DUBAI: Arab women breaking traditional barriers, online dating scams, the economic toll of fake news and the potential of women in the Middle East and North Africa were among the many issues discussed at the Arab Women’s Forum in Dubai on Tuesday.
Launched in Saudi Arabia in 2018, AWF is a platform to enhance and support the ever-growing contribution of Arab women to the region’s economy and society.
The forum hosts wide-ranging conversations to explore regional and global business dynamics with a strong focus on women’s empowerment.
This year’s event, held at the Palazzo Versace hotel on the waterfront in Jaddaf, featured speakers from a variety of professions, industries and backgrounds, and kicked off with a special address by Ambassador Princess Reema bint Bandar from Saudi Arabia to the United States, delivered by video from Washington, D.C.
Princess Reema, who is also a female entrepreneur, shared her thoughts on post-pandemic business scenarios and Saudi Arabia’s plan for economic diversification, environmental sustainability and gender diversity as part of Vision 2030, the reform strategy introduced by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in 2016.
In a special address titled “Beyond the Corporate Reset,” she stressed the importance of not only opening doors for women to enter the workplace, but also welcoming them. “We have millions of talented and motivated women willing to contribute, and they are the keys to social, cultural and economic progress in the Kingdom and, frankly, in the Arab world and the world,” she said.
Saudi Arabia has carried out a “great reset” by transforming itself and is entering the “reboot” phase after successfully managing the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, she said. “Post-pandemic there is less resetting and more rebooting,” Princess Reema said.
From embracing technology, reducing carbon emissions and protecting the environment, to empowering and advancing women in different fields, Saudi Arabia is opening the door wide to a brighter future. built by men and women, she said.
“I haven’t seen the change; I lived it. I know how important it is to open up the workplace to women. When the doors for women were about to open, I realized that just opening the doors was not enough; women had to be prepared to take advantage of these open doors. We need to equip them with skills,” she said.
Speaking to Arab News, Nora Al-Dabal, executive director of arts and creative planning at the AlUla Royal Commission, said that Saudi women have always played a role in the development of Saudi Arabia, ” but the vision (2030) unleashed the full potential and opened up greater opportunities” for women.
Over the past four years, there has been a 130 percent increase in women’s participation in the labor force, especially in the private sector, Al-Dabal said.
“Today, women make up 30% of the private sector workforce. In the past two years, there has been a 60% increase in the number of women-owned businesses,” she added.
Princess Reema’s speech reflected the seriousness of Saudi leaders in transforming the Kingdom, diversifying its economy and harnessing the potential of all its citizens, said Deepali Janin, an Indian businesswoman who attended the the event.
Janin, the founding director of Meraki, a family-owned diamond business that started in India some seven decades ago, entered Dubai in 2011 and is now focusing on the Saudi market.
“I think the Saudi leadership is dedicated and serious in their planning and thinking. I think it will be a long journey, which means more strength, more confidence and more influence.
Some believe that women journalists succeed because of their attention to detail. But for war correspondent Arizh Mukhammed, it’s a woman’s heart and emotions that make her coverage of conflict unique.
“It’s not easy to cover the war because like any human being you feel fear and I feel fear,” said Mukhammed, a Sky News reporter who, along with Christiane Baissary, the channel’s main presenter Al-Hadath news. , took part in a session entitled “Warfront Storytellers”.
Acknowledging that “fear will be in the minds of journalists when they are reporting from the front lines”, Mukhammed said: “Your courage must have limits. When you are going to cover the war, you have your fears, but there you have to control them.”
After the roundtable, she said she could not ignore the human suffering and agony in her own war reporting. “Women war journalists find a deeper dimension in human suffering”. She added that men might surround themselves with the impression that they are “strong and fearless, but women are actually much more patient and strong enough”.
For her part, Baissary said there is a common misconception that women are not suited for war coverage, as some believe that women are emotional and more sensitive than men. “A soldier once told me that women shouldn’t be in a war zone. He was trying to convince me that I shouldn’t stay to cover the war,” she said.
“This mentality is not just in the Middle East but everywhere,” she said, adding that things have now changed and women have more opportunities to cover conflict zones.
Discussion moderator Noor Nugali, deputy editor of Arab News, praised the role of female journalists deployed in war zones, citing the career of Al Jazeera correspondent Shereen Abu Akhleh, who was killed while on assignment for the channel on May 11 in the West Bank city of Jenin.
“I think it was really important for us to shine a light on war correspondents and women correspondents, because what they do is just out of the ordinary,” Nugali said in remarks after the session. “Usually when people think of pen pals, the first thing that comes to mind (is) women are too soft, women are incapable of handling such situations. But reality proves the resilience, the strength of women and the capacity of female correspondents.
It’s fake news
We are overwhelmed with fake news incidents in our daily lives. This ranges from rumors on social media to images of incidents taken out of context.
“It is imperative to distinguish that fake news was not invented with the rise of social media,” Arab News editor Faisal Abbas said during a panel discussion on the topic at AWF. tuesday.
“Fake news started with the beginning of mankind,” he said, alluding to Satan’s manipulation of Adam and Eve into eating the forbidden fruit.
Panelists discussed attempts to define fake news and identify those responsible for preventing its spread around the world, and particularly in the Arab region, which is known for its strong social media engagement.
Hussein Freijeh, chief executive of Snap Inc MENA, said authorities’ efforts to regulate social platforms “do not take away the responsibility of tech platforms” in tackling the problem of fake news.
Panelist Khaled Abdulla Janahi, president of Vision 3, said that even failure to include a small fraction of the facts when narrating amounts to spreading fake news.
“People get frustrated sometimes, so they look for a way to express their anger. But it’s important for people to express their views,” he said.
Noting that content that includes or reflects anger, hatred and racism generates traffic, Abbas said, “No one is against freedom. We are against chaos.
AWF’s keynote address was delivered by Cecilie Fjellhøy and Pernilla Sjöholm, stars of Netflix’s recent hit documentary ‘The Tinder Swindler’.
They talked about their journey from falling victim to romance scams to being an inspiration to women around the world. Instead of hiding in oblivion, women have gained global inspirational status against emotional fraud.