Women must link up across regions, cultures and generations to address major issues that affect their lives, former Irish President Mary Robinson said yesterday.
She stressed the need for women leaders to make contributions over vital concerns such as security in her keynote speech on the first day of Woibex 2008, the tenth Global Businesswomen and Leaders Summit in Dubai.
And she said it was important to address the issue of women’s leadership in the Middle East because in order to achieve balanced and sustainable development and security, it was imperative to empower women.
“Every development expert knows that, in order to have stable development, you must empower women and girls,” she said. “Businesswomen have an important role to play in development because every successful woman encourages another.”
She added that it was very important that leaders think globally and act locally. “We have to be interconnected internationally but we have to make a difference in our own environment.”
The two-day summit at the Burj Al Arab hotel is being held to mark International Women’s Day. Yesterday delegates attended the presentation of the Middle East Businesswomen and Women Leaders Achievement Awards ceremony.
The second keynote address, by Dr Masoumeh Ebtekar, former vice-president of Iran, considered the need for a “feminine approach” to leadership in a world that is overshadowed by war and terrorism.
“The global challenges that we face today are undermining peace, security and sustainable development in many parts of the world,” she said. “War, terrorism and armed conflict have led to an increase in the sense of insecurity. In addition to the low number of women in decision-making positions there is a general understanding that the lack of affection, love and feminine attitudes has led to an aggressive masculine grip over global affairs.
“I think the main challenge we face today in global governance is the quality of leadership. In dealing with the current state of affairs, what comes to mind before anything else is the need to find solutions that would bring about a revolutionary change to the way we manage the world.” She said the suppression of feminine attributes by both male and female leaders had led to an escalation of conflict and war.
The third keynote speaker was Mervat Tallawy, Ambassador of the League of Arab States, who discussed the contemporary role of women in Arab society.She delivered a message from Amr Moussa, Secretary-General of the League of Arab States, which said: “An important change has already taken place in the role of women in the Arab World.
They have gone from being just a segment of society that is dealt with in the framework of policies to an entity which has an active role in the formulation and implementation of those policies.” After delivering Moussa’s message, Tallawy went on to stress the need for women to concern themselves more with political issues such as war and peace, economic policy and globalisation.
“We must change the agenda of what we talk about and concern ourselves with these critical issues,” she said. “Two-thirds of the world’s poor and the world’s refugees are women. Social programmes are the first to be cancelled when governments face crises and it is women who suffer most.”
Dr Khaled Alloush, representing the United Nations Development Programme, spoke on the achievements of Arab women over the past two decades.He presented a series of charts and tables illustrating the changes that had taken place in the status of Arab women in terms of life expectancy, literacy, levels of education, employment, economic progress between 1980 and 2005.
The report focused on four areas – health, education, economics and politics – and illustrated the areas where significant improvement had taken place and where improvement was still needed. According to the report, women in all Arab countries have made major gains in terms of increased life expectancy and literacy.
In most Arab nations female participation in economic activity had increased over the past 15 years with the greatest increase seen in Libya. However, Mauritania, Djibouti, Sudan and Egypt reported a decrease. Hoda Barakat, managing partner and head of IT at law firm Al Tamimi and Co, said the fast rate of change in today’s world had increased the pressure on organisations and leaders to come up with new ideas and solutions at a faster pace than ever before.
“Innovation is a prerequisite for any successful organisation. It is what gives life to business in a competitive market. The businesses that don’t quite make it or fail later under the pressure of a changing economy have failed to innovate appropriately.
“Establishing an attitude of relentless growth is what enables an organisation and its people to achieve their goals.
The spirit of relentless growth keeps fresh ideas flowing and reinvigorates your company.“Thus the primary challenge facing business leaders is to institute an environment where every decision and direction of company policy can be constantly and safely reassessed,” she said.Kathleen Kurre of the Institute for Leadership and Entrepreneurship at Georgia Tech in the US, spoke of the importance of using technology as a means to connect people and gain access to new markets and information.
“Technology gives us access to markets that we never had access to and gives us a range and scope we never had before,” she said.
AND THE WINNERS…
Personality of the Year: UAE – Sheikha Fatima bint Zayed bin Saqr Al Nahyan, wife of His Highness Sheikh Humaid bin Rashid Al Nuaimi, Ruler of Ajman and Member of the UAE Supreme Council and the head of Umm Al Moumineen Association.
Businesswoman: Kuwait – Safaa Abdulrahman Al Hashim, Chairman and Managing Director of Advantage Administration and Economic Consultancy.
Media: Qatar – Al Jazeera Network
Young Woman Entrepreneur: UAE- Amna bin Hendi, Deputy President of Bin Hendi Group.
Top Woman in Educational Services: Kuwait – Dr Nouria Al Subaih, Minister of Education and Higher Education.
Woman Achiever: Saudi Arabia – Hana Zuhair, Chief Executive Officer of Prince Sultan bin Abdulaziz Fund to Support Woman Small Enterprises.
Call to empower women for region’s balanced growth