Arab International Women’s Forum Hosted at Birzeit University

Birzeit University hosted the annual Arab International Women’s Forum conference on May 22, 2013, welcoming various speakers and guests of honor in the first such event to be held in Palestine.
The event kicked off the regional initiative in 2013, entitled “Young Arab Women Leaders - The Voice of the Future,” following a full slate of regional events conducted in 2012 in Amman, Beirut and Dubai in partnership with PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP.
The event was held at Birzeit University in recognition of its establishment of the first gender studies center in the Arab world over 20 years ago.
Founder and chairperson of the Forum Haifa Al Kaylani welcomed guests of honor and keynote speakers, among them the Palestinian Minister of Women’s Affairs Rabiha Diab, the World Bank’s chief economist for the Middle East and North Africa region Shantayanan Devarajan , and Palestinian Minister of Telecom and IT Safa Nasser Eldin. She also thanked conference partners Birzeit University, the World Bank, Arab British Chamber of Commerce and Industry and Aramex International for their support.
”The Arab International Women's Forum has consistently called for the region to fully utilize its most precious resource, its people,” Al Kaylani said in her opening address. “For this reason we are dedicating our resources and investing in the success of The Young Arab Women Leaders: The Voice of the Future initiative. Our priority is to promote empowerment for women and youth in Palestine and the region to act as future agents for lasting, sustainable development and prosperity in the whole Arab world.”
Birzeit University President Khalil Hindi also spoke, saying “In our Arab societies, we need to show by widespread deed, not just by token example, that women are capable of engaging in all types of economic activity and of reaching top leadership positions. We at Birzeit believe and educate that a woman ought to be able to be whatever she desires to be: a head of state, an engineer, a scientist, a business woman, an entrepreneur, or whatever. And not only should women have a place at every table, they by right ought to be at the head of the table as frequently as men.”
Other eminent speakers, most of them Palestinians, brought the conference objectives to life through their own personal experience and success stories and by creating an informative, invaluable and interactive experience. They included:
• Lana Abu Hijleh, Country Director, Cooperative Housing Foundation International.
• Juliana Hodali, Head, Businesswoman Centre, Bethlehem Chamber of Commerce & Industry
• Grace Khoury, Director, MBA Program, Birzeit University
• Jean Pierre Lehmann, Emeritus Professor, IMD, Founder, Evian Group (Switzerland)
• Ruba Masrouji, CEO, United Securities Company
• Amal Daraghmeh Masri, General Manager, Ougarit Marketing Communications Media Co.
• Amal Masri Moghrabi, Chairwoman, Business Women’s Forum
• Abeer Raji Musleh, Senior Program Manager, Welfare Association for Youth
• Najah Osaily, Manager, Osaily Trading Contracting
• Asma Hassan Sbeih, President, Association of Engineers
• Darin Zeidan, Program Manager, Palestinian Education for Employment Foundation
• Manal Zraiq, Manager, Massar International Company
US-based senior advisor to the Office of the World Bank’s Chief Economist Nadereh Chamlou and journalist and author Naela Husni Ali Khalil moderated interactive conference sessions that explored the opportunities and challenges for young women leaders and how they can break the glass ceiling, the mentoring and coaching needed, the power of social media and learning from success stories, and how change starts for a way forward.