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Growth role of Arab women in focus

Washington, July 7, 2008

A global conference has put the spotlight on the role of Arab women in the development of the region.

Arab women, given the right environment, could be successful entrepreneurs, influential political leaders, and formidable global business managers, World Bank president Robert B Zoellick said.

The conference, ‘Partners for Change: Realising the Potential of Arab Women in the Private and Public Sector,’ drew participants from more than 20 countries, including the US, Canada, Europe and the Middle East.

It gathered Arab and international policymakers in an attempt to stimulate dialogue aimed at removing roadblocks to women’s gainful participation in Arab politics, economies and society.

Representatives from both the public and private sector discussed the means to optimise the contribution of Arab women in the development of the region during the first US-based conference of the Arab International Women’s Forum (AIWF), hosted by the World Bank Middle East North Africa in Washington, DC.

“While only 13 per cent of firms or companies in the Middle East are owned by women, there is no significant difference in terms of size, age, sector, exports, and foreign direct investment to those firms owned by men,” Zoellick said, pointing to the findings of a recent World Bank report.

Successful women entrepreneurs from all over the Middle East also gathered during the two-day conference to hear ministers, including Oman’s Social Development Minister Dr Sharifa Khalfan Al Yahyai, Jordan’s Social Development Minister Hala Bseisu Lattouf and Yemen’s Human Rights Minister Dr Huda Ali Al Ban, talk about the gains women have made in the region.

Speakers also argued, however, that much progress was still needed in the region.

Despite the rising number of young Arab women enrolled in higher education, which has resulted in a pool of qualified potential employees, research showed that the number of graduates who actually moved into the workforce in countries within the MENA region remains low, they pointed out.

Nadereh Chamlou, senior adviser and gender specialist for the MENA region, expressed confidence that the conference had “showcased these accomplished, dedicated and successful Arab women as role models for future generations in the Middle East, a side to Arab women that is not adequately covered in the media.”

AIWF founder and chair Haifa Fahoum Al Kaylani, “AIWF was established in 2001 as a non-profit organisation aimed at bringing together women from the Arab world with those from across the international community.

“Our goal is to serve as the voice of Arab women in business and government, through a series of global initiatives, conferences, and programmes. It is truly representative of the direction that the region is taking, and of our continuing commitment to the promotion of cross-cultural diversity, connectivity and understanding between the Arab world and the international community through women.”

The conference was supported by a number of AIWF’s global corporate partners, including PepsiCo International, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Shell and DLA Piper. – Trade Arabia News Service




Tags: arab | Women | AIWF |

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