First Regional Conference on Advancing Young Women Leaders in the Gulf States (Written by: Mira Daher)
The Young Women Leaders (YWL) program at the Lebanese American University (LAU) aims to build the leadership skills of women’s rights activists from the Gulf States in 2009 and 2010. The program is sponsored in partnership with the Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI).
The program has various components: the first is a series of women’s leadership capacity building sessions offered during the summer of 2009 at LAU and delivered by its various institutes with a leading role undertaken by the Institute for Women’s Studies in the Arab World (IWSAW). The second component of the program consists of participants planning and implementing small advocacy projects with other YWL from their own country.
The three-day Gulf leadership conference, which focuses on best leadership practices, concludes the program. The conference will launch a Women’s Leadership Network (WLN) that includes YWL graduates who in turn will become mentors for future YWL program participants.
The First Regional Conference on Advancing Young Women Leaders in the Gulf States that took place on November 28-30, 2010 at Crown Plaza Hotel in Hamra Street, gathered young women leaders from the Arab Republic of Egypt, the Kingdom of Bahrain, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, the Republic of Iraq, the Republic of Yemen, the Sultanate of Oman, the Tunisian Republic, and the United Arab Emirates. The young women leaders have a vast experience in social work and women’s empowerment.
On day one, the conference was inaugurated with a welcoming word from Dr.Imad Salemey, YWL director and LAU professor. Immediately afterwards, participants began presenting their projects according to topics’ categorization. Presentations covered, over the three days of the conference, topics like: Early Education for Girls in Yemen, Young Women’s Activism in the Gulf States, Women in Small Businesses and Business Positions in KSA, Women’s Economic Empowerment in the Gulf States, Women’s Empowerment Under Difficult Circumstances, Advocating for GOSI (General Organization for Social Insurance) in Bahrain, Empowering Young Women in the Gulf States, and ultimately, Launching the Young Women Leaders Network.
As part of the conference, I delivered a presentation on “The Women’s Nationality Campaign in Lebanon” and “Women’s Quota in the Lebanese Parliament”, in addition to an overview on “How to Empower Girls in Public Schools”. The action plan for public schools is mainly concerned with training girls in several training topics such as: Advocacy, Communication Skills, Peace Building/Conflict Resolution, Leadership Skills, Project Management, Public Speaking, Team Building, Volunteerism, and Women’s Empowerment.
The ultimate goal of this project is to promote the culture of Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment (United Nations Third Millennium Development Goal), help young girls create their individuality, bring to light and enhance their leadership skills, and to get girls involved with social work in parallel with their education as a way of exposing them to society and enabling them to build networks with it before they attend university.
The topics are to be taught by skilled practitioners over the duration of a year when, in parallel, girls’ groups coming from different schools all over Lebanon are assigned to projects with NGOs. I proposed the idea of setting up “Social Work” fairs at interested universities where girls can display their work.
The three-day conference wrapped up with a closing ceremony at LAU Beirut where Ambassadors and other important figures were present. A short film about the leadership sessions that were conducted in different Arab countries was shown, in addition to words given by Dr.Imad Salemey - Project Director, Dr.Samira Aghacy - Dean of Arts and Sciences, Dr.Nabelah Haraty - Project Coordinator, and Young Women Leaders participants. Certificates were then distributed, and the ceremony ended with an organized reception.
The conference was a blast for me. I had the chance to meet inspiring young women leaders coming from different Arab countries, share thoughts with them, learn a lot from their vast experiences, struggles, endless determination, and the huge successes that those ladies accomplished. It is a real pleasure and a pride for me that I was able to be part of this young-spirited network that has the will to change to world…Only one more thing left to say: Long live women’s empowerment!