The 3rd New Arab Woman Forum
15 - 16 Oct 2009
Beirut - Lebanon
The patron host of this event-The Lebanese First Lady, Your Excellencies, Fellow Colleagues, Ladies and Gentlemen….
Since our last encounter, several developments have taken place which are worth drawing your attention to, for them to be tackled later by the gathered distinguished officials, innovators, scholars, experts, and media practitioners during this year’s edition of the “New Arab Woman Forum”:
First, the honoring of Elinor Ostrom, 76 year old professor at the University of Indiana with the Nobel Prize for Economics, marking a significant milestone as the first female to be awarded such a prize. Ostrom shared her prize with a fellow American academic, Oliver Williamson, also 76, and teacher at the University of California, Berkeley. Both professors specialize in economic governance and the deployment of authority to resolve conflicts. Second, The Arab Human Development Report for 2009, compiled by the UNDP, addressing the challenges of “Human Security in Arab Countries”. This in-depth and timely Report dedicates a complete chapter - from a total of nine - towards the “non-existence of personal security for people beyond mainstream society”, as well as “gender preferences and bias against women”, in addition obviously to other sensitive topics such as: the physical and mental abuse of women; premature marriages; agreements to alleviate all kinds of prejudice against women; honorary crimes; rape; violence encountered under military occupations; and finally, female sufferings and child abuse under siege.
Third, the UNIFEM Report which raises the pressing question of “Who will be held responsible for the discrimination against women?”; and tackles the concerns of women’s progress in the world to be able to better contribute to politics and public arenas, as well as play an active role in economy and accountability; face discrimination and implement justice. This important report is one of many other credible reports that shed the light on women’s continuous advances on various fronts particularly in terms of income, education, purchasing power and active contribution in the workplace. Today, women control the majority of worldwide purchasing decisions of around US$ 12 trillion dollars from the Overall Global Consumption Spending which amounts to an annual figure of approximately US$ 18.4 trillion. Women also control 73 % of Household Expenditures in the U.S., in comparison to 50 % in China and 33 % in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Furthermore, women in Scandinavia occupy 20.5 % of executive boards, as opposed to 1.5 % only in the GCC. It is expected that by the year 2013, women will represent the biggest opportunity and potential power in the world and will enjoy an average income of US$ 15.6 trillion, half of that of men’s which is expected to then reach around US$ 31.1 trillion.
Fourth, is forthcoming by “Forbes” 2009 list of “Top 100 Most Powerful Women” and the Financial Time’s “Top 50 Women in Business”, where the former includes only two Arab women; the first being Her Majesty Queen Rania Al Abdullah, Queen of Jordan, ranking 75th, while Her Excellency Sheikha Lubna Al Qasemi, Minister of Economics and Planning in the UAE ranked 94th. Whereas the second FT list recognized only one Arab woman, Nahed Taher, from Saudi Arabia, founder and CEO of “First Gulf Bank”, who somehow represents the Arab world in the 25th position.
Here, we pause and raise some of the key challenges ahead:
1) What could or would be the incentives that will uplift talented, educated Arab Women to new pioneering realms in order to steer business and trade; government institutions, parliament and public administration; charity, social responsibility and good governance; mass communication and journalism; in addition to other sectors that require combined elements of education, risk, initiative-taking, entrepreneurial zeal, courage, merit and fulfillment?
2) What are the proper mechanisms and tools for Arab Women to progress and embrace Change, Reform, Sustainable Development, Meritocracy, and Good Governance while actively participating in both the public and private arenas?
3) Last, but not least, how can Arab Women develop their own initiatives to break the cycle that hinders women’s role in various sectors and spheres, anytime, anywhere?
Hoping that these few questions are inspiring and thought provoking enough to contribute to some meaningful debates during this year’s “New Arab Woman Forum.”
Finally, I would like thank the Lebanese First Lady as the forum’s patron host; the organizers and participants, and wish you all the best of luck and success.