What Others Say

“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”

-Warwick Hunt, Middle East Managing Partner, PricewaterhouseCoopers

PricewaterhouseCoopers profile June 2010

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The AIWF is proud to honour UN Women’s International Women’s Day theme, I am Generation Equality: Realizing Women’s Rights through its 2020 Annual Programme marking the 25th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration

March 06, 2020

Mrs Alkaylani

Each year, The Arab International Women’s Forum (AIWF) is proud to join the international development community in celebrating International Women's Day (IWD), a focal point in the global call for action on women’s empowerment. IWD 2020 is a vital opportunity for us all to reflect on the remarkable progress and remaining challenges for women in the MENA Region and globally, and to honour exemplary women leaders who are paving a brighter, more equitable and prosperous future in their countries and their communities for the next generation.

Celebrated on 08 March each year, IWD 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. AIWF, as one of the leading development organisations focused on supporting the empowerment of women leaders in all sectors and spheres, throughout the MENA and internationally, is proud to launch its 2020 Annual Programme on this occasion which, as always, will bring together key governmental partners, grassroots and institutional women's organisations, the private sector, civil society and most importantly, women themselves to address gender equality and strategise innovative and sustainable solutions for the empowerment challenges that remain.

This year, AIWF is especially proud to support UN Women’s 2020 IWD theme of I am Generation Equality: Realizing Women’s Rights, which is aligned with UN Women’s new multigenerational campaign, Generation Equality, marking the 25th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action. Adopted in 1995 at the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing, China, the Beijing Platform for Action is recognized as the most progressive roadmap for the empowerment of women and girls, everywhere. Just last month, AIWF was represented at the 39th Session of the Arab Women’s Committee and Regional Preparatory Meeting for the 64th Session on the Status of Women in the United Nations, held on 9 and 10 February 2020 in Riyadh. The Forum renewed Arab commitment to the principles of the Beijing Platform for Action and delivered key messages and recommendations from the member states of the Arab League relating to the implementation of Beijing Platform for Action, to which AIWF was proud to contribute.

In all of AIWF’s initiatives and activities, AIWF remains committed to supporting all stakeholders in our societies and communities but especially women and young people themselves as a prerequisite for the peace, prosperity and stability which we all seek in the region. AIWF has a long and proven history in leading on initiatives that ultimately share this critical objective – to support the empowerment of women and young people in business, in private sector development which is so needed in the region, and ensuring full economic, social and cultural inclusion for all citizens of the Arab world.

AIWF as an NGO Member of the UN Global Compact is focussed on integrating the SDGs and other key global development goals into the programming of its conferences, reports, initiatives and activities. Honouring SDG 5, Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls, AIWF is proud to have led with a key empowerment initiative for Young Arab Women Leaders, launched in 2011 to feature a series of ten landmark conferences thus far in the Arab world and in London. Each conference has brought together women leaders from over 20 countries representing a diverse range of sectors to come up with key recommendations for empowering the next generation and to make valuable new business, research and project links. The Young Arab Women Leaders initiative looks set to continue into the new decade with renewed emphasis on SDG5 and specifically on addressing gender equality for the next generation of young leaders in business, civil society and public service, in the Arab world and globally.

At AIWF, we see this as a pivotal year for advancing gender equality and promoting women’s inclusion worldwide. Globally as well as in the MENA Region, boosting the number of women in the economy is not just a moral imperative but also has a clear and measurable impact on the prosperity, stability and economic health of a region. In the Arab world, women are being empowered by education and an improved landscape across the board, from the top down as well as bottom up because society overall has become more open to women in leadership positions. There is growing evidence that in many MENA countries such as Saudi Arabia, UAE and Egypt, the gender equality agenda is progressing at full pace.

To give just a few examples, the Saudi government’s ambitious target to increase female participation in the workforce to 30% as part of Vision 2030 is already bearing fruit – in the Kingdom, labour-force participation of women was 14.2% in 1990 and reached 23% in 2019, according to data from the World Bank. Saudi Arabia has experienced the highest growth rate among G20 countries of women joining the workforce in the past 20 years. The UAE government has also taken a clear leadership role in promoting gender equality in the workplace as a key pillar of the UAE government’s Vision 2021 initiative; currently in 46th place in the United Nations Development Programme’s Gender Inequality Index, the UAE aims to be one of the world’s top 25 countries for gender equality through its Vision 2021.

In Egypt, the Prime Minister announced in June 2018 that the new government would include eight women ministers, comprising a historic 25% of the cabinet, reflecting a trend across the region that is seeing more women appointed to key ministerial positions holding diverse portfolios that have been traditionally led by men. In Jordan that same month, women celebrated a record number of female ministers, with 7 women appointed to cabinet seats out of 29 cabinet seats in the new government. Morocco also has some of the most gender progressive laws in the region and one of the largest percentages of women in parliament, 21% in 2019, surpassing the quota that mandates 15% of parliamentary seats for women. In Lebanon in the last government (in 2019) there were 4 female ministers one of whom was appointed as Minister of the Interior; whereas the new cabinet announced in January 2020 increased to six female ministers, among them the Minister of Defense (also appointed Deputy Prime Minister) – firsts not only for Lebanon, but for the entire Arab world.

As the drive towards achieving gender equality gains traction in the MENA Region, women have more opportunities than ever to contribute meaningfully to economic transformation, stability and private sector growth in the Arab world. AIWF has been on this journey with Arab women for the last two decades and we see the vast progress Arab women have made as well as the challenges that remain. These include a lack of private sector jobs to override the persistent preference in the region for public sector employment, a lack of support for women after a career break or maternity leave, deep-seated social norms that place the burden of family and household care predominantly on to women, and gender stereotypes and bias – both conscious and unconscious – that persist within the workplace and within our cultures and societies more broadly.

Despite these challenges the gender equality agenda overall is progressing across the region. While the progress is undeniable, there is much more to be done and governments and the private sector alike will clearly need to take bold actions to advance momentum for gender equality in the workforce, in public office, in entrepreneurship, in academia, the media, and in our societies and our communities at all levels.

As we look to an exciting new decade ahead, and our 20th Anniversary in 2021, AIWF will convene empowerment organisations and change agents from both the Arab world and the global community to mobilize action around the key challenges outlined above. AIWF and our Global Partners remain dedicated to achieving positive, sustainable growth for women and young people and to push forward the momentum for gender equality to empower and support the next generation of change makers, thought leaders, innovators and champions of equality, diversity and inclusion in all its forms.

Collectively, we all have a vital role to play in driving gender equality for our young people so that it becomes the norm for the new generation. We can all use our various platforms to celebrate the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women whilst contributing to the IWD call for action. By working together in partnership, we can accelerate gender equality 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.

In this regard, the 2020 IWD call for action is very much at the heart of what AIWF has been doing at the Arab and international level for nearly two decades 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. 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.

Haifa Fahoum Al Kaylani
Founder & Chairman
Arab International Women's Forum