Queen commends Jordanian and Arab women for correcting misperceptions

May 17, 2007

(Office of Her Majesty, Press Department – Amman) Her Majesty Queen Rania Al Abdullah commended Jordanian and Arab women for correcting misperceptions and showcasing the multifaceted realities of Arab women at the International Women's Forum (IWF) cornerstone conference.

"You are some of the Arab world's finest ambassadors," she said to the largest ever IWF gathering, "As you go about your daily meetings, your international phone-calls, and your global travel, you are dispelling myths, correcting misperceptions, and showcasing the multifaceted realities of Arab women."

"Together, you are establishing new standards for what it means to be empowered Arab women," she said.

Queen Rania highlighted much of the recent progress that women have achieved in the Arab world. Citing a recent survey on Arab women in the workforce, Her Majesty noted that women "are increasingly optimistic about their role in the workplace, and increasingly willing to take responsibility for their own professional advancement."

"The labour-force landscape is changing. Women in the Middle East are moving into the workplace in larger numbers than ever before, and into more senior positions," she said, "Of course, many of the old obstacles still exist, and I do not want to pretend otherwise. We have a long way to go in changing cultural mindsets; in convincing society that we can be wives, mothers and career-women; in promoting gender-friendly legislation; in getting more women into parliament and decision-making roles; and in keeping girls in the workforce after university."

Her Majesty also spoke of the personal success stories of a few beneficiaries of IWF's Leadership Enhancement and Mentoring Program who she met earlier this year.

"When I met the dynamic Jordanian women of the LEMP initiative back in January, I was struck by their self-confidence and their stories of how the program inspired them to stand up, speak out, set goals, and seek new opportunities," she said. 

Her Majesty's remarks were followed by a panel session titled "Arab Women: Myths, Misperceptions and Realities". Panelists included Leila Ahmed, Harvard Divinity School, Victor S. Thomas Professor of Divinity; Katerina Dalacoura, and expert on international relations and the Middle East; Laila Abu Hassan, University of Jordan, Chairperson, Department of Physics; and Rima Khalaf Hunaidi, Chairperson of the Advisory Board of the Arab Human Development Report (AHDR).

The panelists discussed many of the myths and misperceptions facing Arab women, but noted that progress is being made and the potential for better results is on the horizon.

"I'm hopeful for the future because of the enormous efforts and abilities of the new Arab young, and because despite the prevalence of myths, there's a spirit of willingness at the grassroots [in the West] to reach out, and hear the Arab side," said Ahmed.

The IWF gathering brought together nearly 500 women from 32 countries. Participants touched on issues related to western democracy, and its compatibility with the needs of Arab and Middle-Eastern societies. They also presented different perspectives and visions for the future of the Arab world, as well as tackling Western stereotyping and misperceptions of Arab Women.

International scholars, business leaders, NGO representatives, and Arab women parliamentarians were among those attending the meeting’s three main plenary sessions, focusing on Islam, democracy and modernization, the future of the Arab world, and the role of Arab women.

"[Women] are finding creative and courageous ways to catapult over [obstacles]. With IWF by their side, I know that they will land on their feet," said the Queen.

More about IWF
The IWF was first established in 1982 to facilitate networking among women and to promote opportunities for women in leadership. It also leverages global access and maximizes opportunities for women to exert their influence.
The IWF has chapters throughout the world, located in 21 countries and 60 affiliated forum locations. There are over 3,800 women members participating in North America, Latin America, the Caribbean, Asia, the Pacific Basin, Europe, Africa and the Middle East.

More about IWF Jordan
Her Majesty Queen Rania Al Abdullah is the honorary president of the IWF-Jordan, which was inaugurated in 2003.

The IWF Jordan is a private independent association of women who have achieved valuable accomplishments in public life, private sector or civic society. The group aims to be a catalyst in the acceleration of the pro-active participation of Jordanian women in their own communities.

IWF Jordan currently has 24 members and is processing applications of new applicants who are expected to join in 2007.
The IWF implements a Leadership Enhancement and Mentoring Program (LEMP) which targets working women in all sectors. The first such program, LEMP1 started in November 2005 and concluded in April 2006, helped train 18 women in mid to upper level in the banking sector. It was conducted with the Association of Jordanian Banks.  The second programme, LEMP2 will target females in the communications and IT sectors, where 30 percent of the employees are women. It is expected to be launched in September 2007.

IWF-Jordan also grants an annual scholarship for one candidate representing Jordan in the Leadership Foundation Program in Washington, the educational and charitable arm of the IWF organization.