Econ prof’s new book “essential” read for policy makers and governments

Dr. Fariba Solati had to take a moment after she was overcome by emotion while speaking at the launch party of her new book, Women, Work, and Patriarchy in the Middle East and North Africa on Friday.

It was during a touching realization of personal connection to the book, that she paused and recalled the reason she kept on the course of researching the material for her book, even when all seemed hopeless.

“The nine-year-old me who ran home from school followed by an army tank and the twelve-year-old me who ran from the religious police who were chasing girls going to school … In that dark moment those two girls rescued me.”

Now, the multi-disciplinary look at the lives of women in the Middle East and North Africa is published under “one of the most important academic publishers”, according to Joan McFarland, Solati’s fellow economics professor and has received accolades by many professor emeritus’, who believe the book should be widely read by students, academics, NGOs, governments, and international organizations.

“Fariba is the first to construct a patriarchy index that stands over a long period of time, 30 years,” says McFarland and that is why she believes Solati’s work is so essential for everyone, especially governments and policy-makers to read.

The book is divided into three sections. The first one deals with the reasons behind why the lowest female participation in the labour force is in the Middle East and North Africa. The second section is a survey, summary, and comparison of all the studies available concerning women and work in Middle East and North African countries. And finally, Solati wraps it all up by providing an index of the level of patriarchy between these countries.

“It shows how culture affects economic outcome,” says Solati.

Solati, herself, also emphasizes the importance of this book in anyone’s library. It will debunk misconceptions that Islam is to blame for the state of women and their work and provides a unique perspective into the lives of women. Most importantly, it explains how policy-makers need to consider both social and economic factors to understand the situation in the Middle East-North Africa region.

“For policy-making, you need to understand social and economic variables, but they usually ignore one or the other. This book explains why this is happening from different perspectives: social and economic.”

According to Solati, it is not that women aren’t working, it is that the statistics don’t document women’s hard work and efforts as official labour.

“[It’s] not a puzzle … The puzzle is in fact a picture of numerous stories of hardworking women, working at home, working in the farm, in the family workshop, on the street, in the factories, universities, and hospitals.”

In her words, to be more economically successful and have a higher GDP, women have to be fully integrated and accepted into the work force and not pushed down by unfair and misogynistic family, civil, and labour laws. She hopes that policy-makers and governments will read her comprehensive study and afterwards, adjust accordingly for the better.

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