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Empowerment of women vital to achieve development goals

posted on 22/09/2003: 1551 views

UAE women were the centre of international attention yesterday. The World Bank and International Monetary Fund focussed on their empowerment and the challenges they face in the country, region and around the world. Kim Campbell, former prime minister of Canada, struck a high note early in the day when she told national women from Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Sharjah that they were integral to the well-being of this country, the region and the world. "None of the millennium development goals can be achieved without the social and economic empowerment of women," said Campbell, one of the 32 national women leaders in history.

"This can only be achieved by national women participating at many different levels – at the grassroots level, the economic level such as your businesswomen's councils, and at the political level." She suggested the creation of an 'old girls' network' where female community and business leaders would join hands to assist each other and improve their collective lot.

Raja Al Gurg, president of the UAE Businesswomen's Council, said women here could and should play an active role in the community despite socio-economic constraints, just as they had done in the pre-oil era. Even political participation, she said, should not be considered an honour but a duty. Currently, she added, women make up 14 per cent of the UAE labour force, a small percentage, but one that had grown steadily over the last two decades. The previous year was a particular watershed, with women making more inroads into the private sector and establishing businesswomen's councils across the country.

World Bank expert Nadereh Chamlou nevertheless reminded the assembled women there was much more that needs to be done. "Countries of this region have made tremendous progress in education, and moving into professions that are traditionally male-dominated," said the principal author of the World Bank's report on gender in the Mena region. "All the social indicators of progress have risen, but the tremendous investments by the government in educating women have not translated into gains for the country."

The UAE and its neighbour nations could boost annual Gross Domestic Product by up to 0.7 per cent annually if these educated women put their educations to good use, she suggested. At Dubai Women's College, meanwhile, young women from Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Jordan, Turkey, Uganda and Yemen not only voiced what was holding them back, but also provided concrete solutions they want their governments and international agencies like the Bank to adopt.

The two-hour teleconference, chaired by Dr Mamphele Ramphele, managing director of the World Bank, and Christiaan Poortman, Bank vice president for the Mena region, provided a rare insight into the minds and lives of the UAE's up-and-coming generation and their peers in some of the most ignored nations around the world. (The Gulf News)


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