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Women in Dubai’s Forum…Calling for Innovation, Economic Participation | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed during Global Women’s Forum

Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed during Global Women's Forum

Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed during Global Women’s Forum

Dubai-Thousands of people have gathered in Dubai to talk about women and diversity. Global Women’s Forum Dubai, held at Madinat Jumeirah, has featured keynote speeches by HM Queen Rania al-Abdullah of Jordan, wife of HM King Abdullah II ibn al-Hussein of Jordan, the International Monitory Fund’s Christine Lagarde, Dr. Amal al-Qubaisi, President of the Federal National Council, and HH Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan, UAE Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation.

Other attendees include officials representing government and academia, as well as art and culture.

The event aims to discuss ways of boosting female influence, workplace diversity and gender balance.

The event has featured five main plenary sessions, exploring a range of topics, including breakthrough moments in work and life, the place of women and innovative thinking in tomorrow’s cities, the impact of longer life expectancies, looking beyond the stereotypes of women in the Middle East, and how to create lasting social impact.

“If this forum can say that the first priority is education and if it can say it here, it’s wonderful,” said Jacqueline Franjou, Director General of Women’s Forum.

“To empower women is to empower all of society”, Queen Rania of Jordan told participants at the first day of the Global Women’s Forum Dubai.

Speaking at the two-day conference, Queen Rania urged Arab societies to break the mold that restricts women’s participation in social development.

“Extremist ideologies have infiltrated our societies, demanding that we make leaps in our progress.”
“We need to actively fight currents that are trying to throw us centuries behind,” she said. “These days, we are beginning to see the spread of illiteracy in communities that once graduated pioneers and scientists.”

She added that this restricted the development of a woman’s capability, talent and ambition, which were based on culture, not religion.

“When Islam brought light to the world, it gave women rights, status and choices that freed them from the age of ignorance and vulnerability they had endured in the pre-Islamic days,” she said.

“Innovation breaks molds; it is not limited by norms or institutions. Innovation is neither dependent on opinions nor agendas. When a woman succeeds, she reaches out to those around her and pulls them up with her; this is why if you empower a woman, you empower a whole society.”

Sheikh Abdullah spoke of how he had grown up in a house where Sheikh Zayed, Founding Father of the UAE, and his wife, Sheikha Fatima bint Mubarak, were equal partners in family life.

“They were partners in raising us, they were partners in following up on our education, and they were partners in following the march of the country,” he said.

Sheikh Zayed was raised in a house by Sheikha Salama, who was strong and firm. She raised Sheikh Zayed with morals of loving his country with all its citizens, women or men, and respecting, appreciating and forgiving others.

“This is what we learnt from Sheikh Zayed,” he added.

Sheikh Abdullah said that the empowerment of women in the UAE was not window shopping, yet it was founded on a serious and organized methodology.

He said that it was very important for every country that was serious about developing society not to exclude any person, any idea, or any type of initiative.

“I hope that the Global Women’s Forum Dubai will enhance the role of women,” he added. “The fault is not that women are not working, the fault is that men have taken over some of the roles women should play.”

Meanwhile, Dr al-Qubaisi said that the UAE leadership had played a great role in helping women to play their rightful role in the development of their society.

“This forum in the United Arab Emirates is a confirmation of the leading role of women in the UAE and of UAE women in the world,” she said; adding that the country followed a path of integration between men and women.

Dr al-Qubaisi, who in 2006 became the first woman elected in the Federal National Council, recalled an instance in her life that reflected the innovation and ideas discussed at the forum.

“When the election results came out, an old man approached me and passionately congratulated me. He said that he had travelled from the West just to vote for me,” she noted.

“Neither his age nor his lack of education stopped him from supporting his beliefs that encourage enabling and supporting women, for they are the seed of goodness in the society.”

The Forum was graced by Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai, who presented medals of honor to Christine Lagarde, Managing Director of the IMF and Queen Rania Abdullah.