Achieving empowerment of the Arab Woman

Eminent women empowerment activist, Ambassador for Woman’s News Agency and Director Middle East & GCC Region for Centre For Economic And Leadership Development, Lamis Al Kaati talks to Ananke about empowering the Arab Woman to nurture peace, prosperity and a sustainable future.

Tell us about yourself and professional journey?

I am an Engineer and a mother of two boys, originally from Damascus, Syria. Born and raised in the UAE which I consider my second home. I earned a degree in Electrical Engineering from McGill University Canada. My first working experience was with a Canadian electronic manufacturer representative, and it was a stepping-stone towards putting my education in practice and excel in my professional technical sales career.

I have been engaged for over seven years with global port operators by working with European Global Manufacturers of Material Handling Equipment and Heavy Duty Machinery for the marine industry.

I am a multinational individual who has worked and lived in different countries. I have always believed in social responsibility and the necessity of empowering women by engaging them in industries that are male dominant, which could allow to break stereotypes and unleash their full potential.

Tell us about your groundbreaking initiative Syrian Ladies Society in Dubai?

In year 2011, I founded and chaired the Syrian Ladies Society in Dubai – A nonprofit entity with 600 members, a platform that aimed to connect Syrian women under one umbrella and empower them, regardless of their different political views. It is a success story as it opened many opportunities for women in business and demonstrated the possibility of success at a time when Syria was and still is undergoing political unrest. It has successfully charted new path and opened doors for opportunities for women to connect and develop and share a platform of knowledge and experience.

What other initiative have you been involved with?

Three years later, I have now been appointed as Ambassador for Woman’s News Agency www.wonews.net. Woman’s News Agency is the first and only nonprofit News Agency in the Middle East specializing in Women’s Media that is working towards a secure Arab Media network for women.

I was chose as a keynote speaker at the SAMEAWS 2015 South America- Africa- Middle East – Asia and presented a speech titled ‘The Road To Peace through Woman Media.’

I have also been invited for a 15 minutes slot on one of the most popular TV Shows “A Day in one hour” on CNBC Arabia, where I explained at length and discussed women news agency campaign goals as well as objectives. I have written and published articles such as: No Woman…No Peace, No Violence from Woman to Woman

In early 2016, I had the privilege of being appointed as Director Middle East and GCC Region for Centre For Economic And Leadership Development www.celdng.org. I look forward to enhancing their team and expanding their vision throughout the region and engage Arab women to be part of their platform and success.

What were some of the challenges you faced and how did you overcome them?

I faced and continuously face challenges on a multitude of levels being a woman and especially an Arab woman, and working in male dominant environment.

I strongly believe that you can overcome challenges by earning the right education and training that could boost your intellectual level and allow you to complete tasks and compete with male colleagues. Your success and achievements are your only proof.

Also I advise women to keep a semi conservative image in their attire in male dominant sectors and try to deliver a practical image, which could empower her message and allow her to be taken seriously.

How important is economic emancipation of the Arab women and how can she (women in the Arab world) be empowered?

Arabic woman will only gain their freedom, unleash their voice and advocate for their rights, if and only if they gain economic independence from family and husband. The only way forward is not only to gain a degree; but also to put that education in practice, join the workforce and learn to be independent. Arab women have been empowered by their governments, but they are still being pulled back by family traditions, therefore it is critical to encourage society to break away from those age-old, negative traditions by the help of media and social awareness.

What are some of the problems faced by the Arab women?

There is no protection over woman rights in the Middle East, the law is biased and leans towards men.

Unfortunately, Arab women were under the impression that freedom is gained by displaying a ‘liberal’ physical image, and for many years have advocated to ‘free up ‘their attire. They forgot that freedom means freedom of thought!

A majority of Arab women are educated but when it comes to joining the workforce their family discourages them. This is one of the main obstacles an Arab woman is facing compared to their counterpart in any other part of the world.

Tell us about the recognition you have received at the Women’s Summit For Peace?

For all my dedicated work towards womenfolk, I was given an International Award for Women Advocacy for Peace in the Middle East “Middle East Female Peace Champion Award 2015” – Amazon Awards 2015, Presented by H.H Sheik Juma Bin Maktoum Juma Al Maktoum, and a Certificate of Induction “Global Women Leaders Hall of Fame Inductee”; as a distinguished achiever and symbol of female achievement globally, received from Centre for Economic and Leadership Development 2015

What role can women play in peace making and peace building?

Simple, women can advocate for peace by their behavior. When you teach your children to forgive and guide them to accept other views, when they reject racism, hate and revenge in their thinking and behavior. This is how they can play a big role.

Moreover, businesswomen can advocate for peace by reaching out to governments and insisting on playing a vital role in peace negotiations by joining peace roundtables and discussions. Women in parliament can advocate for peace by pushing and convincing their governments to sign peace treaties and showcase the disastrous effects of war on women and children and nations.

What can be done to help empower refugee women?

It is very important to establish schools to ensure that young girls, the future mothers of our nation get the right education. It is also encouraged to allow them to be part of small sustainable projects and businesses; health awareness is also a necessity.

What initiative have you taken in terms of advocacy?

I have advocated for peace, as I believe it is the only way forward, and the most important way to protect women.

For instance, I have strategically empowered and organized a Global Peace Women Summit 2015, held by the Centre for Economic and Leadership Development under the theme: Key to Peace and Leadership, to discuss possible opportunities to empower women participation and allow her to play her vital role in peace processes and negotiations, and to share and exchange experiences that assist in the prosperity and development of nations

What are your plans for the future?

I am working on a new philanthropic project which is still in it is preliminary stage, it aims to establish A Charity Network under the name of Al Lianne Charity Network to empower and endorse charitable campaigns that help Woman and Child.

How do you see the future of the Arab women especially in conflict areas?

It is in a dangerous state. Arab women are facing emotional threat, they are losing their children to war conflicts, and it could affect both their mental, and physical health, which will reflect on their motherhood practices. They may express their grief by teaching their young children to take revenge in future that can only aggravate the problem further and extend years of war. Also, Arab women are now left to be the main breadwinner for the child and the family, while men are obliged to pay their military duty, which also can affect her in so many different ways.

 

Anything you wish to add?

I would like to encourage all women to practice their responsibility, and that by helping and exchanging your knowledge toward women, or by establishing empowerment centers and societies…thank you for the opportunity to feature my journey and I wish you and your magazine further success.

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