United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) has been helping women of the Gulf and beyond. For UNIDO, the economic empowerment of women is key to building healthier, better educated, 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 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.

Arab Regional Centre for Entrepreneurship and Investment Training (ARCEIT), was established in Manama, the capital of Bahrain, as a South-South cooperation initiative of UNIDO, the Bahraini Government and India’s Inter-Regional Centre for Entrepreneurship and Investment Training. Many women have graduated from the ARCEIT Women’s Entrepreneurship Development Programme, implemented in association with the Ministry of Industry, the Bahrain Development Bank and the Bahrain Businesswomen’s Society.

Since 2009, UNIDO’s Investment and Technology Promotion Office in Bahrain has been working with the national Supreme Council for Women to draft and implement the economic component of the Bahrain National Women’s Empowerment Strategy, which includes an Enterprise Development and Investment Promotion (EDIP) programme. The EDIP programme is a package approach that not only aims to develop the capacities of potential entrepreneurs and help them develop their own businesses, but also helps upgrade and expand existing enterprises.

In 2013, ARCEIT was renamed the Arab International Centre for Entrepreneurship and Investment to reflect the centre’s role in spreading a culture of entrepreneurship and developing micro-enterprises in more than 44 countries. Speaking at the inauguration ceremony, Huda Janahi said transforming ARCEIT into an international centre confirmed Bahrain’s position at the hub of entrepreneurship in the region. She said that establishing a company or turning a business concept into reality is now “very easy” in Bahrain, thanks to the spread of a culture of entrepreneurship, an abundance of government-provided facilities and the programmes offered by UNIDO.

In Abu Dhabi, capital of the United Arab Emirates, UNIDO has established a women’s economic empowerment centre, in cooperation with the Family Development Foundation. The centre will raise awareness of entrepreneurship and its potential contributions to economic development; strengthen national technical and institutional capacity to run and sustain an EDIP programme; enhance potential women entrepreneurs’ capacity to conceive, develop and implement income-generating activities; and enhance the performance and growth of existing women-owned enterprises.

Women of the Gulf, and beyond, who choose the challenging but potentially rewarding path of entrepreneurship, are better placed to succeed, thanks to UNIDO initiatives.