and women can be empowered through integration into agricultural value chains and improved access to finance, technology and markets, and also how to increase the active participation of poor rural youth and women in rural investment projects.



Speakers: Perin Saint-Ange, AVP PMD; Khalida Bouzar, Director, NEN


Introductory remarks
Speaker: Sukti Dasgupta, Chief, Employment and Labour Market Policies Branch, ILO


IFAD-ILO partnership results
Speaker: Drew Gardiner, Chief Technical Adviser, YEP, ILO


Panel discussion
Panellists: Valter Nebuloni (Head, YEP); Michael Grimm (Professor of Economics, University of Passau); Dina Saleh (CPM, NEN); Lenyara Fundukova (Programme Officer, NEN); Vrej Jijyan (Programme Officer, NEN)


Open discussion
Moderator: Nerina Muzurovic, KMO & Grant Manager, NEN


Way Forward
Speakers: Sukti Dasgupta; Khalida Bouzar