Her Excellency Sheikha Lubna Al Qasimi, the United Arab Emirates Minister for Foreign Trade, delivered the keynote address at Women in the Arab World, an event organized by Barnard College, the premier liberal arts college for women in the United States. The event brought together an impressive group of accomplished and successful women from the region on Monday as part of Barnard’s global symposia series on women and leadership.
The event opened with lunch, introductory remarks and H.E.’s keynote speech. Sheikha Lubna addressed a diverse audience of business professionals, academics, students and those in the arts and sciences, and spoke about how the significant achievements of Arab women today are influencing future generations to aspire to and reach greater heights.
“The advancement of women has been an ongoing and important issue facing the world and the region. That is why it is appropriate and important that Barnard College has brought its global symposium to the UAE and I am delighted to take part,” Sheikha Lubna expressed.
Approximately 300 people were in attendance to hear Sheikha Lubna, Barnard President Debora L. Spar, and nearly a dozen other women from both the Arab world and the United States, who shared their respective visions and views on women’s leadership, women’s agency and women’s voices.
“I can imagine no better way to inspire young women to think expansively than to give them the opportunity to hear from successful women everywhere. This global symposium is one such moment,” said Barnard President Debora L. Spar.
“We are bringing together some of the most extraordinary and accomplished women in the Arab world – women who are at the forefront of finance, healthcare, literature, film, non-profits. Their willingness to share their stories creates a dialogue that will benefit young women worldwide, and that promises an ongoing exchange of ideas,” Spar continued.
Barnard College’s long history of excellence in both literature and leadership was the inspiration for the other topics of the day. Voices of the Region, the first panel, tackled issues facing women in the region through the lens of the arts: film, literature, and criticism. The discussion, moderated by President Spar and featuring scholar and critic Samia Mehrez, novelist Ahdaf Soueif, and filmmaker Moufida Tlatli, touched on the use of art and literature as a channel of expression and leadership.
The second panel, Conversations on Leadership, examined the changing face of women's leadership across the region, and the great strides that Arab women have long made in this part of the world. At Barnard, the focus on leadership and on encouraging young women to lead, to collaborate, and to excel, was the foundation for the College’s innovative and interdisciplinary Athena Center for Leadership Studies, launched in fall 2009. Kathryn Kolbert, Director of the Athena Center, moderated a panel of extraordinary women for this vibrant conversation – Federal National Council Member Najla Al-Awadhi; corporate financier Loulwa Bakr; renowned surgeon Dr. Houriya Kazim; and fashion designer Rabia Zargarpur.
Barnard College’s first global symposium took place in Beijing, China in March 2009 (www.barnard.edu/womenchangingchina). It brought together four renowned Chinese women leaders—a media mogul, an acclaimed author, an award-winning filmmaker, and an advocate for women’s rights—to share their inspirational stories with young women of the region. The success of that event inspired Barnard to continue examining the role of women and women leaders in other regions of the world. This year’s gathering in Dubai has further expanded the aim of the symposia, celebrating women’s voices and leadership around the world.
The series continues next spring 2011 in South Africa, the site of the third annual Barnard College Global Symposium.
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