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Sustaining Arab Empowerment

26 October 2011 No Comment

Haifa Al Kaylani

Haifa Al Kaylani

The statistics … confirm an uncomfortable disconnect between the numbers of women who are highly educated and running communities, businesses, and indeed countries, and the fact that women are still paid less than their male counterparts.”


In the past decade, the world has witnessed extraordinary progress in terms of the participation of Arab women in their economies, their societies, and their communities. The Arab International Women’s Forum (AIWF) is very proud to be at the forefront of international empowerment discourse, advocating sustainable, responsible change and ensuring that the rights and achievements of women are not forgotten in an uncertain global economic and political climate.

Fifteen years after the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, a decade after the Millennium Development Goals and the Barcelona Process, and only a few years after the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership and other initiatives which unfortunately did not fulfill the aspirations of the people of the region, the rights of women and youth and opportunities for their empowerment remain key discussion points in Arab economic discourse. The role of women and youth in promoting a sustainable socioeconomic future for Arab citizens remains, now more so than ever, a prominent theme of international and regional initiatives and summits tackling the issues surrounding the future of the region.

With a fast-growing presence in Arab politics, parliaments, and the legislative process, Arab women are contributing to economic, political, and social decisions in pursuit of better opportunities for all Arab citizens. As a result, we now have women leaders excelling at all levels, from communities to courtrooms and the private sector through to politics. There are more women serving in company boardrooms, political cabinets, and the global media than ever before.

Women are starting and growing viable, successful businesses at an encouraging rate, and education statistics for women and girls show that they are far exceeding the achievements of their male counterparts in relation to academic enrollment and success.

The statistics, however, still confirm an uncomfortable disconnect between the numbers of women who are highly educated and running communities, businesses, and indeed countries, and the fact that women are still paid less than their male counterparts. Many industries (science, finance, medicine and technology being at the forefront of these) are still heavily male dominated; women are not equally represented in the business or political realms; and across the globe, women still do not have equal access to education, healthcare, or protection from violence.

It has always been the firm belief of the Arab International Women’s Forum, of which I am proud to serve as Founder & Chairman, that by helping to create the conditions for women’s prosperity, both within the region and internationally, we are all helping to ensure continued prosperity for women across the globe.

It is important to acknowledge the important contributions that women have made in the ongoing process of aligning Arab social and economic policies with the rights of Arab women and girls. The work of women on the ground, running grassroots movements and adding a new dimension to community leadership, must never be overlooked, and must be fully recognized for what it is – tireless, vital, and nothing short of remarkable.

An AIWF Forum

The role of civil society and the international community in developing and promoting empowerment initiatives in the region must also be acknowledged. AIWF’s very existence is testament to the power of partnership, and we firmly believe that it is only by working together, with partners in civil society and the international community, that we can effect real change.

The influence that the corporate sector plays in developing the future Arab workforce must never be underestimated. For the Arab region to succeed and fully integrate into the global, interconnected, and borderless economy, it is crucial that Arab women and youth are given the essential tools, training, and hands-on experience that will ensure that they are workforce-ready and able to compete with graduates from other parts of the world, all vying for employment opportunities that in themselves will stimulate economic growth and contribute to their nations’ economic standing.

AIWF has seen first-hand that the support of global corporations in training, recruiting, and developing a viable workforce makes a very real, tangible difference to how well Arab students can integrate into the global economy and the international jobs marketplace. However, the answer to the job crisis in the region, and indeed internationally, lies with small and medium enterprise – entrepreneurs and small businesses fueling the creation of the jobs that are so critical to kickstarting recovery and promoting economic resilience.

For AIWF, the issues of job creation, education, and capacity building are critical to international discourse on inclusive, sustainable growth. We believe that the global business community must empower women entrepreneurs with the training, business to business networking opportunities, technological savvy, and tools to grow successful businesses that will ultimately employ and develop other young people and create a strong, viable, educated middle class. Working towards the goal of achieving inclusive, sustainable, and realistic growth and increased opportunities for the advancement of women and girls, AIWF and our international partners will continue to support and develop empowerment initiatives that directly benefit women and youth, breaking down stereotypes, meeting challenges, supporting development and growth, fostering change, and encouraging women to optimize their potential.

We also believe that the role of the global media is essential to successful sustainable empowerment. AIWF has long campaigned for and has noted in recent years that global media is moving past the stereotypes of Arab women towards a balanced international perspective, shedding new and positive light on the achievements of women in the economic, academic, and political realms. We are very proud to have assisted key media projects in the past decade, and we urge the media world to continue its excellent work in examining the real issues, challenges, and prospects of women and youth, not just in the Arab world but everywhere.

AIWF’s very existence is testament to the power of partnership, and we firmly believe that it is only by working together with our partners in civil society and the international community that we can truly effect real change. Placing Arab women and youth at the heart of the international community by connecting them with their counterparts around the world, AIWF continues to work closely with both Arab and global partners from the corporate sector, civil society, government and local communities, directly with youth, legislators, and educators, to shape a better future and achieve sustained growth and development for women, their families, and their communities.

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