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Islam, Women and Feminism ( 10 March 2020, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Deoband Madrasa Women Show Way; They Are On Dharna For 43 Days Against The Ignoble CAA And NPR

New Age Islam News Bureau

10 March 2020

Deoband anti CAA, NPR and NRC Protest three women—two sisters and one sister-in-law


 Deoband Madrasa Women Show Way; They Are On Dharna For 43 Days Against The Ignoble CAA And NPR

 Special Assistant to Pak PM Says No Confrontation Exists Between Men and Women

 Leading Iranian Activist and Feminist: How I Became a Women’s Rights Activist

 Let's Highlight the Stories of Muslim Women Making History and Shattering Stereotypes!

 Saudi Columnist Warns Against Appointing A Woman as Head Of An Arab Country

 CBA Celebrates Arab Women Scientists' Graduation from Regional Fellowship Program 

 Success Stories of Leading Women: Business Heiresses Of The Middle East

Compiled By New Age Islam News Bureau



Deoband Madrasa Women Show Way; They Are On Dharna For 43 Days Against The Ignoble CAA And NPR

MARCH 10, 2020

By M Ghazali Khan

The successful women-only demonstrations against the ignoble CAA and NPR, or Shaheen Baghs, as they are being symbolically referred to, should serve as eye-openers for those whose ability to think positively and analyse things intelligently has been destroyed by bigotry and prejudice. These Shaheen Baghs should leave no doubt in anybody’s mind about how persecuted, oppressed or independent; informed or uninformed Indian Muslim women are about their roles, rights and duties. These Shaheen Baghs have been going on since January, not only in big cities like Delhi and Lucknow but also in small but renowned town of Deoband. It is also witnessing one of the rarest phenomena where women have been holding an impressive sit-in protest since 27 January in the vicinity of and very close to world-famous Islamic seminary Darul Uloom Deoband.

This protest has been led by three women—two sisters and one sister-in-law. In my recent visit to Deoband, my hometown, I had a chance to talk to these courageous young women. Below is the translation of a brief conversation with them.

Question: In a town like Deoband this was almost unthinkable that women would stay outside their houses for days and nights and hold such a successful sit-in protest. As a matter of fact, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been trying to convince the world that Indian Muslim women were the most persecuted creatures and by passing the Triple Talaq Bill he has put an end to the oppression that they were being subjected to. What was it that has made you take such an extraordinary step?

Amna Arooshi: Oh! Surely it is because of the liberation, bestowed upon us by Modiji through Triple Talaq Bill, that we are able to organise this protest. Now this liberation of ours is bothering him. Having been liberated we are now using our independence to fight Modiji’s attempt to declare us as foreigners.

But let it be clear that it’s not they who will deport and exile us but we will do it to these RSS guys.

Question: A good sarcasm! Please give an un-sarcastic response.

Amna Arooshi:  He has linked citizenship to religion which is against the secular character of the country. Then there are plans to introduce NRC and NRP, declare us as foreigners and put us in detention centres. The constitution given by Dr Ambedkar provides equal opportunities to all Indian citizens but some elements are unable to digest this fact. One wonders which world do they live in and dream of eliminating us. Therefore, we are sitting here against CAA and, God willing, will go from here only after having this black act withdrawn.

Question: What many are surprised at is that the women who started Shaheen Bagh protest in Delhi are the students of Jamia Millia Islamia or have been exposed to higher education. Some of them come from a big city like Delhi. But what was it that has given such courage to women of a small and rather conservative town of Deoband to come out of their homes and organise such a successful sit-in protest?

Amna Rooshi: People have a very wrong perception of Muslim women, especially of women from Deoband. They think we are imprisoned in our homes, have no clue what is going on in the world and have no sense of what our rights and roles are. Yes we do observe Purdah but also keep ourselves abreast of current affairs and political and social developments. In our protests, we have women from all backgrounds, educated and uneducated. We are not sitting here out of some greed. We have not sacrificed our comforts at homes and are not facing severe cold weather and rain because of political ambitions. All these women have been reading and listening about CAA and NPR on their mobiles. The spirit they have been demonstrating here cannot be created by someone provoking and misguiding them. It comes from the clarity of purpose and commitment to a cause. Observing Purdah does not mean that having educated ourselves in Shari’ah we have locked ourselves in our homes and have locked our brains as well. What option you are left with when your very existence and the existence of your future generations is in danger? We know our religion, we are conscious of our traditions and are equally aware of what is going on around us.

Question: Before the Shaheen Bagh protest and ensuing sit-ins in the country, especially in UP, an atmosphere of fear was created and it seemed that Muslims will never have the courage to speak and stand against the injustices meted out to them. But you have shown extraordinary courage and because of this, you must be facing lot of pressures to end this sit-in.

Amna Rooshi: Yes, the District Administration has used pressure and has tried to make us end our protest. Since 27 January, when we started this sit-in, our families are being pressurised and 105 of our colleagues have been issued notices accusing us of sedition and militancy. One of our brothers, a journalist who works for a Hindi daily, has been pressurised and asked to make us go back and end the protest. But he has asked us not to worry about what happens to his job and remain steadfast on what we think is right. We were not shaken when, on 27th January, the day when we came here and started the protest, we had to face an extremely cold weather and heavy rains, along with notices from the administration, surely nothing can make us change us our stand now. That was the time when no one was coming forward and raise voice against this unjust act. So, we thought we should stand up to protect our constitutional rights and raise our voices against this injustice. Someone had to do this. So I talked to my sister and together we went door to door telling and educating women about the danger and seriousness of the issue.

Question: Are you two real sisters?

Amna Rooshi: Yes we are real sisters and this is our sister-in-law. Thus three of us from the same family started this protest.

Question: Did you have any experience in public life before. Did you have any connection with a social or political group?

Amna Rooshi: No, this is the first time we have come out of our houses to organise a campaign like this. Neither we had any connection with any social or political organisation before nor do we have it now; and nor do we have such ambitions for future. What prompted us to organise this sit-in is the seriousness of the issue, the zeal to stand up against injustice and protect our identity as a religious community.

Are we supposed to watch in silence programmes being chalked out to eliminate us and our future generations? What our future generations are going to face as a result of these unjust pieces of legislations. They will ask us, ‘What were you doing when these laws were being enacted?’ What answer would we have to their questions?

Question: Today I saw tractor-trollies full of women going to the protest site. Are you getting support from women from adjoining villages as well?

Amna Rooshi: Praise be to God, now our voice is reaching far and wide and wherever women are learning about us they are coming to join and support us, not only from adjoining villages but from cities like Meerut, Muzaffarnagar, Bijnore and Nanauta. However, the majority of our supporters are from Deoband.

Question: A petrol pump, a Bhatta (brick kiln) and some other businesses in the town are reported to have been closed down by the administration. Were the owners of these businesses associated with your protest?

Amna Rooshi: People who sympathise with such causes are often harassed. The government is trying to use them to pressurise us. But we are not going to succumb to these tactics. We will go home only after having these cursed laws rolled back. God forbid, if anything worse happens to us we will have the satisfaction of facing it while fighting for the right and just cause.

Question: At one stage some respectable personalities from the town, including the rector of Darul Uloom, came to you to convince you to end the protest but you have thrown your bangles at them.

Iram Usmani: No, the rector of Darul Uloom was not among them. We respect him. Had he come with them we would have never acted in this fashion. Those who came included a former MLA and the present Chairman of Nagar Palika (Municipal Board). What made us upset was the fact that on that day it had been 13 days since we had been sitting here. From severe cold weather, heavy rain and pressures, what was it that we had not faced during that time? But none of them bothered to come and ask us if we needed any help and support. Their audacity enraged and impelled us to take off our bangles and threw at them. We are sitting here to protect our rights. These ‘Respectable’ people should have supported us and should have given us strength. But they came to make us go home.

Question: You are holding this protest in the vicinity of Darul Uloom Deoband. As I can also see at some distance madarsa students raising anti-CAA slogans. Does the Darul Uloom support your campaign?

Salma Ehsan: Neither, they have openly supported us nor have they opposed us. As you can see this is a women-only protest and we cannot expect the rector of Darul Uloom to come and sit here. However, because he has said that to protest is the right of every Indian citizen, we assume that he supports us morally.

Question: Big protests like this incur big expenses. How are you managing these costs?

Salma Ehsan: We are not doing any fundraising nor are we asking anyone to help us. People are helping us out of their free will. Some sisters bring food to share with the protestors.

Question: For how long will you continue your protest?

Amna Rooshi, Iram Usmani and Salma Ehsan, all in one voice: We are with the Shaheen Bagh protestors. Whenever they call their protest off, we will end ours as well. We are with them whatever decision they make.’


Special Assistant to Pak PM Says No Confrontation Exists Between Men and Women

Kalbe Ali

March 10, 2020

ISLAMABAD: There was no confrontation between men and women in the country, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan said on Monday. “The government did not take sides over the Aurat March,” she said in reply to queries by lawmakers at an emergency meeting of the National Assembly’s Standing Committee on information and broadcasting.

Some of the legislators drew Dr Awan’s attention to slogans that they found “unethical and contrary to our family values”.

The committee had met to focus exclusively on the reasons for, and impact of, slogans like “Mera Jism Meri Marzi” adopted by organisers of the Aurat March.

The Special Assistant on information and broadcasting said it was a fact that society “discriminates against women and so they have to struggle for their rights”.

She alleged that workers of the JUI-F, the outlawed Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat and students, as well as teachers, of Jamia Hafsa had attacked participants of the Aurat March in Islamabad on Sunday.

“We neither support slogans like `Mera Jism Meri Marzi’ nor do we side with baton-wielding marchers,” Dr Awan emphasised.

She praised television channels for adhering to directives given by Pemra regarding the Women’s Day coverage. “But the challenge we faced was related to social media since it is a common practice there to ridicule people and hurl insults at them,” Dr Awan added.

She stressed the need for regulating social media and requested the committee to invite the Pakistan Telecom¬munication Autho¬rity (PTA) chairman for consultations during the next meeting.

Mian Javed Latif, who belongs to the PML-N and heads the committee, called upon the information ministry to launch an awareness campaign about laws regarding protection of women.

Members of the committee noted that it was citizens’ right to highlight their grievances, but any such activity “should not cross the boundaries set by Islam and the Constitution”.

The members expressed concern over the debate related to Aurat March and criticised the media and the Pemra for “not handling the issue properly”.

Syed Aminul Haq of the MQM–Pakistan said his party supported all existing laws on women and had always called for their implementation. The committee decided to invite the owners of all television channels to its next meeting to thrash out a strategy for making the coverage of such events compatible with the need for disseminating the country’s soft image.

Saleem Beg, the Pemra chief, said in reply to the criticism that the regulator would issue notices to all channels which had violated the code of conduct while covering the event.

Police have registered a case against 11 clerics on a complaint filed by the Islamabad administration that students of Jamia Hafsa and other religious groups, including the JUI-F and the Sunni Ulema Council, had used the name of a banned group, the Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat, during their “Haya march” organised in opposition to the Aurat march.

According to the complainant, around 400 men and women held a demonstration in front of the National Press Club, during which they raised slogans to “incite their supporters into action against participants of the Aurat march”. However, no arrest was made by police till late on Monday night.

The Women’s Action Forum, which organised the Aurat March, criticised the administration for “failing to arrest those who tried to disrupt our rally”.


Leading Iranian Activist and Feminist: How I Became a Women’s Rights Activist



I am apologizing for my broken English language; it is not helpful to go to a new country, but let’s hope to understand each other by overcoming the hegemony of language, through my personal narration.

Europe is cold. Netherlands is cold. The Hague is cold and I’m getting cold. The North Sea winds are turning my body. No!

Let me restate: I, an olive skinned, 61 -year-old woman, am turned by the North Sea winds. My scarf, my bag and my long skirt turns in the opposite direction of the wind. Everything turns and reverses. It even rotates my age number from 61 to 16!

She sings with her brothers’ friends the hymns against the autocracies of Shah in the top of the mountains far away from the public. When they return home, they hear their mother’s voice from the kitchen singing her favorite vocalist songs.

At night she listens to John Baez—but during her father’s prayers she decreases the volume! She goes to the high school where her religion teacher, that was an opponent of the Shah, later becomes her best friend.

In 1979—the time of revolution’s time—I was a leftist student. During the demonstrations, I was looking for my favorite teacher, my religion teacher, but I couldn’t find her because the revolutionists all looked the same. They were wearing similar clothes as the solders’ uniform.

The only difference between the revolutionary women and men was women’s head scarves and their hairstyle: The revolutionary Muslims women carried the scarf to the forehead. Lefties would fasten their hair with a tough cord on the back as not to have a feminine appearance.

Everybody was in one shape: a male-dominated shape! This portrait made me feel scared; I felt I was living in a military base where there was no sign of femininity. That fear became my first motivation, to think about the female position and women’s struggles.

In 1980, I participated in one of the biggest marches against the compulsory hijab on the International Women’s Day. I was able to find the organizers later—but their main discourse was no longer the struggle against compulsory hijab. They would still go to downtown without a hijab and hang pictures on the walls of women from Latin American movements.

So, I thought by myself: What difference is there between posting pictures of armed women or posting pictures of Che Guevara with his Kalashnikov? I was scared once again, as I felt that the images of women are fading this time behind the Kalashinkov images.

The 80’s began with a big panic. War with Iraq, oppression opponents, arrests, deadly tortures and mass executions. No one was left in the streets.

Fearful of all this, I took refuge in a corner of the National Library and I redirected my attention by reading novels. At sunsets, I would practice music, which was mostly banned in that era for women. When I wanted to sing, I would go in the wardrobe, in the middle of the blankets and pillows, to sing in a hidden environment.

At the very same time, my mother would sit behind the sewing machine and start sewing. A way to camouflage my voice, to hide my singing, as women’s voices were forbidden. We were trying to overcome our fears through the female complicity.

The beginning of the 90’s marks the beginning of a new era in the world. In Iran the war was over. The leader of Islamic revolution was dead and Iran was mourning for hundreds of thousands of the victims of war and for 4,000 political executions.

The atmosphere was slightly changing. We, the women, after that oppressive decade gradually found each other again. The mothers of the executed were secretly gathering in houses.

We, the secular women, would gather in private circles. We would watch movies about women’s struggles in the world, we would read the feminism theories, we would organize underground women’s celebrations and women concerts: for instance, on International Women’s Day, or for the anniversary of the Constitutional Revolution on the tomb of Qamar, the first Iranian women singer in constitutional time, in the beginning of the 20th century.

In spite of the government’s prohibition, we disobeyed the government’s verdicts by demonstrating our civil opposition. 

Gradually, some Iranian women who immigrated in the past decade to the U.S. and Europe traveled back to Iran to visit their relatives.  Their souvenir for us were research findings and books written by the Iranian feminists in the Western universities.

On the other hand, in 1995 the women that were contributing to state vision and missions offered to participate in the Women’s World Conference in Beijing 1995.

We, independent secular feminists, were not allowed to participate in the conference—but we accepted that as we were hopeful that the women who participated would be influenced by the world women’s movements, from Muslim or non-Muslim countries.

The Reform era gave women more space to become visible in the society. We were able to publish women’s magazines and books. It was 2000 that we decided to hold a public event on International Women’s Day. There was a large number of participants, men and women with different perspectives. It was astonishing for all of us to witness this. In that event, I realized my responsibility as a woman activist.

We founded the first independent women’s association the same year,  The Women’s Cultural Center. It was the start of my professional career as a women activist.

In 2003, one of our co-activists and lawyer, Shirin Ebadi, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. It became a reason for us to form the first pluralist coalition of Iranian women including Muslim, Non-Muslim, secular, left and liberal approaches: “Hamadishi!”

Parallel, there were other struggles that the ordinary groups pf women in the society were working against, such as resisting against forced hijab in the streets.

In 2004, by the end of the Reform era, the oppression of the women’s movement intensified. We took advantage of virtual world and launched several women websites. The Internet was accessible, and we tried to use this tool to amplify the different voices of women.

In the non-virtual reality, we launched the One Million Signatures Campaign for changing the discriminative laws. The aim was to use this tool to collect signatures, speak to people and work towards changing the discriminative laws.

Many members of the campaign were detained; many lost their jobs. And the signatures we collected were taken by intelligence officers. This is an image of women’s movement efforts that has been stolen, and we will one day take it back from the State!

We had a motto: We vote for women’s demands. We had one demand: ratifying the international Convention of the Elimination of Discrimination against Women. The result of that election was government fraud, the oppression of the people, and a widespread immigration of women activists and journalists during 2010 and 2011.

In 2012 elections, the women’s movement came out of its ashes, like Phoenix. To follow their goals, they started making new coalitions for citizen rights discourse in Iran. The activists in diaspora used cyberspace and made various campaigns particularly against the compulsory hijab. They supported each other’s voices inside and outside of Iran. Very soon, the civil declaration of new government lead to the new wave of oppressions.

Nevertheless, it was just four years ago, that a campaign had been formed in Iran to change the male dominated face of the parliament; it was just two years ago that the campaign “Girls of the Revolution Street” was formed to protest against forced Hijab—in which young women climbed up a stand, took off their obligatory hijab and waved it in the air to illustrate women’s liberation. The courageous lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh, who was defending their cases voluntarily, ended up in jail.

In the last four months, the pulse of the women’s movement is being heard again.  Women are again in the frontline protest against rising fuel prices, poverty, corruption, sanctions and the catastrophe of Ukrainian airline’s passenger crash.

Iranian women movement, with nearly 150 years of history is going from home to the streets, from streets to prisons and from prisons to diaspora.

Now, in the corner of this all, here I am as an olive-skinned, middle-aged activist in diaspora trying to inspire the transnational feminism to have more solidarity and to prevent together women from being turned and wrapped in the storming winds of violence, autocracy and militarism—in the Eastern and the Western states.


Let's Highlight The Stories of Muslim Women Making History and Shattering Stereotypes!

March 9th, 2020

This minority group has been under more scrutiny and speculation than ever before – and not all of it is positive. That's why it's so important to recognise and highlight the stories of Muslim women who are making history and shattering stereotypes.

When compiling this list I was struck by the sheer number of inspiring Muslim women there are – past, present and even future.

Whether it be running successful businesses or leading armies into battle, Muslim women have been making history and inspiring generations for over a thousand years.

To put this into perspective, just less than 100 years ago, women in America did not have the right to vote. Yet today, in 2020, Muslim women are still ridiculed and misrepresented by the media, public figures and even politicians.

Poet and spoken word artist Suhaiymah Manzoor-Khan has used her growing social media platform to highlight social issues like Islamophobia, immigration and racism.

Not a stranger to the spotlight, the former Cambridge student who released her debut poetry collection, Postcolonial Banter last year, has also performed on BBC Radio, ITV, Sky and TEDx, to name a few.

In 2019 Suhaiymah made headlines when she unceremoniously pulled out of the Bradford Literature Festival after it was revealed that the event was part funded by a government-led counter-extremism group.

Taking to Twitter Suhaiymah explained that she did not want "to provide credibility or legitimacy to the counter-extremism project".

She added: "The government's counter-extremism strategy relies on the premise that Muslims are predisposed to violence and therefore require monitoring and surveillance."

Nadiya is a woman who needs no introduction. She won the Great British Bake Off and public's heart back in 2015 before going on to appear in several documentaries and cooking programmes, publish a series of books and bake a birthday cake for the Queen.

Last year Nadiya became an advocate for mental health, using her own past experiences to help others. In a BBC documentary titled Nadiya: Anxiety and Me she opened up about suffering with a panic disorder.

In the documentary, and subsequent memoir, Finding My Voice, Nadiya recalls being beaten and bullied at school so badly that she wanted to commit suicide.

"I didn't know what death was," she wrote. "All I knew was that it meant not living the life I had now – and I didn't like my life."

Speaking about the prestigious accolade Nadiya wrote: "I know my grandparents would be really proud, they wouldn't understand what was going on, or what it means, but they would be proud nonetheless.

"Little old rice farmers family in the middle of nowhere with a granddaughter with an MBE! Who would have thought it?!"

When journalist Hodan Nalayeh was gunned down by Somali militants last year the nation grieved, but her work on highlighting the beauty of her homeland became even more poignant.

The 43-year-old mother of two, who was pregnant at the time, was among the 26 people gunned down at the Asasey Hotel during a meeting with local politicians.

Somali-born Hodan moved to Canada when she was eleven but returned to her homeland a year before her death. She was one of Somalia's most promising journalists who had made it her mission to show another side to the war-torn country by focusing on its beauty and people.

Her family described her as someone who had "spent her life devoted to serving the Somali people and reporting on positive, uplifting stories" in order to "spread light and love to the Somali world".

BBC Somali's Farhan Jimale, who was a friend of Hodan's, described her as a "bright star and a beautiful soul who represented the best of her people and homeland".

"She was especially an inspiration for the young" he added. "You have Somalis from diaspora going home and she was a link between older Somalis and the young. She spoke both languages – English and Somali – so she was like a bridge."

There were no shortage of stories about Muslim women in sport this past year, but Khadijah's stood out the most. The teenager made history last year after she became the first British-Muslim woman to take part in a horse race wearing a hijab and win.

From a young age Mellah's parents took her for riding lessons in Kent, but the cost and distance meant that they were unable to keep up with regular classes.

And, although the horse-riding industry isn't seen as a typical career or hobby for Muslim women, Mellah's passion didn't deter her. In fact, it only spurred her on, especially when she discovered a local riding club.

"I've always loved horses and had ridden at a riding school in Kent a few times when I was younger," she told The New Arab.

Mellah soon became a household name among racing enthusiasts. Oli Bell, a presenter from ITV Racing sung her praises on social media by tweeting: "I could not be prouder of this inspirational young woman. 2 months ago she hadn't even sat on a racehorse. Khadijah Mellah is a superstar and today she showed the world that anything is possible."

Mellah has also been pictured with the likes of Mayor of London Sadiq Khan, the Duchess of Cornwall and even the Queen of England.

"The Duchess of Cornwall came to my documentary premiere which was amazing," recalls Mellah. "I also met the Queen at QIPCO British Champions Day at Ascot in October. She asked me about the race and my story – both are days that I will always remember.

"There is a stereotype that Muslim women can't go out there and do certain things. Hopefully this will show my religion in a positive light.


Saudi Columnist Warns Against Appointing A Woman As Head Of An Arab Country

March 9, 2020

In a recent column in the Saudi Al-Watan daily titled "The Arab Woman Is Not Qualified To Head a Country," journalist Mansour warned against the possibility of a woman president for one of the Arab countries. Arguing that women's physiological changes, including menstruation, estrogen deficiency, or problems during pregnancy are likely to adversely affect her judgment and cause her to make irrational decisions, he said that this could lead to damage to the country's foreign relations and perhaps even the bombing of a neighboring country. If women in Arab countries gain their rights and take positions in government, he continued, the men are apt to find themselves begging for their own rights.

Prior to the column's publication, Al-Daban promoted it on Twitter with a short one-question survey reflectint his column's headline: "My column for tomorrow: Is an Arab Woman Qualified to Head a Country?! Of the respondents, 57.3% said 'No,' 29.4% said 'Yes,' and the remainder said they don't know."[1]

"I have no desire to wallow in the depths of history, when understanding the present and looking to the future are more important. Within the next five years, we may have a female Arab president! This becomes [even] more possible if a woman from the Democratic Party heads the U.S. government, which is close [to happening].

"The Arab woman, in her cultural way of life, is quick to anger, [lacking in] self-confidence, very cautious, fights with her colleagues, supports the man and prefers to take an auxiliary role, specifically to a man. For these reasons, [women] whisper amongst themselves, even though they declare their demand for the actualization [of their rights], and fight the 'patriarchal society.'

"Moreover, the physiological changes that such a female president will undergo every month will impair the stability of the government and disrupt [foreign] relations. Pregnancy problems [from which she may suffer] are apt to cause her [i.e. the president] to bomb a neighboring country, and estrogen deficiency, and [incidents in which] she will stand in the middle of the room and forget what she is doing there, are likely to lead to changes in government portfolios...

"The Arab woman has suffered centuries of subjugation; for this reason she envies men's status. Thus, plans for actualizing [women's rights] will transform Arab countries into something similar to the Chinese Mosuo tribe, the Indonesian Minangkabau, and the Bribri in Costa Rica – which are ruled by women, and in which the men live lives of debasement while demanding their rights.


CBA celebrates Arab women scientists' graduation from regional fellowship program

10 MARCH, 2020

Dubai, UAE – In celebration of International Women's Day the International Center for Biosaline Agriculture (ICBA) hosted today a graduation ceremony for the first cohort of fellows of the Arab Women Leaders in Agriculture (AWLA) program.

Funded by the Islamic Development Bank (IsDB), the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and CGIAR Research Program on Wheat, AWLA supports women scientists from the Middle East and North Africa.

Being the first of its kind, the program is managed by ICBA and is designed to empower women researchers to spearhead positive changes in agriculture and food security while addressing the challenges they face in their careers.

The first cohort included 22 women scientists from Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, and Tunisia. They completed a 10-month program from 2019 to 2020, which was delivered through 12 online R&D modules and face-to-face workshops in Tunisia and the UAE.

Speaking at the graduation ceremony, Her Excellency Razan Khalifa Al Mubarak, Managing Director of the Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi (EAD) and Chairperson of ICBA’s Board of Directors, said: "International Women's Day is an important occasion when we celebrate women and girls around the world and showcase their invaluable contributions to different fields, including science. Unfortunately, women are still underrepresented in research and development around the world, but more so in the Middle East and North Africa. This is despite research showing that gender-balanced teams improve innovation and productivity and that women are critical to innovation. That is why it is great to see how programs like AWLA are creating opportunities for women scientists from across the Middle East and North Africa and equipping them with skills and tools to grow in their careers and make greater contributions in their communities and countries."

For her part, Dr. Ismahane Elouafi, Director General of ICBA, said: "We are delighted to see the inaugural cohort of AWLA fellows graduating on such a special occasion – International Women's Day. The AWLA fellowship program was able to open a door of opportunities for 22 Arab women scientists by providing them with soft skills to positively impact their communities and countries."

"I want to thank the Islamic Development Bank, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the CGIAR Research Program on Wheat, and the International Atomic Energy Agency, for their exceptional support for the program. I would also like to thank the Council for Australian-Arab Relations for supporting the study tour of two AWLA fellows," Dr. Ismahane Elouafi added.

Dr. Tarifa Alzaabi, Deputy Director General of ICBA, remarked: "As we are celebrating International Women's Day, it gives me a great pleasure to congratulate all AWLA fellows and commend them for the exceptional dedication they demonstrated during their AWLA journey. AWLA is a unique program that significantly contributed to our efforts to empower women in science and agriculture. AWLA extends the right skills and opportunities to fellows to boost their intellectual collaboration by exchanging ideas, good practices, and stories on how women can make a difference in agriculture. Moreover, the program offers new perspectives on research and leadership to make a positive difference not only in the professional lives of fellows but also towards the prosperity of agriculture across the nations and regions they represent."

Ms. May Ali Babiker Eltahir, Manager at the Women and Youth Empowerment Division, the Islamic Development Bank, commented: “AWLA, through empowering young Arab women working on food, nutrition and water security issues, has contributed to the pillars of the IsDB Women’s Empowerment Policy, namely improving women’s access to services and resources and promoting women’s agency and participation.”

Mr. Hassan Damluji, Deputy Director at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, said: "Empowering women to take up leadership positions in all fields, particularly critical sectors like agriculture and science, is an essential lever towards achieving gender equality globally. AWLA is a wonderful example of partners coming together to deliver concrete solutions that help break down barriers for Arab women researchers".

"Women make up an important part of the agricultural labor force in MENA, and any solution to the region's critical food security challenges should ideally be evidence-based and innovative, making use of all talent by being gender-inclusive and by greatly improving cross-border collaboration," said Mr. Victor Kommerell, Program Manager for the CGIAR Research Program on Wheat (CIMMYT, ICARDA, and partners).

"I am confident this cohort of AWLA graduates from 6 countries will have a powerful impact on the future of agriculture in the region," Mr. Victor Kommerell added.

Dr. Farah Baroudy Mikati, an AWLA fellow from Lebanon, who works as an agricultural engineer at the Lebanese Agricultural Research Institute, said: "The spirit of AWLA reminded me about my ambitions and strength, especially after seeing that things like research for impact exist and can succeed. Before AWLA, I used to give less importance to some managerial knowledge, but now I consider it as a priority. In addition, I started learning project proposal writing skills through this program. In general, AWLA made me aim for more even in harsh conditions!”

"During the program, the fellows got the opportunity to learn through interactive online and classroom training, coaching and mentoring, and continuous assessment. The fellows worked on a variety of individual assignments in addition to four team-based capstone projects that connect and translate their learning and impact as the golden thread," Mr. Ghazi Jawad Al-Jabri, Capacity Building Specialist at ICBA and AWLA Coordinator, said.

AWLA's long-term goal is to improve food security and nutrition in the region through empowering women researchers and helping them realize their full potential. The program contributes to the achievement of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals on Gender Equality (SDG 5), Climate Action (SDG 13), Life on Land (SDG 15), and Partnerships for the Goals (SDG 17).


Success Stories Of Leading Women: Business Heiresses Of The Middle East

Mar 9, 2020

If there were glass ceilings to be smashed, women from the Middle East, varying between entrepreneurs and CEOs, are the first to smash it. Arab women are the ones who are leading our nation and putting up a tough competition, creating impactful and strong businesses, women who have been working their way up on a steep career ladder for years to reach the top of their professional lives, never surrendering to our societal narratives where it’s very rare to find women in such positions.

Forbes Middle East has recently released its “Power Businesswomen in The Middle East 2020” Arab women from different backgrounds and nationalities taking over high-ranking businesses. Today we’re going to focus on Arab women who have taken over their family’s businesses, continuing to excel and carry on the legacy.

Vice-Chairperson and Managing Director of one of the biggest conglomerates in the Middle East, Easa Saleh Al Gurg Group, Dr. Raja Easa Al Gurg is a well-known Emirati businesswoman who has achieved stellar leadership of the group under the guidelines of her father, the Chairman, H.E. Easa Saleh Al Gurg. Her valuable counsel and insights have significantly contributed to the growth and success of ESAG.

Lubna S. Olayan is the CEO and Deputy Chairman of Riyadh-based investment arm and holding company for the Middle East, Olayan Financing Company. She manages The Olayan Group’s trading, real estate, investment, consumer and other industrial related operations that are conducted in the Gulf region.

Lubna actually retired from her position in mid-2019, however, she will continue to lead as president of the Suliman S. Olayan Foundation carrying out the Group’s charitable activities.

Mona is the Managing Director of the Bahraini-based Y.K. Almoayyed & Sons Group. A diversified group that was established back in 1940 specializes in trading, contracting, concrete products, air-conditioning, telecom services, and property development.

Mona is also a big advocate of living in an environment-friendly world and is a gardening enthusiast, she eventually won her first King Cup for Big Gardens back in 2007. She also continues to support a number of non-profit initiatives including the Migrant Workers Protection Society, the Bahrain Business Women’s Society, Al Muntada and the MWPS Shelter for Domestic Abuse.

Areej and Lujaina are the Joint Deputy Chairpersons of the leading Mohsin Haider Darwish (MHD), a company that their late father founded. MHD group’s diverse interests range from Automotive, Consumer Electronics, Building Materials, Engineering Products, Telecom, Office Automation, Projects, Logistics, and Training Institute.

MHD is one of the largest groups in Oman and over the years the company has witnessed significant growth under Areej and Lujaina leadership.

Caroline is Senior Vice President & Board Member of the Lebanese-based Fattal Group. Fakhoury’s family group operates in eight different countries, has seven lines of the distribution business, and has nearly 3,500 employees. Caroline plays a key role in operating the business and she also has another role as an important investor in the first Lebanese Women Angel Fund.

Daughters of Egyptian business mogul, Mohamed Khamis, the sisters lead one of the largest machine-made rugs and carpet manufacturers in the world, Oriental Weavers, which their father founded back the 1970’s.

Their father retained his title as CEO, however, he has left the day-to-day operations of the company to his two daughters while he focuses on strategic planning and business expansion. Today, Oriental Weavers has more than 17,000 employees worldwide with revenues reached $500 million in 2018.

Amal is the Vice-Chairperson of one of the largest privately-owned companies in the Sultan¬ate of Oman, Suhail Bahwan Group. The company specializes in fertilizers, oil and gas services, and car dealerships, and for the past 15 years, she has been the driving force behind restructuring the group’s businesses.

Amal is very much at the sharp end in leading Oman’s largest business and she has been leading the group’s investments with her heart and soul to transform its fortunes and successfully steer it into the 21st century. And although she’s the daughter of the founder, her success wasn’t handed to her on a silver platter, but rather, it was her immerse drive to reach the sky and dominate the male corporate world.



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