Fifteen years ago, Mrs. Huda Janahi started her business, Global Cargo and Travel Services, with start-up capital of 1,000 Bahraini Dinars (around US$2,600 at today’s exchange rate). She ran the business single-handedly from an office in a small rented space in Muharraq, Bahrain’s third largest city.
For the first year, all progress was blocked because her application for a commercial registration was rejected by the Ministry of Commerce. She was told that women could not receive a commercial registration to operate in the cargo industry. Undaunted, Janahi refused to accept no for an answer and she turned to the Manama office of the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) for help.
In 2001, after graduating from the UNIDO entrepreneurship development programme, she applied again for registration and, with UNIDO’s support, her application was finally accepted. Within a few years, Janahi built up her company into a hugely successful enterprise and, in 2008, she signed a merger worth US$3m. with the Kuwaiti cargo company, Global Logistic Company, which serves the whole Gulf region and much of the rest of the Middle East. Today, Janahi is an award-winning businesswoman, one of the most influential women in the Arab world according to Forbes magazine, and is hailed as a role model for budding female entrepreneurs across the Persian Gulf region.
For UNIDO, the economic empowerment of women is key to building healthier, better educated, more peaceful and more prosperous societies, and the organization is working hard to ensure that women both help create, and benefit from, inclusive and sustainable industrial development. Letting women participate more fully in economic life can yield enormous economic benefits but this is an area where the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region as a whole lags behind. In the MENA region, the gap between men and women’s participation in the labour force over the past decade was almost triple the average gap in the emerging market and developing economies. If this gap had simply been double instead of triple, the gains for the entire region would have been enormous – almost US$1trn in output, amounting to annual gains of about 6 percent of GDP.
In the countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council, the regional intergovernmental union consisting of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, UNIDO is spearheading an array of initiatives to help economically empower women.title