AIWF Activities 2019


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“The PricewaterhouseCoopers success as an organisation depends upon unlocking the potential of our people, in the same way that the AIWF aims to open up the opportunities and influence of Arab women in business and government”

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AIWF is proud to honour the International Women’s Day theme, ‘Balance for Better’ through its Annual Programme to advance gender balance and empower women-led innovation in health, STEM and sustainable economic growth

March 08, 2019


Mrs Al Kaylani white jacket

Each year, AIWF is proud to join the international development community in celebrating International Women's Day and this year we are especially proud to honour the 2019 IWD theme of ‘Balance for Better’ across the full year’s programme, supporting the global call-to-action for driving gender balance and achieving a gender-equal world that will work for both women and men and leave no one behind. Through AIWF’s 2019 Programme and indeed in all our work and initiatives, we are also proud to support the UN Women campaign for International Women's Day this year, Think Equal, Build Smart, Innovate for Change, which puts innovation by women and girls, for women and girls, at the heart of efforts to achieve gender equality.


International Women’s Day is a focal point in the global call for action on women’s empowerment, and the optimum time to reflect on the remarkable progress women are making, to call for change and to celebrate the achievements of women who are playing extraordinary role in their countries and communities. Celebrated on 08 March each year, International Women’s Day signals the launch of a truly remarkable global year-long event that celebrates women’s achievements in the political, economic and social realms while calling for gender equality across all sectors and spheres. International Women’s Day has been observed since the early 1900s and is non-partisan and unaffiliated with any one organisation or group, instead bringing together governmental partners, grassroots and institutional women's organisations, the private sector, civil society and most importantly, women themselves to address the global gender gap and address empowerment challenges worldwide.

In the MENA region, in Europe, and globally, women are still not equally represented in politics, business and public service. According to the World Economic Forum, the gender gap will not close until 2186, and a 2017 report by the World Economic Forum finds that it could still take another 100 years before the global equality gap between men and women is eliminated entirely. IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde, citing IMF studies, has said that the benefits from closing gender gaps are even larger than previously thought, and include a bigger boost to growth as closing the gender gap could increase GDP by an average of 35% as well as higher productivity due to the increased participation of women.

Gender balance is a global priority area in the ILO Future of Work Report, delivered in January 2019 after eighteen months of constructive deliberations of the ILO Global Commission on the Future of Work. As Founder & Chairman of AIWF I was immensely proud in August 2017 to be invited by Guy Ryder, ILO Director General, to join the ILO Commissioner as the only Commissioner from the Arab world. It was a privilege to be a part of the Global Commission together with 27 other members, all outstanding individuals reflecting a balance of gender, tripartite representation, geographical regions, and representing diverse disciplines and sectors of society and the economy.

A Universal Labour Guarantee, social protection from birth to old age and an entitlement to lifelong learning are among ten recommendations made in the landmark ILO Future of Work Report, which calls for a “human-centred agenda for a decent future of work” and makes specific provision for implementing a transformative and measurable agenda for gender equality:

"The world of work begins at home. From parental leave to investment in public care services, policies need to foster the sharing of unpaid care work in the home to create genuine equality of opportunity in the workplace. Strengthening women’s voices and leadership, eliminating violence and harassment at work and implementing pay transparency policies are preconditions for gender equality. Specific measures are also needed to address gender equality in the technology-enabled jobs of tomorrow.”

In the Arab world, women are increasingly taking on high-level leadership positions in business, public service, the judiciary and the legislature, advancing rapidly in professions previously dominated by men, including finance, aviation, law, business, research and STEM careers, and challenging gender bias in nearly every sector and sphere. More Arab women are playing prominent roles on corporate boards and in executive leadership in the Middle East than ever before, with 11.3% of board seats and 5.4% of Board Chairs in the region held by women (according to Deloitte Middle East). 32% of family-owned companies in the Gulf have female Board Members. Some MENA countries have in recent years legislated to improve women’s participation on corporate boards and in executive leadership.

More Arab women than ever before are also serving in senior Cabinet positions and as Governors, Ambassadors and leading diplomatic figures around the world, and are levelling the playing field in law and politics, breaking new ground as lawyers and judges. Arab women are increasingly being elected and appointed to political, diplomatic and international development roles, giving women a greater voice in legislative reform. The overall rate of parliamentary participation of women in the Arab States is, as of September 2018, 17.6% (up from 13% in 2012 and 9% in 2010, according to September 2018 data from the Inter-Parliamentary Union), evidence that Arab women are becoming more deeply engaged in the political structures and legislative processes of the region despite the universally low representation of women in the political sphere.

The key to the Arab world’s progress has been education, which could well be the region’s success story and the key to its future prosperity. At higher and advanced education level, in almost every MENA country, women are graduating from universities in far greater numbers than men and in subjects such as computer science, engineering and law, in what the World Bank has called a ‘reverse gender gap’. In some countries, the ratio of women to men studying STEM subjects at university is 2:1; in some GCC countries, more than 70% of law graduates are women; and in most Gulf States, which are outperforming the rest of the world on female STEM participation, around 60% of university graduates overall are women.

For many Arab women, not only has education enhanced economic opportunity and engagement, it has helped move gender equality forward in the region, it has lifted families out of poverty and broken the cycle of under-privilege, deprivation and disenfranchisement. However, notwithstanding the undeniable progress that has been made in most MENA states, World Bank figures retrieved in September 2018 show that the percentage of women in the total labour force in 2017 in the MENA Region increased only slightly from 19.5% to 20.5% against a global percentage of 39.3%.

Gender parity in the Arab world and globally can certainly be achieved by strengthening normative and legal frameworks impacting working women, ensuring decent work and progression opportunities for women at all levels and in all sectors. Simply increasing women's labour force participation and eliminating discriminatory barriers could raise productivity by as much as 25% in some economies, according to the World Bank Report Women, Business and the Law 2018. This requires serious political will and the collaborative efforts of all stakeholders – including, most importantly, women and young people themselves – to integrate gender perspectives in labour and economic institutions and programmes at global, national, local and community levels. Gender inequality exists in the workplace – not only in the Arab world but globally – because gender inequality exists at home and in society overall.

On IWD, women across the world come together to recognise gender inequality in all sectors and spheres, and to work collaboratively to find new ways of overcoming barriers. Collectively, we all have a vital role to play in driving a gender-balanced world, using our various platforms to celebrate the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women whilst contributing to the IWD call for action and working together to accelerate gender balance in all spheres and all spheres and towards the achievement of the ambitious Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) on advancing gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls. As the UN Secretary General António Guterres has said: "Let us make sure women and girls can shape the policies, services and infrastructure that impact all our lives. And let’s support women and girls who are breaking down barriers to create a better world for everyone."

The 2019 IWD call for action is very much at the heart of what AIWF has been doing at the Arab and international level for over 18 years to create a more stable and more balanced future for women and youth in the MENA region and internationally through economic inclusion, diversity, leadership development, capacity and skills building for all young people, women as well as men. We at AIWF wholeheartedly believe that striving for gender balance is not only a women’s issue but a human rights issue, and that the drive for gender diversity should extend not only to the boardroom but to private sector recruitment practices, policy development, and opportunities for women in academia, public service, and entrepreneurship.

AIWF proudly supports a universal, rights-based approach to bring about meaningful, multilateral collaboration between all stakeholders – grassroots organisations, the private sector, public sector partners and women and young people themselves – to initiate vital dialogue and facilitate the connections that will power up new projects, strategies, initiatives and ideas to navigate the challenges of gender balance not only in the MENA region but globally.

As Founder & Chairman and on behalf of the Board of AIWF, I take this opportunity to extend my warmest wishes to all AIWF Partners, Members, friends and the women advocates and grassroots organisations all over the world who are working tirelessly to honour the spirit and mission of International Women’s Day.