AIWF Activities 2016/17

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"I want to congratulate the Arab International Women's Forum for raising public awareness of the need to bring more women into the economic life of the Arab region”

- Sarah Brown, wife of the UK Prime Minister, Gordon Brown

Downing St, London UK, Feb 2008

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AIWF holds successful 9th Young Arab Women Leaders conference in Fez, Morocco in April 2017 with the valued support of PepsiCo and PwC

April 18, 2017




Following on from the success of the Young Arab Women Leaders: The Voice of the Future conferences in Amman, Beirut and Dubai in 2012, Palestine in 2013, London in 2011 and 2014, Doha in 2015, and Kuwait in 2016, the Arab International Women’s Forum (AIWF) was proud to host the ninth conference of the series in Fez, Morocco on 18 April 2017 in partnership with PepsiCo and PwC, and with the support of MEC Maghreb Invest and local co-organiser AOB Group.

Close to 200 delegates from the Arab world and internationally attended this highly successful conference, AIWF’s first ever event in Morocco, and the 9th event in this series designed by AIWF in partnership with PwC to nurture the next generation of young women entrepreneurs, helping to empower them as they aspire to leadership roles in business and in public life.

The 9th Young Arab Women Leaders conference in Morocco aimed to recognise and celebrate the contribution of Moroccan business women whilst inspiring the next generation of young women leaders to contribute to the development of the national economy and to MENA long-term economic growth. The objective of the Young Arab Women Leaders programme was to support and nurture young women entrepreneurs, community leaders and change agents in the Arab world, and to engage in dialogue and debate on challenges and opportunities for young women in leadership roles, on corporate boards, in social enterprise and tech innovation, and in the energy, finance, law and STEM sectors. The programme brought high caliber speakers from government, business and civil society organisations together with talented, driven young women who aspire to community, business and political leadership.

The 9th Young Arab Women Leaders conference was addressed by Guest of Honour Speakers Dr Assia Alaoui, Ambassador at Large, Kingdom of Morocco, and Dr Soundouss Bouhia, Senior Officer, Royal Cabinet, Kingdom of Morocco; and by distinguished Moroccan women leaders including:

  • Asmaa Morine Azzouzi, President, AFEM Association of Women Entrepreneurs
  • Lamia Bazir, Entrepreneur & President, Alumni Association at Al Akhawayn University
  • Fatim-Zahra Biaz, Founder & Director, New Work Lab
  • Fedwa Bouzoubaa, Business Lawyer
  • Soraya Bedrouai, CEO Lavazza Morocco
  • Yasmine Benamour, CEO, HEM Business School
  • Nada Biaz, Director General, ISCAE Business School
  • Sophia Charaï, Architect & Musician
  • Mahat Chraibi, Partner, Tax & Legal Leader, PwC Morocco
  • Manal Elattir, Founder, Asila
  • Dr Wafa El Garah, Vice President for Academic Affairs, AUI & Project Manager, AUI Centre for Business Ethics
  • Ghizlane El Manjra, Founder, Les Frères Gourmet
  • Hind Ait El Mouden, Founder, Young Professionals Institute
  • Khadija Idrissi Janati, Entrepreneur, Political and Women’s Empowerment Activist, and Managing Director KMK Group
  • Najia Kabbaj, President, Yassamine
  • Kenza Lahlou, Founder & Managing Director, Start Up Your Life
  • Lamia Merzouki, Deputy General Manager, Casablanca Finance City; and
  • Selma Zerhouni, Architect & Founder, AM Editions.
Distinguished speakers coming from across the GCC, MENA and internationally included Sheikha Alanoud Hamad Al Thani, Vice President of Strategic Alliances at the CEO Office, Qatar Financial Centre Authority (Qatar); Najwa Attiga, General Counsel, Emirates Investment Authority (UAE); Soraya Alem, Business Unit Head, Janssen Pharmaceutical Company of Johnson & Johnson (Alger); Jane Ellis, Director, Legal Policy & Research Unit, International Bar Association (UK); Bianca Drebber, Portfolio Officer, The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis & Malaria (Switzerland); Heba Khairallah Al Emara, Head of Relations EMEA, Vistra (UK); Dr Ghada Howaidy, Executive Director, Office of Strategic Alignment, American University of Cairo Business School, Egypt; Nouzha Lahrizi, Senior Consultant, Corporate Finance & Strategy, MEC International Ltd (UK); Sophie Le Ray, CEO & Co-Founder, Naseba (UAE); and Jane Pearce, Managing Director, Vistra Jersey (UK).

The Young Arab Women Leaders conference was moderated by Deborah MacArthur, a Morocco-based American entrepreneur and retired corporate executive with over 30 years of experience coaching youth for employment, entrepreneurialism and leading multinational change programs across the US, Middle East and North Africa, and current Award Executive in Residence at BMCE Bank of Africa, leading its $1M African Entrepreneurship Award which selects, mentors and grants $1M USD a year to entrepreneurs across Africa.

AIWF was proud to continue its longstanding collaboration with Conference Partner PwC and to welcome PepsiCo as a Conference Partner of the 9th edition of the Young Arab Women Leaders initiative, which was chaired by Rania Rizk, Acting Chairman of AIWF and Senior Vice President & General Counsel, PepsiCo AMEA, UAE. Rania Rizk was appointed Acting Chairman of AIWF in January 2017 when it was announced that Haifa Fahoum Al Kaylani, Founder Chairman of AIWF, would become a Fellow of Harvard University’s Advanced Leadership Initiative for 2017.

The agenda and format of the Young Arab Women Leaders Conference were highly interactive and discussion-based, with valuable experiences shared and key recommendations made by panellists in every session that AIWF shall follow up on in future programmes and initiatives in collaboration with AIWF Global Partners.

The first panel of the 9th Young Arab Women Leaders conference programme, Exploring innovative models for education, skills development and leadership training, addressed opportunities for collaboration between the Moroccan, MENA and international business and academic communities. In the second session, on social enterprise, tech innovation and entrepreneurship, speakers and delegates exchanged perspectives on how Moroccan, Arab and international women entrepreneurs can leverage technology, social media and the app economy to create exciting new business models and ventures that are in some cases tailor made for the Arab world and in other cases, ‘global born’.

The third panel discussion, Empowering young Arab women leaders in law, STEM and sustainability, highlighted growing recognition in the international legal, banking, energy and STEM sectors that more must be done to encourage young female graduates to enter into these traditionally male dominated professions, and explored the barriers to professional entry for women whilst identifying key initiatives and opportunities to support and encourage more young Arab women to enter into energy, finance, law and STEM. The following session, on Diversity in business leadership: Empowering women executives in Morocco, the MENA and internationally, highlighted the business case for increased female representation on corporate boards, international best practices and practical strategies for levelling out gender representation at executive level in Morocco and the wider MENA region.

In the penultimate, high-impact Young Arab Women Leaders signature panel, Reflections of Women Leaders, distinguished women leaders from Morocco were invited to share personal stories of achievement through perseverance, and exchange experiences on how best to deal with the inevitable challenges of entrepreneurship and leadership. The final session of the day gave thought leaders, entrepreneurs and young business leaders from Morocco and the MENA region a platform to share practical and empowering solutions that can help young women leaders break through gender diversity barriers in the workplace, in business and entrepreneurship, in society and in public life.

AIWF was proud to welcome on this special occasion AIWF Global Partners including PepsiCo, PwC, Shell, Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson and Vistra Services. The Conference Programme concluded on the evening of 18 April 2017 with an Official Gala Dinner at the Marriott Jnan Palace Hotel in Fez, that brought together AIWF Global Partners, Distinguished Guest Speakers, Delegates and all Valued Partners.

The 10th Young Arab Women Leaders Conference will be announced on the AIWF website in the near future.

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