EXCLUSIVE: OP-ED by Her Highness Sheikha Jawaher Al Qasimi

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HOPE’S ON THEM: Sheikha Jawaher (above, center) is an advocate of building the resilience of women and girls in the Arab region.

Development is unachievable without educating and empowering our women

By Her Highness Sheikha Jawaher Al Qasimi

NEWSWEEKME EXCLUSIVE: “You educate a man; you educate an individual. You educate a woman; you educate a generation.”

This is a popular quote in development circles, and with October 11 marking the fourth year of the United Nations’ ‘International Day of the Girl Child,’ it is an opportune moment for us to pause and consider what that really means.

Empowerment of and investment in girls are key in breaking the cycle of discrimination and violence, and in promoting and protecting the full enjoyment of their human rights.

I believe the first and most crucial step towards initiating this process of empowerment starts with sending our girls to school.
The World’s Women 2015 study says 496 million women are illiterate, and account for two-thirds of the world’s illiterate adults.

These agonizing statistics, which strongly resisted change for the past 20 years, not only pose significant hurdles to achieving the global goal of gender equality, but are also detrimental to poverty alleviation with the cost to individual economies soaring as high billions of dollars a year.

The world cannot afford this any longer. Global progress and prosperity in the true sense of the term cannot be achieved till the distribution of opportunities and resources are this skewed.

Investing in women’s and girls’ education is a significantly attractive proposition.

Why? Because an educated woman will be empowered with the knowledge, skills and self-confidence required to fully participate in the development process.

She will be able to better educate her own children, and her household will have a better chance to prosper as a result of a higher overall income.

It doesn’t stop there. Women’s education realizes their basic human rights, is a prerequisite for gender equality, grants them greater decision making powers within and outside their household, ensures universal sexual and reproductive health, and most importantly, is a powerful vaccine for violence—each factor collaborating to effectively drive sustainable development.

This is why we must firmly commit to giving girls an education—girls who are not presently receiving one—and ensure to girls who are receiving one the support and opportunities required to complete their secondary education.

In furthering our commitment to promoting values of equality, citizenship and respect for the rule of law, we will be hosting the second edition of the ‘Investing in the Future’ (IIFMENA) conference in Sharjah on October 19 and 20. Titled ‘Building the Resilience of Women and Girls in the Arab Region,’ the event will focus on various strategies to empower women and develop them as agents of change—involved in society’s decision making processes at every level and making valuable contributions to sustainable development.

No district, village, town or country in the world can truly progress and prosper until its women are provided with education, training and a nurturing environment to realize their full potential as society’s decision makers. Let us ensure that the Post-2015 Development Agenda towards the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals is truly universal and inclusive, and that the ultimate goal is a world where all—men, women, young people and children—are treated as equally worthy.

ONGOING INITIATIVES
Under the patronage of HH Sheikha Jawaher, Chairperson of Women Advancement Establishment NAMA, and The Big Heart Foundation and the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (U.N. Women)—in strategic partnership with NAMA – Sharjah will be hosting the second edition of ‘Investing in the Future’ IFFMENA, on 19 and 20 October 2016. The conference aims to invalidate false assumptions and cultural stereotypes obstructing women’s development in the MENA region. NAMA—an organization launched in December 2015 to support women and to encourage policies and legislation that ensure women’s progress in political, economic, professional and social sectors—has recently announced its co-convened initiative called ‘Equal Opportunities for Women Entrepreneurs,’ held under the U.N. Women—Women’s Inclusion Program.

The Equal Opportunities for Women Entrepreneurs initiative forms a key plank of the U.N. Women’s Flagship Programming Initiatives, a global policy program designed to help decision-makers secure the interests of women entrepreneurs worldwide by emphasizing the need for transformative action and revitalized global partnerships.

Sheikha Jawaher bint Mohammed Al Qasimi is the Chairperson of the Women Advancement Establishment (NAMA), and the wife of His Highness Dr. Sheikh Sultan bin Mohammad Al Qasimi, Member of the Supreme Council and Ruler of Sharjah.

 

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