UNESCWA Executive Secretary Mervat Tallawy said the determination of Arab women led to the achievement of a series of measures related to the progress of women and their empowerment in the Arab world.
Tallawy was speaking at a ceremony held under her aegis on the occasion of International Women’s Day and organized by the Middle East Achievement Awards Institute at Burj Al Arab, Dubai, last night. The ceremony was attended by a host of political, diplomatic, economic, and cultural figures who came together to honor 5 prominent Arab women.
“It is also encouraging,” said Tallawy, “that in spite of the excessive focus on political turmoil and conflict in this part of the world, there are those who are engaged in matters that give hope and pride to us all. This is what the Middle East Institute is indeed doing by organizing this event.
A few years back, events commemorating and recognizing women’s achievements were a rarity. In this regard, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan said, “The world is starting to grasp that there is no policy more effective in promoting development than the empowerment of women and girls.”
Tallawy added that, “A quota of 30 seats has been reserved for women in the Moroccan parliament, and 6 seats in the Jordanian parliament. 6 women have been appointed ministers in Tunisia, 5 in Algeria, 3 in Jordan, and 2 in Egypt and in the Sudan.
Women have been appointed as ministers for the first time in Oman, Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, and UAE. Women have been given the right to vote in Bahrain and Kuwait. The first woman judge was appointed in Egypt, while women represent one quarter of judges in Lebanon. A total of 17 Arab States have now acceded to the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). These include Saudi Arabia, which ratified the Convention in 2000 and the Syrian Arab Republic and the United Arab Emirates which ratified the convention in 2004.”
“Despite these breakthroughs,” noted Tallawy, “There remains a lot to be done. Gender disparities still prevail in the Arab world. According to statistics, 44 million females aged 15 and above in the Arab region cannot read or write. The percentage of Arab females in the labour force in the Middle East and North Africa remains one of the lowest in the world.”
The ceremony was an opportunity for Tallawy to describe the work of the United Nations and particularly UNESCWA in relation to women’s empowerment. Tallawy said UNESCWA believes in the role of women as the backbone of modern society. For this reason, a specialized centre was established for them with the purpose of improving their situation and ensuring their social, political and economic empowerment. This happens by way of social awareness of gender issues; monitoring developments and analyzing the situation of Arab women in the UNESCWA region and collecting data on this situation; providing technical assistance to member countries, formulating policies, terms of reference, strategies, and gender-sensitive legislation; coordinating between the Arab countries to reach a unified position tailored to the region in relation to specific issues agreed upon internationally.
As the guest of honor, Tallawy presented the 5th Middle East Achievement Awards to: Ms. Masouma Al Mubarak, Kuwait Minister of Planning; Ms. Faizeh AL Sayed, Managing Director of Ethan Allen; Ms. Sherifa Hady Consumer Business Manager at HP Middle East; Ms. Hazleen Ahmed, Corporate Relations Manager at the Gulf Finance House; and Ms. Nahed Mohammed Taher, CEO of Gulf One Investment Bank.
An award was also given to Ms. Kim Phuc, UNDP Goodwill Ambassador, a Vietnamese lady who became famous after fleeing the streets of her village in search of help during the Vietnam War when was 9 years old. A special award went to the martyr, Ms. Atwar Bahjat, a journalist for Al Arabiyah Television who died last February in Iraq.
The Awards aim to provide recognition to women and their organizations in the Middle East, who have made significant contributions to the development of regional society. The Middle East Businesswomen & Leaders Achievement Awards promote regional women’s leadership and honors outstanding leaders. They recognize Middle Eastern women in the community who are models of leadership having used their leadership positions to have meaningful impacts on women and their communities. The individuals demonstrate excellence, creativity, and initiative in their businesses and professions. By honoring these exceptional women, the Institute hopes to advance their business and personal networks; provide significant profile and visibility for them and their businesses and increase the number of role models and mentors for all young achievers, both male and female.
Tallawy returned to Beirut last night ahead of a keynote speech she is scheduled to deliver Saturday at the Phoenicia Intercontinental Hotel on the occasion of the LIONS UN Day.