UAE: Women have to be agents of change, hears panel on gender violence

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Dubai - Women join live conversation to mark International Day of the Girl.

by Anjana Sankar

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Published: Mon 11 Oct 2021, 7:03 PM

While education and legal reforms will give a big push to gender equality, the bigger battle is to overcome cultural barriers that normalise violence against women and young girls, a panel at the Women’s pavilion heard on Monday.

Girls and women from different parts of the world joined in the live conversation ‘The ‘We Can! Girls’ Voices for Girls’ Empowerment’ that was hosted by international charity Save the Children to mark the International Day of the Girl on October 11.

One of the panelists, Sara Al Madani, Emirati influencer and entrepreneur, said no system, no leadership or strategy can better the cause of women unless the right messages are conveyed at homes. “If there is a broken message at home – that girls are princess and a rich prince will marry them, Al Madani said, “you are slowly breaking their self-esteem, their resolve and purpose to live.”

“So, there are these amazing organisations that are trying to change the world. But each one of us sitting here can make the difference.”

She said women only need inspiration and not empowerment to realise their potential.

The panel moderated by Heba Al Emara also heard from Mona Al Shazly, popular television host from Egypt, call for the need to introduce lessons of gender parity in school curriculums.

“We need to talk about Middle East countries. Education is the key to changing the culture. It is not easy. But when we introduce these concepts when boys and girls are young and starting to understand the world, they need to hear messages and stories that will amplify the crime of beating your sister or wife,” said Al Shazly.

Sharing real-life situations and how they are making a difference in their communities, teenagers from Lebanon and Egypt spoke about how they use art to raise their voice against gender violence and promote empowerment.

Gwen Hines, CEO of Save the Children UK said, in her remarks that people have to understand that short term decisions have long term consequences for girls and their lives. “The more years of education she has, there are better prospects for her not just economically but also for her to be able to speak for herself and also take care of the welfare of her family,” said Hines over the zoom chat.

The audience were also treated to a virtual puppet show that drummed home the message that child marriage can have disastrous consequences on their future.

The sessions wrapped up with panel members taking a pledge to improve the lot of girls by promoting education and awareness.

Anjana Sankar

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