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Islam, Women and Feminism ( 14 Sept 2020, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Turkey's First Lady, Emine Erdogan, Among Top 10 Influential Muslims

New Age Islam News Bureau

14 September 2020

 • Noor Nugali Appointed Assistant Editor-In-Chief of Arab News

• Saudi Designer Princess Nourah Al-Faisal Details Discrimination by French Newspaper

• Saudi Women Entrepreneurs Fight Cultural Conditioning

• Working on The Ground to Meet Basic Needs of Beirut’s Women and Girls

• Arabic Press Review: Egypt's Female Journalists Tackle Sexual Harassment In The Workplace

• Veteran and Newcomer Women Candidates in Battle for Kukusan In Sabah State Election

• How Coronavirus Has Impacted the Lives of Women in The Arab World

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau



 Turkey's First Lady, Emine Erdogan, Among Top 10 Influential Muslims

Aamir Latif  



An international think tank on Sunday placed Turkey's first lady among the world's top ten most influential Muslim figures.


An international think tank on Sunday placed Turkey's first lady among the world's top ten most influential Muslim figures.

The Institute of Peace and Development (INSPAD), which simultaneously operates from Pakistan and Belgium, has nominated Emine Erdogan for its International Peace Awards 2020 for the ten leading Muslim figures across the globe for their services in different fields.

The list also includes former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir bin Muhammad, head of Bahrain's Council of Women Shaikha Noora Al Khalifa, Muslim World League Secretary-General Mohammad bin Abdulkarim Al-Issa of Saudi Arabia, US Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, UK House of Lords member Lord Nazir Ahmed, Chairman of Muslim Institute of Pakistan Sahibzada Sultan Ahmed Ali and Ibrahim Bin Salah Al-Naumi, the under secretary of higher education and chairman of the Doha International Center for interfaith Dialogue in Qatar.

INSPAD's President Muhammad Tahir Tabassum told Anadolu Agency that Emine Erdogan was chosen for her tremendous services in the fields of social development with a focus on women's empowerment, the environment, culture, arts and social awareness.

The body, which has 5,000 ambassadors of peace and over 12,000 members from different countries, every year selects eminent Muslim figures around the globe.


Noor Nugali Appointed Assistant Editor-In-Chief of Arab News

September 13, 2020


Noor Nugali


Arab News, the Middle East’s leading English-language daily, announces the promotion of senior Riyadh correspondent Noor bint Osama Nugali to assistant editor-in-chief.

Her new role will encompass several local, regional and international editorial and managerial responsibilities. She succeeds Somayya Jabarti, who left this position earlier this year.

“We are delighted to announce the promotion of Noor to this new role. Throughout the time she has worked with us at Arab News, she has successfully covered foreign policy, the diplomatic community, and has obtained several high-level interviews and exclusives for the paper,” said Faisal J. Abbas, editor-in-chief of Arab News.

“The promotion falls in line with the Kingdom’s general direction of empowering young, talented and highly capable Saudi women,” he added.

“Among her first assignments in her new role will be to manage our coverage of this year’s G20 meetings, which Saudi Arabia hosts for the first time.”

Nugali joined Arab News in October 2017. Prior to that, she had worked for three years at the Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

She had also been a reporter and freelance feature writer for both the Saudi Gazette and The National, a UAE-based English daily.

At Arab News, she handled several major editorial projects. Most recently, Nugali was part of the launch team of Arab News en Français, the digital French edition of the newspaper that was successfully launched in July this year.

Last year, she was a lead researcher and interviewer for two major Arab News Deep Dives: “Prince in Space,” which marked the 35th anniversary of Prince Sultan bin Salman being the first Arab astronaut to go to space; and “Juhayman 40 years on,” which retold the story of the atrocious takeover of the Holy Mosque in Makkah in 1979.

Nugali has also covered, moderated and participated as a panelist at several major events and forums in the Kingdom.

She will assume the role as of Oct. 1. She will work alongside Deputy Editor Tarek Mishkhas out of the newspaper’s headquarters in Riyadh, and will report to the editor-in-chief directly.


Saudi Designer Princess Nourah Al-Faisal Details Discrimination by French Newspaper



September 13, 2020

RIYADH/DUBAI: Princess Nourah Al-Faisal, Saudi founder of Paris-based fine jewelry label Nuun Jewels, took to social media this week to share an exchange between her team and French newspaper Les Echos, who, according to the designer, refused to run a portrait of her because she was wearing a hijab in the image.

“As a Saudi female jewelry designer working in Europe there have been times when I have come up against all kinds of discrimination,” she wrote in a lengthy Instagram post shared on her personal account. “Something happened today that I feel I cannot let pass,” she added.

The designer went on to detail the incident, stating that the professional headshots she provided to illustrate an interview set to run in the magazine were the subject of much furor. 

According to the designer’s Instagram post, “we were sent a message through the coordinating PR agency explaining that the images shared did not conform to the images of the other designers and that unless we were prepared to share an image without a hijab, they would not be using Nuun Jewels in their article.”

The designer spoke to Arab News to share her disappointment.

“I highlighted this incident because we can’t fight these behaviors by keeping quiet and silent. Rasicm and discrimination is everywhere around the world. It’s something we must address… as a society, we have to keep talking about it.”

Even though the incident occurred with a French publication, the designer wants to stress that it is in no way a representation of French people or the country, making sure to point out, “My French friends and coworkers have all sent me messages saying this is not acceptable.”

Indeed, many users took to Al-Faisal’s comment section to write heartfelt messages of support and denounce Islamophobia and discrimination.

She has also received much support from people all over the world following the incident, and remains hopeful despite her experience with discrimination as a hijab-wearing woman.  “I’m an internal optimist,” she mused. “I fully believe that humanity is wondrous at its core.”

“When it comes to my work I’ve always wanted to be judged by my craft. Look at the work, judge me on that and if you don’t like it, it’s fine. But don’t dismiss my work for a presumption,” she said.

Can such behavior be abolished? Al-Faisal believes so. “Racism is a taught behavior,” she stated. “You can unteach it."


Saudi Women Entrepreneurs Fight Cultural Conditioning

Sebastian Castelier

Sep 13, 2020

When Saudi entrepreneur Amal Albasheeri opened her first business in 2003, women were not allowed to enter most commercial premises. “It was a totally different era,” said Albasheeri, founder of the interior design platform Makan.Design. In 2018, women obtained the right to register a business without the consent of a husband or male relative.

“Now we feel like we have the right to exist!” she told Al-Monitor.

In recent years, the Saudi leadership ended the world's last ban on female drivers and encouraged women to enter the workforce, accelerating the inclusion of women into the local economy. The moves aim to increase the number of dual-income families at a time when deteriorating economic conditions are eroding the country’s welfare system.

The government also outlawed discriminatory practices in accessing bank credit. But beyond an improved legal framework, empowering women might require a profound change of mentality at the society level.

While more than half of Saudi university students being women, female entrepreneurship is yet to be entirely accepted. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development estimates that in the broader Middle East and North Africa region, gender-based discrimination in laws and social norms costs $575 billion a year.

Decades of cultural conditioning

Unlike regulatory restrictions, internal boundaries built in the minds of Saudi women by decades of cultural conditioning and a draconian male guardianship system cannot be repealed in the blink of an eye and are likely to resist state-led reforms.

Human rights organizations have long criticized the Gulf country for making women second-class citizens. A study published in 2018 found Saudi women tend to lack self-confidence due to gender limitations “deeply rooted in the culture.”

Arwa Shafi is a program associate at TAQADAM, one of Saudi Arabia’s top startup accelerators. She told Al-Monitor, “The challenges that remain are all at a personal level. There are still a lot of built-in ideas of what you can or cannot do as a female.”

Mentorship and accelerator programs like TAQADAM help participants explore opportunities that were previously off limits and turn an idea into a marketable product. “More than 30% of our founding entrepreneurs are female,” said Shafi, who said the flexibility offered by the six-month-long program has been vital to achieving such high participation by women.

“I could attend with my newborn son and continue breastfeeding,” Moudi Alghashyan, co-founder of the online wish list Hadiya Registry, told Al-Monitor.

TAQADAM also provides zero-equity funding to facilitate access to finance, one of the biggest challenges faced by women-led ventures as bank credit available to small and medium-sized enterprises in the Arab region is the lowest in the world.

“It has been the opportunity I needed. I got to socialize with other entrepreneurs, built connections and received a $20,000 grant,” said Alghashyan. During the COVID-19 crisis, Hadiya Registry’s sales tripled as “many started buying online for the first time.”

The importance of role models

For those who wish to reconcile family life with a job, the pandemic has been a wake-up call as business opportunities in the digital economy surged and online shopping gained momentum. The pre-pandemic growth rate of Saudi e-commerce already exceeded 32% annually.

But aspiring female entrepreneurs struggle to identify with the male-led businesses that dominate the headlines. “Saudi women do not have role models, that is what we lack,” London-based Saudi political analyst Najah Al Otaibi told Al-Monitor.

According to Babson College, a global leader in entrepreneurship education, “Role models have a greater impact on a woman’s entrepreneurial self-efficacy than on a man’s.”

In Saudi Arabia, less than 2% of business owners with at least one employee are women, according to a 2018 Mastercard study. While “the number of Saudi women entrepreneurs grew significantly from 2007 to 2017,” entrepreneurship remains the exception as the vast majority of Saudi citizens prefer public sector employment attracted by high wages, social benefits and job security — government departments pay 59% more than the private sector.

In the long term, new curricula could play a crucial role in nurturing a generation of female entrepreneurs. For decades, the education system upheld “dominant socio-cultural norms that emphasize the role of women as wives and mothers,” read a study by prominent Saudi researcher Hessah Al Sheikh.

According to World Bank estimates, women in the Middle East and North Africa enjoy half the legal rights of men. International organizations and experts have long called on Gulf governments to favor critical thinking-centered teaching methodologies.

“Music and arts, which used to be banned, are now part of the curriculum in public schools. This is a great development! We should have an environment encouraging creativity, freedom of thought, freedom of expression,” Al Otaibi said.

'Saudi Arabia is now a police state'

Since he was named crown prince in 2017, Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdul-Aziz Al Saud has portrayed himself as a reformist and Western leaders initially commended this posture. In early 2018, UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said the kingdom's de facto ruler “has demonstrated by word and deed that he aims to guide Saudi Arabia in a more open direction.”

Critics argued the move is an attempt to create a smokescreen. “The new regime had to make reforms to gain legitimacy in the West,” said Lina al-Hathloul, whose sister is behind bars along with other female activists who had campaigned for the right to drive.

According to Human Rights Watch’s former Middle East director, "Their only crime was wanting women to drive before Mohammed bin Salman did." Al-Hathloul told Al-Monitor, “Saudi Arabia is now a police state; no one dares to talk,” and lamented new regulations like the public decency law have “blurred the line” between what is allowed and what is not.

Saudi entrepreneurs like Albasheeri are hopeful, saying a more inclusive society is taking shape as the kingdom has entered a new era. “As much as we want to keep our traditions, we don't want to live as a conservative country forever,” she said.


Working on The Ground to Meet Basic Needs of Beirut’s Women and Girls

September 13, 202

BEIRUT — A month after the Beirut Port explosion, life remains uncertain for thousands of women and girls. Among the displaced are an estimated 84,000 women and girls of reproductive age.

UNFPA, the agency specializing in reproductive and maternal health worldwide, is working with 12 partners on the ground to distribute dignity kits, which contain sanitary pads, soap, toothbrushes, toothpaste and towels.

These items are helping women and girls maintain their personal hygiene even amid the destruction and displacement. This is essential, community members have emphasized.

“Just like I would want my girls to be fed, I would also want them to have these basic hygienic needs,” said Hayat Merhi, a woman with three adolescent daughters whose family was affected by the blast.

Pandemic, economic turmoil

The blast and its aftermath comes on top of the COVID-19 pandemic and an economic crisis, years in the making. Job losses have curtailed family spending, even as disease prevention is becoming more urgent than ever.

Too often, the needs of women and girls are the first to go unmet.

“There was a time when my daughters were using a piece of cloth instead of pads," said Lina Mroueh, who also has three adolescent daughters.

UNFPA partners have been canvassing blast-impacted areas as they distribute the dignity kits, speaking with women and girls about their circumstances. The work is challenging, but rewarding, they say.

“Bringing light into their broken homes and telling women and girls that their dignity, safety and personal needs matter to the world in these difficult times is the least we can do,” described Rima Al Hussayni, director of Al Mithaq Association.

Life-saving information

The distribution of dignity kits is also an opportunity to address yet another crisis: gender-based violence, according to UNFPA.

Gender-based violence is known to increase in humanitarian settings and in times of economic stress. Amid the pandemic, many countries are reporting increased violence against women and rising demands for support services.

“It is very important to remember that dignity kits are helpful to women and girls, not only for the menstrual hygiene products, soaps and other items, but also as a way to reach women and girls with key messages about sexual and reproductive health and rights, gender-based violence, the prevention of sexual exploitation, and abuse services and information,” said Felicia Jones, UNFPA’s humanitarian coordinator.

The dignity kits contain referral information to connect survivors with help. The people distributing the kits are also trained to provide this information.

In some cases, they explain even more.

“We trained our staff to demonstrate how to use and maintain the items in the kit”, said Gabby Fraidy of the Lebanese Council to Resist Violence Against Women. “We had 11-year-old girls who came to us, and our role was to share information about menstruation and explain to them that it is a natural and a biological process that occurs, and that it’s a part of growing up.”

Additional vulnerabilities

Akkarouna and Al Makassed associations are also distributing dignity kits to women and girls with disabilities, who often face additional vulnerabilities and challenges accessing sexual and reproductive health services and commodities.

It is estimated that around 12,000 disabled persons have been affected by the blast. — UN News


Arabic Press Review: Egypt's Female Journalists Tackle Sexual Harassment In The Workplace

By Mohammad Ayesh

12 September 2020

Dozens of female journalists in Egypt have issued a statement denouncing sexual harassment in the workplace and demanding action to change the situation.

According to London-based newspaper Al-Araby Al-Jadeed, the group accused the Egyptian Journalists Syndicate of ignoring an official memorandum on the subject, signed by more than 150 journalists and submitted by them on 27 August.

They reiterated the memorandum's call for the formation of a "permanent committee for women" within the syndicate, designed to combat harassment and sexual violence against female journalists.

They also demanded an investigation into sexual harassment and assault incidents in the media industry, including recent claims of sexual misconduct by Egyptian investigative journalist Hisham Allam, and asked for "clear mechanisms" to be put in place to protect the identities of those who bring forth such complaints.

The group called on their female colleagues, who represent nearly 40 percent of all journalists in Egypt, to sign the memorandum and adopt their demands.

Research by the UN in 2013 estimated that 99 percent of women in Egypt had been subjected to some form of sexual harassment at some point in their lifetime.

Despite legislation and civil society efforts to address the problem, surveys have shown that nearly 60 percent of women have been the target of this form of violence in public spaces, and an equal proportion of men have admitted to harassing women in public.

Yasser Arafat's family disavows widow's statements

The family of the late Palestinian Authority (PA) president Yasser Arafat has harshly criticised his widow, Suha, after her recent statements to Israeli and Gulf TV channels attacking the Palestinian leadership and supporting Israel's normalisation agreement with the UAE, according to the London-based newspaper Al-Quds Al-Arabi.

The family, who live in Gaza City, said in a statement: "The irresponsible statements made by Suha Al-Tawil, wife of the late President Yasser Arafat, regarding the political leadership of the Palestinian people, are totally rejected because they are inconsistent with the culture, spirit and morals of the Arafat family."

The family said that Suha had not obtained approval from Arafat's family to speak on their behalf through the media, and accused her of "using the name of her martyred husband, leader Yasser Arafat, to speak on behalf of the Palestinian people, taking advantage of him being a symbol for the Palestinian people".

The family affirmed its absolute respect for all political decisions issued by all countries, considering them "an internal matter that other countries must not interfere in".

At the same time, it declared its respect, appreciation and commitment to all decisions issued by the Palestinian leadership, represented by PA President Mahmoud Abbas.

Thousands of Israelis set to pour into UAE

Sources in the Tourism Business Union in Tel Aviv have reported that thousands of Israelis have called to reserve seats on Dubai and Abu Dhabi flights, according to a report published by Asharq al-Awsat. The surge follows recent moves to normalise ties between the United Arab Emirates and Israel.

Israel's Israir Airlines previously announced it had signed agreements enabling it to start organised and direct tours from Tel Aviv to the UAE from 15 October, while also mentioning ongoing intensive talks with Fly Emirates and Etihad Airways to organise flights to Israel.

An Israeli tourism company official described "tempting" tourism package proposals by the Emiratis, such as "a tourism trip including hair planting or plastic surgeries in Dubai".

Such flights currently go to Turkey, but the Emiratis are offering a better price, the Saudi newspaper said.

Business trips between Israel and the UAE after expected soon, following the signing of their normalisation treaty.

The UAE has declared that Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Minister Sheikh Abdallah bin Zayed Al Nahyan will be heading an official delegation, including senior officials, to Washington on 15 September for the signing ceremony.

He was invited by US President Donald Trump to participate in the event at the White House, in the presence of the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Economic sources quoted an Israeli business delegation, currently visiting the Emirates, as saying that signing the treaty will also expand business relations between Israel and India, considering the latter's strong business relations with the UAE.


Veteran and Newcomer Women Candidates in Battle for Kukusan In Sabah State Election

14 Sep 2020

TAWAU, Sept 14 — The new seat of Kukusan is witnessing a clash between a veteran and a newcomer in the 16th Sabah state election.

And if the 12,640 voters in the constituency are looking for a woman representative in the September 26 polls, it’s a toss-up between Chaya Sulaiman, 60, and Rina Jainal, 39.

Chaya of the Barisan Nasional (BN) and Rina of Parti Warisan Sabah (Warisan) are the only women candidates among the seven contestants.

Chaya, the Kalabakan Wanita Umno chief, is an old hand in politics, having been with Umno in Sabah since 1991.

“My selection as the Umno candidate for Kukusan is the result of my patience and undivided loyalty to the party. I want to achieve history by becoming the first woman elected representative here,” she told Bernama.

If elected, she wants to do more for the women folk, apart from creating an education hub in Kukusan, one of four state seats within the Kalabakan parliamentary constituency.

“We want to continue generating economic growth, and an important task is to strengthen education by making it an education centre so that our children need not go out of this area to further their studies,” said Chaya, the older sister of Kalabakan Member of Parliament Ma’mun Sulaiman, who is from Warisan.

Rina, on the other hand, considers herself a newbie but far from being a pushover.

She pledged to continue working hard for the people and to bring development if given the trust to be the state assemblyman.

“I ventured into politics three years ago with Warisan, and before that I concentrated on my career as an entrepreneur apart from being actively involved in non-governmental organisation work through Jalinan Sokongan Komuniti Keluarga in Kalabakan.

“My advantage is that I’m involved in charitable and community work like workshops to empower women and self-improvement activities including on education,” said Rina, the Kalabakan Wirawati chief.

Rina said she was confident of being accepted by the voters, as she could relate to both the youth and older generation.

The other candidates in Kukusan are Ismail @ Taufik Muin of Parti Cinta Sabah, Lee Boon King of Parti Gagasan Rakyat Sabah, Wong Jin Soon of Parti Harapan Rakyat Sabah, Ismail Idris of United Sabah National Organisation and Rosdiansah Mohd Nor of Parti Perpaduan Rakyat Sabah. — Bernama


How coronavirus has impacted the lives of women in the Arab world

14 Sep 2020

By Nabila Rahal

With more than 25 million infected and 852,000 dead globally, there is no doubt that the coronavirus is a generation-defining event. From visitor-centric industries such as hospitality, tourism and entertainment to essential community services like education and healthcare, few areas of modern life have not been devastated by the pandemic.

However, its impact has been far from uniform, particularly when it comes to gender. Whereas research has shown that women were less likely to suffer from health complications than men if they catch coronavirus, they are much more likely to bear a social brunt, especially when it comes to the labour market, domestic violence and unpaid work – whether that’s domestic work, childcare or looking after elderly relatives.

According to US based consultancy firm McKinsey & Company, “women make up 39 percent of global employment but account for 54 percent of overall job losses to date”. The main reason behind this, according to the paper, is that women are shouldering the majority of unpaid work, which has increased with school closures and healthcare sector challenges. This invariably ends up effecting women’s job performance.

Women are also overrepresented in the industry sectors that have suffered the most under coronavirus, such as retail, hospitality and food services in which women hold 54 percent of the global jobs. With those sectors slowing down because of lockdown measures, women are inevitably impacted more than men.

Another way coronavirus has negatively impacted women is in the increase of gender-based domestic violence, which a policy brief by UN Women indicates has increased by 25 percent in countries with reporting systems in place. This is likely due to “crowded homes, substance abuse, limited access to services and reduced peer support exacerbating pre-existing conditions.”

Women in the Arab world are suffering under largely the same impacts of the pandemic that their global peers are, but with more regional-specific nuances. To shed more light on the impacts of coronavirus on women in the Arab region, Arabian Business talked to the regional director of the coordination division of UN Women, Moez Doraid.

AB: What are the key objectives for UN Women in the Arab states for the remainder of 2020 and into 2021?

Moez Doraid: One of the UN Women’s key objectives in the Arab states is to end discrimination against women. This manifests itself in three areas. The first is to end violence against women such as domestic violence and also gender-based violence in areas of conflict and crises. The second area is to empower women economically through jobs, earning incomes and sustainable livelihood. The third is to increase women’s economic participation with the goal of having more women in parliament and leadership positions.

For 2021, of course the pandemic will be shaping our objectives because we want to build better for women. The recovery plan should include gender and economic responsibility and also ensure that we overcome this gender-based violence which heightened in the pandemic because of the lockdown.

AB: What, in your view, are the biggest challenges faced by women during the Covid-19 pandemic – both regionally and globally?

MD: We are facing a worsening of existing inequalities and discrimination against women in several areas. The first is in domestic violence and gender-based violence. Across the world, including in Arab countries, there has been a rise in domestic violence against women.

AB: Is it more pronounced in Arab countries as compared to other parts of the world?

MD: Generally, violence against women, according to our data, is slightly higher in Arab countries compared to other regions. The estimate before the pandemic was that about 37 percent of Arab women suffer from and are victims of domestic violence at least once in their lifetimes. This compares to about 33 percent for the world average. The pandemic has worsened this situation and we have observed that from hotline services across the Arab world in places such as Lebanon, Egypt and Tunisia.

AB: What are the other challenging areas you were mentioning?

MD: The second one is economic empowerment. According to United Nations data, during the pandemic an estimated 1.7 million jobs in the Arab region were lost, 700,000 of which are provided by women.

A third area which we are focusing on both currently and in the coming year is protection against the pandemic. During the pandemic we have helped distribute and provided personal protection equipment in many Arab countries. This is noteworthy because across the world, including in the Arab countries, women constitute around 70 percent of workers in the healthcare sector. In countries like Egypt, women constitute 90 percent of the nurses. In Lebanon, 80 percent of the total Lebanese nursing staff are women so this protection issue is important.

And the last area to touch upon now is that of unpaid work. We are working with other non-governmental agencies and donors and other partners to ensure men take up responsibility in terms of household work, childcare and looking after the elderly. Currently, in the Arab region, we have one of the highest imbalances between the share of unpaid work provided by women and men. Here, women work nearly five times more than men in these roles.

AB: What has UN Women been doing to tackle this issue across the Arab region?

MD: We have media campaigns in which we’ve partnered with media outlets such as your magazine to raise awareness on changing traditional stereotypes. We also aim to facilitate women’s participation in the labour market by, for example, providing supporting services such as day-care. You know, the interesting thing is that the pandemic offered some support for this issue because women increased the time they spend on such unpaid work but at the same time men have also increased the time they spend on unpaid work. So we have to sustain this improvement in the time men spend on unpaid work.

AB: In terms of schooling, do you think girls in the Arab region were more disadvantaged than boys when it came to digital learning and education during the pandemic?

MD: In the Arab region, like in many other countries, women and girls are disadvantaged in the school system with many societal preferences given to the boy with respect to school enrolment. While we do not have exact data to answer your question, there is definitely the phenomenon of girls being disadvantaged during the remote-learning academic year in, for example, their access to equipment or online access.

AB: Some people would find it unusual, or maybe even inappropriate, that a man is in charge of UN Women. How would you answer that and what is the value that you have brought to this role?

MD: Well, UN Women walks the walk, and applies what it preaches so there are no gender discriminations in our jobs. What made UN Women appoint me to this job is my experience and expertise in working for 30 years across the UN system in development, poverty reduction and human rights. That has given me the experience and the expertise which I bring to the job, not my gender.

AB: Based on your experience in the UN, why do you think it is indispensable and how can it adopt to the challenges of today and tomorrow?

MD: You know, if the UN did not exist, the world would have had to create a UN. Dag Hammarskjöld, one of the UN’s early secretary generals who was killed in the service of the United Nations, said UN was established not to take humanity to heaven but to save it from hell. We see indicators of that across the world.

In the Arab region, for example, the UN leads and coordinates the world humanitarian response to all of its worst conflicts that are taking place in countries like Yemen and Syria. In Yemen, the UN system provides lifesaving food and services to about 14 million Yemenis, the largest humanitarian response and food provision in the world. Of course, UN Women is active in this regard ensuring that women and girls receive their rightful and equal share.

In Syria, the UN system is also very active whether in trying to negotiate with the warring parties or developing humanitarian responses. We have succeeded, as UN Women, in supporting Syrian women and Syrian parties in these negotiations to ensure that 30 percent of the Syrian Constitutional Committee is composed of women. This is because we know, from our analysis, that peace treaties which have women engagement live longer and are more successful. Yet, only 26.8 percent of the peace negotiations in the Arab world have women participation in them.

AB: In October, UN Women is supporting the Arab Woman Awards. Why did you feel this was important to you?

MD: It is because recognition and credit are due. Through acknowledging successes in advancing women’s rights by acknowledging accomplishments and achievements of women, we publicise success stories that can be replicated by the multitude of empowered ingenious women and girls.




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