SHARJAH, 15th October, 2016 (WAM) — XXX future. Speaking about the conference, Sheikha Jawaher said, that the first edition of the conference will focus on the protection of children and young refugees in the Middle East, and as a global humanitarian charity that is a top priority at the Big Heart Foundation. “We are closely following the recommendations of the previous edition of the conference, and seek to achieve a vast global partnership to rally support for the protection of this generation. The ultimate goal is to relieve their cruel refugee status and support all efforts to end conflicts and pave the way for refugees to return to their homes as a non-negotiable and natural right,” she pointed out.
She also stressed that in order to achieve this strategic goal, we seek through big heart foundation, under the guidance of H.H. Dr. Sheikh Sultan bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah, to lend a helping hand through a range of projects and initiatives that can at least partially relieve some of the suffering endured by refugee children.
She confirmed that Sharjah has a vast experience in regional and international humanitarian work and considers the first edition of investing in the future conference as culmination of years of this involvement. It is also an interpretation of the culture established by the guiding principles of the Ruler of Sharjah. These principles, which include all aspects of social, economic and cultural life enrich the emirate’s cultural heritage, whether through Sheikh Sultan’s interest in reading, theatre, fine arts, or through his directives that an individual should be the focus of development and its main engine.
She affirmed the first edition of the conference succeeded in discussing how to work collectively in order to protect children and young refugees, and to promote joint action and exert collective efforts to improve their lives. The major outputs of this conference were the ‘Sharjah Principles’, which were adopted by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), to be implemented by all countries in the world. “We hope that we will see the positive effects of these principles in the next few years,” she noted.
Sheikha Jawaher added that another issue we must address at the conference is the stereotyped image of Arab and Muslim women. “I do not agree with the concepts of stereotypical notions of women in any society, every community has negatives as well as positives.”
Women in all societies experience particular problems that arise from the nature of their communities: the gender pay gap, women earn less than men, social inequality as a result of income inequality, a lack of laws and regulations that ensure women’s occupational rights, social marginalisation and high healthcare and education costs. All communities, whether developed or developing, including Arab communities, are suffering from these problems, she said.
Arab women suffer from discrimination, which was established by some social customs associated with ignorance. This discrimination did not derive from the cultural heritage of Arab societies that puts mothers, sisters and wives in a high position of respect and appreciation. Women in western societies are suffering another kind of discrimination because of monopolies of markets and laws by largest economies. They are also victims of high crime rates and suffer from family breakdown, which makes them vulnerable to occupational exploitation.
Secondly, there is no single model that can be used to interpret the theme of women’s empowerment, neither western nor eastern. Each community has its unique cultural and social advantages and disadvantages, and its own ideas and insight about of the messages of equality, empowerment and social justice, she added.
Sheikha Jawaher said that Arab societies are characterised by a coherent and extended family and we want the empowerment of women to enhance this but not affect them negatively. We see in many communities that the success of a woman’s independence is measured by her standing in society. Therefore, it is vital to empower Arab women that are from social groups which tend to be less involved and less influential in their development.
She explained that the empowerment of women is inextricably linked to achieving social justice for the poor and low-income families. How can we talk about women’s right to education, for example, if this right is limited to the social elite, which can afford the cost of education? On the other hand, how can we demand equality in employment in countries which suffer from high unemployment rates? Men and women who belong to marginalised and poor social groups share the same suffering.
“While the expanse of conflicts, scale of ill-treatment and economic turmoil continues, we have at least seen a far greater and far more mature awareness about the importance of laying the right foundations for a secure and stable future. One way we can observe this maturity is demonstrated by the widespread international and regional participation and the influence of the attendees at the conference. Investing in the future is the slogan that brings all nations together. Beyond question, we all want a future characterised by development, sustainability and justice, and a society free from discrimination and marginalisation for any social class or gender,” she said This broad participation is also an indicator of the UAE’s economic and social achievements. It is evidence of the international confidence in the UAE model of development and its respect of Emirati citizens as the lynchpin of development. This also demonstrates how the UAE gives priority to human resources and enables the people to play a leading role in building a promising future, she elaborated.
Education, employment, empowerment and peacebuilding as the main themes of the conference, are inseparable issues. Equality in education, employment and empowerment are the foundations to building civil and social peace. Moreover, they are the factors that promote national culture and identity, endorsing the right for everyone to practice their culture and beliefs on the basis of mutual respect, regardless of social differences, gender, nationality, ethnicity or religious faith.
“For education we are also talking about social education – ignorance has no place in society and causes people to lose both their perspective and their principles. Unemployment causes despair, fuels hostility and affects the unity and harmony of communities. Empowerment is pivotal to all societies and peace is the fruit of science and social stability, and that is why these concepts have been chosen for the conference, all revolving around this year’s motto: “Building the Resilience of Women and Girls in the Arab Region”, she added.
Sheikha Jawaher reiterated that the conference will highlight the importance of completing the process of equality development in the Arab world and will hopefully lead to expanding the scope of work for women to have access to equal job opportunities. The conference will discuss the legal employment framework for women and their right to pregnancy and maternity leave and equal pay.
For this, she added, “We have allocated programmes at Big Heart Foundation for refugee women. The foundation has implemented its intentions by launching a range of special projects to assist and guide refugee women and provide some essentials of life including psycho-social support. These projects have reached refugee camps in a number of Arab countries.
She affirmed that to drive similar aid and cooperation with UN Women gives the conference a special international dimension and motivates stakeholders to adopt the recommendations and programmes of the conference. This collaboration is also a reference to the nature of global issues that we are targeting.
Aside from the partnerships launched by the organising committee of the conference with the Arab League, and Women Advancement Establishment (NAMA), we will cooperate with all of our partners to follow up the recommendations and overcome any obstacles that hinder their implementation. “This means that when we talk about empowerment and capacity building, countries need to shoulder their responsibilities in drawing up future policies, whose results will help create a legislative environment, economic structure and educational and cultural system in line with growth and development. The resulting achievements from these policies are gradual and accumulative as they need time to take full effect. Empowerment cannot be achieved overnight,” she affirmed.
She indicated that countries must allocate part of their budgets to gradually turn these policy theories into practice. These budgets must include the development of school curriculums and the establishment of vocational and technical training centres for women. These should mainly involve women in rural and remote areas, which always suffer more than those concentrated in major cities and conurbations. There are several models which have proven their efficiency in the involvement of women in the job market. Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) and cooperatives in particular have been successful in terms of employment in developing markets. But we are a long way before that becomes the rule rather than the exception.
She said that conflicts in most Arab countries represent a state of cultural hopelessness that undermines the social achievements attained by women through their struggle alongside supporters and advocates for women’s rights.
”I am talking here about the extremist culture embraced by several parties and movements in their outlook towards women. There is unimaginable damage that can be caused to women’s positions and social roles if these movements took over the reins of power. Women in the Arab world must, without hesitation, make their voices heard against such a potential cultural disaster,” she mentioned.