Sharjah – MENA Herald: In the presence and under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Dr. Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah, and his wife, Her Highness Sheikha Jawaher bint Mohammed al Qasimi, Chairperson of the ‘Big heart’ Foundation, Chairperson of NAMA Women Advancement Establishment, the second edition of the ‘Investing in the Future’ international conference is to be launched tomorrow (Wednesday) at Al Jawaher Reception and Convention Centre in Sharjah.

Held under the theme ‘Building the Resilience of Women and Girls in the Arab Region’, the conference is organised by The Big Heart Foundation (TBHF), a Sharjah-based international humanitarian body, and the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women).

His Highness the Ruler of Sharjah will open the conference with a key opening address, while Her Highness Sheikha Jawaher bint Mohammed Al Qasimi will witness an all-women closed session. The session, ‘Future of Women in the Emirate’ is organised by NAMA Women Advancement Establishment in collaboration with the General Women’s Union and will discuss the journey of Emirati women and their achievements over the past four decades.

A dedicated combination of activists and gender equality advocates, representatives from government and non-government organisations, decision-makers, academics, experts and journalists from the Arab region will all be participating.

Opening Remarks:

H.H. Sheikh Dr. Sultan Bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, Member of Supreme Council, Ruler of Sharjah

Key note Address:

H.H. Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation

Opening Key Speakers

His Highness Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan delivers an opening keynote address at the opening ceremony of the second edition of the Investing in the Future Conference. The participation of His Highness reflects the importance of supporting and empowering women and the commitment to provide women with the tools they need to participate actively in public life, in particular the diplomatic corps. Their positions in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation and at UAE embassies and consulates abroad is in perfect alignment with the leadership’s vision to support Emirati women in all areas.

HE. Rula Ghani, First Lady of Afghanistan

Opening Key Speaker

Mrs. Rula Ghani, the First Lady of Afghanistan delivers a keynote address at the opening ceremony of the conference.

Mrs. Ghani, wife of the President of Afghanistan, Mr. Ashraf Ghani, has brought a real change for the women of Afghanistan. She was assigned an office at the presidential palace, where she plays an unusual role, challenging the Afghani traditions that forced former First Ladies to keep a low profile.

H.E. Sheikha Lubna Al Qasimi, Minister of State for Tolerance

Key note Speaker (Day 2)

H.E. Sheikha Lubna Al Qasimi, Minister of State for Tolerance, delivers a keynote address at the closing ceremony of the conference.

Her participation at the conference stems from the crucial role she plays in the public sector in the UAE, becoming the first Emirati woman in UAE history to assume a cabinet position, when she was appointed as Minister of Foreign Trade in 2004. Following a further two ministerial appointments, she was invited to become Minister of State for Tolerance in the UAE, a role created earlier this year. She was featured in Forbes Magazine as 42nd on their list of the ‘World’s 100 Most Powerful Women for 2015’ and was also included in the Wall Street Journal’s ‘The 50 Most Important International Women to Watch.’ In addition, Sheikha Lubna was the first Emirati to receive The Clinton Global Citizen Award from the Clinton Global Initiative.

Kailash Satyarthi, Nobel Peace Laureate, Indian Child Right Activist

Opening Key Speaker

Kailash Satyarthi is a Nobel Peace Laureate and renowned children’s rights activist who has been at the forefront of the global movement to end child slavery and exploitative child labour for three decades. The grassroots movement founded by him in 1980, Bachpan Bachao Andolan (Save Childhood Movement), has liberated more than 85,000 children from exploitation and developed a successful model for their education and rehabilitation.

Malala Yousafzai, Youngest-Ever Nobel Prize Laureate

Opening Key Speaker

Malala Yousafzai is a Pakistani activist for female education and at 17, the youngest-ever Nobel Prize laureate. She is known mainly for human rights advocacy for women’s education in her native Swat Valley in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province of northwest Pakistan, where the local Taliban banned girls from attending schools.

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Executive Director of UN Women

Introductory Remarks:

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Executive Director of UN Women, delivers an opening address before the sessions.

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Executive Director of UN Women, is known for devoting her career to human rights, equality and social justice issues. She has worked in government, civil society and with the private sector, and in her role as Deputy President of South Africa from 2005 to 2008, she was actively involved in the struggle to end apartheid. She has been instrumental in overseeing programmes to combat poverty and bring the advantages of a growing economy to the poor, with a particular focus on women.

Priti Patel, Secretary of State for International Development in the UK

Key Address

Priti Patel is Secretary of State for International Development in the UK. She was born in London from a Ugandan-Indian migrant family and was initially involved with the Referendum Party before switching allegiance to the Conservatives. She was elected Conservative MP for the seat of Witham at the 2010 general election. She will participate in a plenary debate on the second day of the conference under the title ‘Women as Peace Builders’.

H.E. Ameera BinKaram, Deputy Chairperson of NAMA Women Advancement Establishment, Chairperson of Sharjah Business Women Council

Key Speaker

H.E. Ameera BinKaram delivers a keynote address on the second day of the conference.

She is leading the way for the economic, social and professional empowerment of Arab women and among her many distinguished roles, she is also a member of Olave Baden-Powell Society that supports the mission of World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts and heads the Women’s Chapter for the CEOs Club, the world’s oldest and largest international non-profit business association for CEOs.

Other than being an environment and animal activist, she has many accolades to her name – BinKaram is the recipient of the Humanitarian of the Year award and the International Alliance for Women, World of Difference award. She recently became the first Arab woman to graduate from Bucerius Summer School Program, and is a graduate of the International Visitor Leadership Program.

Dr. Veronica Magar, World health Organization Team Leader for Gender, Equity and Human Rights

Key Address

Dr. Veronica Magar delivers a keynote address on the second day of the conference.

Veronica Magar (DrPh) currently leads the Gender, Equity and Human Rights Team at the World Health Organization (WHO), with the mandate to mainstream WHO’s priority cross-cutting themes across all policies and programs.

Since 2006, she has worked with UN agencies, NGOs, and governments in more than 30 countries across Asia, Africa, and the Middle East to address gender inequality and human rights. Prior to that, Dr Magar worked at international NGOs including CARE where she led work on gender mainstreaming, violence against women, research and evaluation in the area of women’s health. She has been published in the areas of gender, HIV/AIDS, social change and women’s health.

Enas Makkawi, Manager of the Directorate of Women, Family and Childhood at the Arab League

Address at the closing session

Enas Makkawi will deliver the address on behalf of the Secretary-General of the Arab League.

Enas Makkawi is known for her dedication and commitment to standing for women’s right in the Arab World in general and particularly in Egypt. She initiated many actions and launched many initiatives, most notably the ‘Baheya Ya Masr’ movement in 2012, which is aimed at restoring key roles of Egyptian women.

Opening Remarks:
H.H. Sheikh Dr. Sultan Bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, Member of Supreme Council, Ruler of Sharjah
H.H. Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, UAE Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation
H.E. First Lady of Afghanistan Rula (Bibi Gul) Ghani
Kailash Satyarthi, Nobel Peace Laureate
Malala Yousafzai, Youngest-Ever Nobel Prize Laureate

General Panels and Roundtables:

The conference features two main panels and four discussion roundtables on each day.

Day One:

The first panel on the first day is held under the title ‘The Resilience of Women and Girls – Education and Employment’

Opening Remarks: The Rt. Hon. Priti Patel MP, Secretary of State for International Development
Moderator: Mohammad Naciri, UN Women Regional Director
Panel:
Elissa Freiha, Womena Co-founder Middle East
Helmut Kutin, SOS Children’s Villages International Honorary President
Naser Haghamed, Islamic Relief Worldwide CEO
Khalid Waleed Al Khudair, Glowork CEO
Ngoné Diop, UN Economic Commission for Africa Senior Gender Advisor

The second panel is titled ‘Food for Thought: Investing in Women – Gender Responsive Policies and Budging’

Opening Remarks: H.E. Hina Rabbani Khar, Former Pakistan Foreign Affairs Minister
Moderator: Meg Jones, Chief of Economic Empowerment division, UN Women
Panel:
Alizeh Iqbal Haider, Former Member of Pakistan Parliament
Khawla Al Mulla, UAE Deputy Undersecretary of the Ministry for Education Policies
Rose Zergani, Alghanim Industries Manager of Talent Requisition

Roundtables of day one:
The first day of the conference features four roundtable discussions. The first is titled ‘Addressing Violent Extremism’, with the participation of:

Moderator: Leigh Tomppert, UN Women Programme Specialist, Women, Peace and Security
Panel:
Shamil Idriss, Search for Common Ground President & CEO
Alison Davidian, UN Women Policy Specialist
Ziauddin Yousafzai, United Nations Special Advisor on Global Education
Sarah Zeiger, Hedayah Senior Research Analyst

The second roundtable discussion is held under the title ‘Trafficking and Slave Labour (Including in Conflict)’, featuring:

Opening Remarks: Kailash Satyarthi, Nobel Peace Laureate
Moderator: Manal Benkirane, UN Women Regional Programme Specialist
Panel:
Dr Yamina Chakkar, UN Aids Regional Director
Enshrah Ahmed, UNFPA Regional Advisor on Gender, Culture and Human Rights
Khaled Khalifa, UNHCR Regional Representative to the Gulf Cooperation Council Countries

The third roundtable discussion is held under the theme ‘Innovate – Creating Space for Entrepreneurship’, with the following participants:
Moderator: May Babiker, UN Women Women´s Economic Empowerment Advisor
Panel:
Sadaffe Abid, CIRCLE Co-Founder
H.E. Najla Al Midfa, Sheraa General Manager, UAE Business Woman
Shatha Al Hashimi, MBR Center for Government Innovation Director
Vivian Thabet, Care International (Egypt) Program Director for Women Rights Program

The fourth and final roundtable discussion of Day One is themed ‘Women’s Human Rights in Islam’, and features:
Moderator: Hind Alowais, Senior Advisor, UN Women
Panel:
Dr. Marwa Sharafeldin, Musawah Board Member
Dr. Gamal Serour, Al Azhar University Director of International Islamic Center for Population Studies & Research
Dr. Mehrinaz Elawady, ESCWA Centre for Women Director
Dr. Fadila Grine, OIC Director of Family Affairs at the Department of Cultural, Social and Family Issues

Day Two:

Plenary Opening session
H.E. Ameera BinKaram, Deputy Chairperson of NAMA Women Advancement Establishment, Chairperson of Sharjah Business Women Council
Dr. Veronica Magar, World health Organization Team Leader for Gender, Equity and Human Rights

The first panel of the second day is themed ‘Women as Peace Builders’, with the participation of:
Moderator: Alison Davidian, UN Women Policy Specialist
Panel:
Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy, Journalist, Filmmaker and Activist
Hibaaq Osman, Karama Founder
Sanam Naraghi-Anderlini, ICAN Co-Founder and Executive Director
Asma Kftarou, Syrian Women´s Advisory Board Member

The second panel is titled ‘Strategic Partnership for Economic Development’ with:
Moderator: Mohammed Naciri, UN Women Regional Director
Panel:
Noura Selim, Sawiris, Foundation for Social Development Executive Director
Roshaneh Zafar, Kashf Foundation Founder and Managing Director
Fadi Ghandour, Wamda Capital Chairperson & CEO
Beatrice Cernuta, Tarbia Director of Strategy and Operations
Kaiser Naseem, IFC Regional head of Bank Advisory Services

The first roundtable discussion takes place under the title ‘Role of Youth in Resilience’ and sees the participation of:

Moderator: Emad Karim, UN Women
Panel:
Gulalai Ismail, Aware Girls Chairperson
Mariam Farag, MBC head of CSR
Kawtar Zerouali, UNDP Regional Program Manager
Tom Krift, Save The Children Regional Director for Middle East and Eastern Europe
Shainoor Khoja, Mercy Corps Regional Advisor

The second roundtable is ‘The Girl Child and Education’, with the participation of:

Moderator: Alia Al Dalli, SOS Children’s Villages Regional Director
Panel:
Nicolla Hewitt, Girl Rising MENA advisor
Brigitte Khair-Mountain, Middle East Centre of the Humanitarian Leadership Academy Director
Dr. Jawairriya Abdallah-Shahid, Abu Dhabi Education Council Principal
Burcu Gunduz Masalaci, Mother Child Education Foundation (AÇEV) Director of the Institutional Development
Dr. Muhadditha Al Hashimi, Higher Colleges of Technology, Director of Sharjah Women’s College

The third roundtable discussion takes place under the title ‘Engaging Men and Boys as Agents of Change’, and features:

Moderator: Dr. Shereen El Feki, Journalist & Author
Panel:
Anthony Keedi, ‘Abaad’ Psychologist
Lena Karlsson, UN Women Program Manager
Abanoub Awni, Software User Experience and User Interface Engineer

The fourth and final roundtable discussion is held under the title ‘Launch of the Essential Services Package for Women and Girls Subject to Violence. UN Women and UNFPA’,

with the participation of:

Mohammed Naciri, UN Women Regional Director
Luay Shabaneh, UNFPA Regional Director.

Closing Session:
H.E. Sheikha Lubna Bint Khalid Bin Sultan Al Qasimi, Minister of State for Tolerance
Ahmed Aboul-Gheit – 8th Secretary General at the Arab League (represented by Dr. Inas Makkawi)
Dr. Phumzile Mlambo-Ngucka, UN Women Executive Director

Investing in the Future seeks to highlight the importance of women’s inclusion in the economic development process. It focuses on providing them with support and meeting their needs in education, training, employment and access to resources – especially for female-headed families in light of the social and economic restrictions imposed on women in many countries across the world.

The conference also aims to recognise women as agents of change in peace and recovery processes. There is a need for a gender responsive development approach in addition to the need to adopt a coordinated effort in peacebuilding planning. Partnerships must be forged across all sectors, with gender equality as an integral part of all strategies, policies and programmes aimed at empowering, protecting and supporting women and girls, including refugees and IDPs.