x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Meeting seen as a stepping stone to further progress

Political and economic crises around the world deprive women of basic rights to security and safety, a conference concludes.

ABU DHABI // Political and economic crises around the world deprive women of basic rights to security and safety, with the poor, illiterate and sick affected the most, a pan-Arab women's conference concluded yesterday. Female leaders from across the Arab world said women could be secure only when they participated in the decision-making process, and called for greater support for the role of women as orchestrators of security and stability.

The second conference of the Arab Women Organization (AWO) emphasised the plight of Arab women living under occupation and armed disputes in Palestine and Iraq. The three-day event was one of the most important gatherings of Arab women leaders. Sheikha Fatima, the widow of Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan, the founder of the nation, was at the opening and closing sessions. At least 11 first ladies from around the Arab world were among the participants, including Suzanne Mubarak of Egypt and Queen Rania Al Abdullah of Jordan.

They made an appeal to empower the Arab women through enhancing their economic independence and increasing their political participation. Sheikha Fatima, who presides over the AWO, said the conference's recommendations would represent "a distinctive milestone in the march of Arab women into renaissance", the state news agency WAM reported. "I am confident that what we have achieved through this conference will strengthen the co-operation among us, and will constitute a fundamental and important addition to the achievements of Arab women," Sheikha Fatima said.

In their closing statements the participants urged the region's governments to adopt a comprehensive understanding of security, both for their nations and their people. They also called for Arab societies to be more supportive of women's rights and their security, saying that positive concepts about women's freedom and values should be drawn from Arab and Islamic heritage. During the conference, Sheikha Fatima began two major initiatives to enhance the role of Arab women and facilitate access to talented expatriate Arab women: a media strategy for Arab women, to run between 2010 and 2015; and an online network for immigrant Arab women. The network would hold a database of professional Arab women living outside the region. mhabboush@thenational.ae