AIWF represented at Arab Women Organisation 6th Annual Conference in Cairo

AIWF represented at Arab Women Organisation 6th Annual Conference in Cairo 15 December 2016

Marianne Abou El Kheir, AIWF Member, Global Partner and Sub-Saharan Africa Director at Janssen, Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson Sub-Saharan and Africa Region


Following the kind invitation extended to the Arab International Women’s Forum by Minister Mervat Tallawy, Director General of the Arab Women Organisation (AWO), a regional intergovernmental organisation affiliated with the League of Arab States, I had the privilege to attend as an AIWF Global Partner and on behalf of AIWF the 6th Annual Conference of the Arab Women Organization on 13 – 14 December 2016 in Cairo, titled ‘The role of women in the Arab countries and paths of reform and change’, held under the auspices of HE Ms Ronak Abdelwahed, Iraq’s First Lady and the Current President of AWO.

It was my pleasure to participate in the Conference proceedings, which included a round table to discuss the leading role of businesswomen in achieving economic empowerment for women. I also listened to the testimonies and experiences of prominent women in decision-making positions, and participated in a cultural salon where the new roles and current challenges of Arab women was discussed. Participants in the conference stressed the need to focus and work on activating the role of women leaders within the reformation and change processes and support the development of new leadership roles for Arab women to support change and political reform, to preserve social cohesion against political conflict, protect national security and support Arab solidarity.

Conference speakers and delegates were in agreement that all involved parties including state institutions, the private sector, media, religious figures, research and academic institutions, and civil society should work together to remove obstacles faced by women in order to achieve solidarity and empowerment for women in the Arab region.

Accordingly, the conference deliberated and agreed on recommendations for activating the role of women in decision-making positions, national economy development, and fields of resisting violence and terrorism, including the urgency of integrating women’s demands within the constitutional and legal context. Leading speakers from Egypt and around the MENA region discussed the importance of enhancing women’s representation within the legislative, executive and judiciary authorities, and the urgent need to eliminate cultural obstacles by correcting erroneous stereotypes of women in Arab society and culture.

It is critical to encourage women’s participation in voluntary work, civil society, and representation in municipalities and labour unions, in support of a greater leadership presence and role for Arab women, and to promote awareness in the community about the importance of investing in education, health and the employment and skills development of women and girls. In this light, it was recommended that governments should adopt a package of policies that empower women and their integration in the development process, in particular establishing financial systems that provide small loans and access to capital for women-owned businesses.

It was also agreed that the Arab Women’s Organization in collaboration with the African Development Bank is to develop a guide to women’s entrepreneurship, and it was emphasised and encouraged that all actors should work collaboratively and in a sustainable way to develop women’s skills, activating their capabilities, supporting the self-learning process by designing and implementing policies to protect women working in the informal sector, opposing aggressive religious discourse with constructive dialogue, and working to expand and deepen the awareness of the human rights of women to reduce violence towards them.