Inspired by UAE woman leaders

Preeti Kannan (Our staff reporter)
Filed on March 11, 2008

DUBAI - Students from various universities across the world were left inspired and intrigued by international and Emirati women leaders at the ‘Women as Global Leaders’ conference that opened yesterday.

The three-day conference, organised by Zayed University, saw students from different backgrounds and nationalities convene together to listen and interact with these women leaders.

Moroccan students Hind Torres and Samya Saber from Al Akhawayn University have travelled all the way to Dubai for this conference.

“We feel empowered listening to these leaders. We have only read in theory about leadership in our classes. Now, we can see for ourselves what women are capable of and that has given us insight into what we should do,” said Saber.

Torres, who has brought 11 illiterate women together and taught them to make and sell traditional bread in Morocco, to help make them independent, said, “This conference reiterates our beliefs that illiterate women can lead and be independent. They can also be empowered if shown the right way and it shows that education is not the only key to success.”

The students are representing Morocco and will make a presentation on their pet project today.

Britney Hesbrook, a student at the Duke University in North Carolina, US, has spent her time interacting with local students at the conference.

“While this is not my first exposure to Arab and Muslim women and their cultures, I believe it is important to take this experience back to the West, which relies on stereotypes of Arab women.

“They think that Arab women have no voice or right to public opinion. In the UAE, women hold key positions in the ministry, education, in companies and so on,” she said.

Hesbrook added, “Except for the cultural differences, both American and Arab women share the similar dream of a successful future. I want the West to understand that and will do my best to dispel misconceptions.”

“The point of this conference is to help Emirati students like us to become confident and motivated. These women inspire and encourage us to achieve our goals and serve our country in the future,” said Latifa Al Dowais, a marketing student at Zayed University, who added that actress and activist Jane Fonda had profoundly impacted her.

Maytha A, a student of political science in Zayed University, observed that she was learning important lessons from these women and this conference would play an integral role in shaping her future, when she would work for the nation.

However Amal Eldarat, a student of London School of Economics, said that she would have liked to see more Afghan, Libyan and Saudi women, who are the ‘real heroes’.

“Afghan and Libyan women have really gone through a lot and have in the true sense overcome many problems. We should see more such women in conferences like these. Honestly, one cannot really relate to the likes of Jane Fonda or Sarah Ferguson,” she said.

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