Magazine article International Trade Forum

Building Bridges, Building Business: The Arab International Women's Forum Is Enhancing the Leadership Capacity of Arab Women by Promoting Their Role in the Economy and Public Life

Magazine article International Trade Forum

Building Bridges, Building Business: The Arab International Women's Forum Is Enhancing the Leadership Capacity of Arab Women by Promoting Their Role in the Economy and Public Life

Article excerpt

Despite the high education standards of Arab women, the female labour force participation is 32% lower than any other region in the world. The United Arab Emirates, for example, has the highest rate of females in higher education worldwide--a staggering 77%--yet 71% of unemployed people are women.

The barriers for many Arab women are similar to those in other areas of the world: lack of self-confidence, work-family conflict, long working hours, stereotyping and a lack of investment funding for women.

By fostering economic competitiveness, the Arab International Women's Forum (AIWF) supports sustainable human development and the empowerment of women. Founded in 2001 to serve as a voice for Arab women, the organization showcases their development, promotes cross-cultural diversity and creates greater public awareness of women's success and prospects.

By building bridges of understanding and business opportunities between governments, corporations and civil society--both internationally and within the Arab world--AIWF helps to enhance the leadership capacity of Arab women in all aspects of society.

"Engines of economic growth"

The organization has worked to enhance competitiveness in the Middle East and North Africa region by focusing on the role of Arab women as "engines of economic growth in the Arab world"--the title of a programme launched in 2005. At its heart is the belief that "there is no economic, political or social development in any society, without women playing their rightful role in their economies and their societies at large". AIWF's report from this programme makes recommendations on education opportunities and training programmes, entrepreneurial capacity building, public policy, financial resources and economic reform, partnership and corporate involvement.

By advocating for the political and economic inclusion of women in the Arab world, AIWF mobilizes action at the highest political levels and on the ground to advance the legislative rights and political participation of Arab women. With members and contacts in more than 45 countries, the organization has collaborated with such partners as the League of Arab States, the European Commission and European Parliament, the United Nations, the World Bank, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, women's business councils in the Arab states and the United Kingdom's Foreign and Commonwealth Office to help it achieve its aims.

Direct legislation is not the only solution. Lobbying for attitude change and codes of practice, and getting the political and business stakeholders to open up opportunities in various ways, can be the initial key.

Hala Bsaisu Lattouf, Minister for Social Development in Jordan, is proud of the fact that women are playing a role in shaping the future of their country and that women's representation has resulted in 16 Arab countries ratifying the Convention for the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (see page 37).

Economic advancement through women's empowerment

The economic empowerment of women is at the heart of the forum's advocacy and programme strategies, which in 2007 examined the theme of globalization, trade and entrepreneurship. The programme saw the cities of London and Dubai collaborate, together with the wider financial community, to create a forum for the development of a multilateral corporate and public sector partnership. …

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