Arab women's high level of illiteracy, low access to basic health services and employment opportunities and high fertility rates tend to perpetuate poor reproductive health, feminization of poverty, and greater imbalances between men and women.
The Arab region is home to 307 million people, representing 4.5% of the world's population. The region is characterized by large family size, high maternal and paternal age, and a high level of inbreeding. Women often continue to bear children until menopause, increasing the predisposition to inherited disorders.
All Arab countries are presently experiencing economic difficulties, and mass poverty has worsened in most. Arab women's participation in science and technology activities is marginalized, which slows their progress compared to men. Arab countries and the region as a whole face challenges that require effective responses at the political, economic, scientific and social levels. Many studies have shown that globally women are still under-represented in the field of science. If appropriate education and more opportunities are given to girls to have both a family and a career, science will gain from their intelligence, passion and sensitivity.
In genetic terms women are equal to men, with a similar range of intellectual capabilities. If few women work in the sciences, this is for social rather than inherent genetic reasons. Women in science and technology play an important role in their societies, and make science more responsive to the needs of their own societies. They have to try to find solutions for problems that could benefit a large number of people and improve quality of life. Efforts by women scientists to build a team of capable researchers in a field such as that of Human Genetics should be a model to be followed by other scientists. Protein coding genes constitute only approximately1%of the human genome but harbor 85% of the mutations with large effects on disease-related traits.Women efforts in determining the spectrum of gene mutations causing common genetic disorders (Beta thalassemia, phenylketonuria, fragile X syndrome and congenital hearing loss) will be discussed. We believe that further efforts are needed to encourage the involvement of women in science in a way that allows creativity and innovation.
Comprehensive initiatives to encourage women scientists should be designed and implemented in the Arab region. These ought to capitalize on available efforts, streamlining them to best achieve development goals. It is time to end the Sexism in Science and Technology.