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Online Freelance: An Unexplored Opportunity for Women’s Economic Empowerment

Bush Institute WE Lead Scholar Hana Elghoul shares how her organization empowers women from Tunisia, and throughout the MENA region, with the necessary tools to find online freelance job opportunities.

Article by Hana Elghoul December 13, 2019 //   4 minute read

Tunisia prides itself on being a pioneer in revolting against tyranny, inequality, and other social and economic plights in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. Ever since the 2011 revolution, the country successfully transitioned from an appointive to a democratic country. The Tunisian National Dialogue Quartet, which led these efforts, won the Nobel Prize in 2015 for the endeavor.

However, the country’s economic situation has only deteriorated since the 2011 revolution due to a decline in growth rates, the increase in unemployment, and the unprecedented levels of debt. According to a survey conducted by Tunisia’s National Institute of Statistics, the unemployment rate increased to 15.5 percent in the fourth quarter of 2018, compared to 13 percent prior to the revolution. Additionally, the percentage of unemployed women is almost double the male unemployment rate.

Impeding their equal participation in the workforce, women entrepreneurs are not able to secure financial loans to start businesses due to a lack of credit. Furthermore, women must have the support of their spouse to work outside the home.

Efforts by government and non-government organizations have been made to guarantee more economic opportunities for women in the workforce. For example, a three day workshop was held in 2018 to foster women’s economic empowerment. Significant parties joined forces to host this conference, including the Regional Chamber of Women Entrepreneurs of Sfax, the German Agency for International Cooperation (GIZ), and the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD).

The “Gig Economy” has also made a positive impact by altering workforce dynamics. It has empowered job seekers globally and has successfully guaranteed a decent source of living. In 2014, I took advantage of these opportunities and became a data quality analyst for a U.S. based company. Today, I am the only Tunisian woman to work online for Google Inc. as an Arabic-English translator and data research specialist. The position offers much flexibility and has enabled me to pursue my doctoral degree simultaneously.

Tunisian women can find freelance work through freelance service marketplace companies like Upwork and Fiverr. However, these companies are not broadly advertised. Additionally, many of the freelance platforms are English based and many Tunisian women are not fluent in English. That is why English language workshops and trainings on the freelance economy are critical to empowering women.

My organization, Your Potential Venue, provides English language training and training on the freelance marketplace. This initiative empowers women from Tunisia, as well as the MENA region, with the necessary tools to find job opportunities.

Your Potential Venue is one solution to addressing the female unemployment rate, but organizations like these are not enough. Our government and banks must allow women to be approved for loans. This will further encourage an entrepreneurial life and allow women to work from home with flexible hours.

Tunisia must continue to be a pioneer in the MENA region and encourage female participation in the workplace. This will only strengthen our country and economy, and further advance our democracy.

This article originally appeared on the Wilson Center's site.

Hana Elghoul is a Bush Institute WE Lead Scholar,


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