By Hassan Cheruppa
ABU DHABI — The Global Summit of Women, which concluded in Abu Dhabi recently, called for joint action to further empower women and rally together to fight stereotyping and negative images of women worldwide.
The summit, with the participation of delegates from over 100 countries, focused on the role of women leaders in establishing peace, social integration, and driving prosperity. The summit, which was organized by the World Muslim Communities Council (WMCC) and the General Women’s Union (GWU), coincided with the 100th anniversary of women’s right to vote.
The two-day event, with a dozen diverse sessions, addressed the intellectual, social, and cultural barriers that stand in the way of empowering women, and epitomized women’s undying determination to break glass ceilings worldwide.
A host of eminent women dignitaries, including ministers, community leaders, intellectuals, media celebrities, and writers from all over the world shared their perspectives, experiences, and solutions to critical women’s issues in addition to unveiling their brilliant saga of achievements while scaling ladders of success in life along with fighting heavy odds.
The summit urged women worldwide to join hands to break stereotyping and negative images and come forward bravely to tackle difficult circumstances and challenges. The women were told not to apologize for taking their own brave positions and should develop a courageous narrative along with active and decisive involvement in decision-making.
The summit, titled the “Role of female leaders in establishing peace and social integration, and driving prosperity,” was held under the patronage of UAE’s Mother of the Nation Sheikha Fatima bint Mubarak, who is also chairwoman of GWU and Supreme Council for Motherhood and Childhood, and Supreme Chairwoman of the Family Development Foundation.
In her welcoming speech, Sheikh Fatima shed light on the outstanding achievements made by the UAE under the leadership of her husband and Father of the Nation Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al-Nahyan. “Ever since the foundation of UAE, Sheikh Zayed was keen on the pivotal role to be played by women and he had been instrumental in enabling UAE and its people to gain remarkable achievements during a period of 50 years that many other nations and peoples achieved within a century or more. One of the top priorities of Sheikh Zayed was putting trust in women and exerting all-out efforts to empower them,” she said.
In the speech, read out on her behalf, Sheikha Fatima noted that the UAE leadership has set an exemplary example in establishing peace, social integration, and prosperity for women in a country that hosts people representing more than 200 nationalities. “The summit is the launching pad of unifying global efforts to contribute to the leadership in establishing peace and social stability and prosperity for the entire humanity, especially women,” she added.
The opening speeches were delivered by the Chairman of WMCC and Supreme Organizing Committee of the Summit Dr. Ali Rashid Al Nuaimi and Maja Gojkovic, deputy prime minister of Serbia. President of India Droupadi Murmu addressed the session virtually.
In his speech, Dr. Al Nuaimi, who is also chairman of the Defense Affairs, Interior & Foreign Affairs Committee at the UAE Federal National Council, highlighted the pivotal role being played by the UAE in empowering women in all walks of life and fostering their just causes in all parts of the world. He underlined the need for promoting the role of women leaders in celebrating and promoting humanity’s progress.
Prominent women leaders of the UAE were among the keynote speakers in various sessions. They included Sheikha Shamma bint Sultan bin Khalifa Al-Nahyan, president and CEO of UAE Independent Climate Change Accelerators; Sheikha Hissa bint Sultan bin Khalifa Al-Nahyan and Dr. Sheikha Moza bint Tahnoun bin Mohammed Al-Nahyan, advisors at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation.
The summit witnessed 12 brainstorming sessions revolving around a number of key topics and vital issues concerning women worldwide. One session was dedicated to the most accomplished women from all walks of life who shared their unique experiences in a way inspiring the younger women generation to leverage their leadership and influence for greater social impact and transformations. The speakers of the session included former Mauritius President Ameenah Gurib-Fakim; Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Maja Gojkovic, Founder and Chairwoman of the French IMAD association Latifa Ziaten, and CEO of USA Fons Vitae Publishing Virginia Gray Henry. In her speech, Ameenah said the secrets of her success include the power of education, self-confidence, hard work, and unwavering support from family.
The session on “Women leadership in media and creative industry” also witnessed lively discourses. The negative portrayal and stereotyping of women in the global media had undergone meticulous review with disclosures about heroic fights to correct negative images of women.
Prominent British journalist and broadcaster of BBC and CTVC Saba Zaman, Saudi journalist and writer Samar Al-Mogren, Sanjoy Roy, managing director of India’s Teamwork organization, and Chantal Saliba Abikhalil, news anchor at Sky News Arabia were the speakers in the session, chaired by Mona El Shazly, the Egyptian talk show host.
In her speech, Saba Zaman said the stereotyping and creating a negative image of Muslim women was so intense even in free societies like Britain. “While I am wearing a hijab, I am becoming an ambassador of my faith and propagating the human values represented by Islam. When speaking to someone, I have had to take great pains to remove his apprehensions about me and my faith initially, but after some time, he or she becomes very friendly and appreciates my faith and values,” Saba said, adding that she was the only woman with a hijab among the 200 BBC staffers.
On her part, Saima Ashraf, deputy leader and cabinet member for community leadership & engagement at London Mayoralty, cited her example of hard work and fight for the cause of the public, especially women, saying, that made her popular among them. “When I migrated from France, I did neither have any proficiency in English nor have any friends there but my passion for social work had produced an electrifying impact. I volunteered at a charity show and was instrumental with networking and engaging and participating with activities of local residents, taking up their issues including domestic violence,” she said while speaking on the topic “Women and the power of networking.”
Saima has been elected as a Councillor at the London Borough of Barking and Dagenham for four times in a row. “I was first elected in 2010 and re-elected three times and became deputy leader of the Labor Party in 2014. I did a lot of networking and it was the networking to the hearts of people through taking up their issues, finding a comfortable place in their hearts, with an added bonus of proficiency in four languages,” she said. Dr. Mouza Al-Shehhi, director of the UN Women UAE Liaison Office for the GCC, chaired the session in which the speakers included Lina Jalouqa, partnerships manager, UNICEF Gulf Area Office, and Swati Thapa of Nepal.
Eminent women leaders in diverse fields shared their experiences, success stories, and solutions for women’s challenges in a series of sessions titled ‘Women leaders driving climate action’; ‘Women’s role in promoting circular economy and sustainability’; Sustainability, philanthropy, and poverty alleviation; ‘Women leadership in education and science’; ‘Women leadership in parliament and diplomacy’; ‘Women in fine arts and cultural heritage’; ‘Gender balancing during transformations’; ‘Women Think-tankers and policy advisory’; ‘Women’s leadership in sports and tourism’; and ‘Women in advanced technologies and megatrends of the world.’
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