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Affiliated with the Lebanese American University, IWSAW was established in 1973 as the first institute in the Arab world to work at the intersection of academia and activism to advance women's empowerment and gender equality.At present, Abirafeh heads a team of five people with an ambitious mandate to cover all 22 Arab states.Twenty years on, after a master's at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, a book on gender and international aid in Afghanistan, and a TEDx talk on the challenges of working on gender-based violence in emergency contexts, Abirafeh sees social movements that focus on gender rights are gaining traction – albeit slowly.Among the 100 nominees listed by Apolitical, Abirafeh was one of only two influencers of Middle Eastern origin.Globally, countries are losing $160 trillion in wealth because of differences in lifetime earnings between women and men, amounting to an average of $23,620 for each person in the 141 countries studied.In the latest parliamentary elections, expectations for greater female political participation were frustrated, with women bagging only 4.7 percent of the seats.This, Abirafeh explains, stems from the absence of foundational reforms that have enabled the movement to flourish elsewhere.
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