x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

‘Empower women, empower all society’

Queen Rania of Jordan calls for Arab societies to break the mould and to fight attempts to put us ‘centuries behind’.

Hurdles to women’s progress are cultural, not religious: Queen Rania of Jordan speaks on the opening day of the Global Women‘s Forum Dubai in Madinat Jumeirah on Tuesday. Pawan Singh / The National
Hurdles to women’s progress are cultural, not religious: Queen Rania of Jordan speaks on the opening day of the Global Women‘s Forum Dubai in Madinat Jumeirah on Tuesday. Pawan Singh / The National

DUBAI // To empower women is to empower all of society, Queen Rania of Jordan told participants at the first day of the Global Women’s Forum Dubai.

Speaking at the two-day conference, Queen Rania urged Arab societies to break the mould that restricts women’s participation in social development.

“Extremist ideologies have infiltrated our societies, demanding that we make leaps in our progress.

“We need to actively fight currents that are trying to throw us centuries behind,” she said. “These days, we are beginning to see the spread of illiteracy in communities that once graduated pioneers and scientists.”

She said this restricted the development of a woman’s capability, talent and ambition, which, she said, were based on culture, not religion.

“When Islam brought light to the world, it gave women rights, status and choices that freed them from the age of -ignorance and vulnerability they had endured in the pre-Islamic days,” she said. “Innovation breaks moulds. It is not limited by norms or institutions. Innovation is neither dependent on opinions nor agendas.

“When a woman succeeds, she reaches out to those around her and pulls them up with her. That is why if you empower a woman, you empower a whole society.”

Also speaking at the event, held at the Madinat Jumeirah, were Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, and Amal Al Qubaisi, Speaker of the Federal National Council.

Sheikh Abdullah told of how he had grown up in a house where Sheikh Zayed, Founding Father of the UAE, and his wife, Sheikha Fatima bint Mubarak, were equal partners in family life.

“They were partners in raising us, they were partners in following up on our education, and they were partners in following the march of the country,” he said. “Sheikh Zayed was raised in a house by Sheikha Salama, who was strong and firm. She planted in Sheikh Zayed not only to love his country, but to love every citizen, woman and man, and to have respect, appreciate and forgive.

“This is what we learnt from Sheikh Zayed.”

Sheikh Abdullah said the empowerment of women in the UAE was not window dressing, but founded on a serious and organised methodology.

He said that it was very important for every country that was serious about developing society not to exclude any person, any idea, nor any type of initiative.

“I hope that the Global Women’s Forum Dubai will enhance the role of women,” he said. “The fault is not that women are not working, the fault is that men have taken over some of the roles of women.”

Dr Al Qubaisi, meanwhile, said that the UAE leadership had played a big role in helping women to play their rightful role in the development of society.

“This forum in the UAE is a confirmation of the leading role of women in the UAE and of UAE women in the world,” she said, adding that the country followed a path of integration between men and women.

Dr Al Qubaisi, who in 2006 became the first woman elected to the FNC​, recalled an instance in her life that reflected the innovation and ideas discussed at the forum.

“When the election results came out, an old man approached me and passionately congratulated me. He said that he had travelled from the Western Region just to vote for me,” she said.

“Not his age nor his lack of education stopped him from having faith that enabling and supporting a woman is a seed of goodness in society.”

dmoukhallati@thenational.ae