Women in the Arab World

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Barnard College and President Debora Spar hosted the second annual Barnard College Global Symposium in the United Arab Emirates, to showcase the incredible work being done by preeminent women throughout the Arab world. On Monday, March 15, 2010, Barnard presented a dialogue on women’s leadership, women’s agency and women’s voices: Women in the Arab World.

The event opened with a keynote address by Sheikha Lubna Al Qasimi, the UAE’s Minister of Foreign Trade and the first woman in her country to hold a cabinet post. 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.

Following the keynote address, an impressive group of accomplished and successful women from the region participated in two panel discussions. 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. 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.