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KHALEEJ TIMES, Saturday, Nov 9, 2019 | Rabi Al Awwal 12, 1441

Women empowerment to create stable, prosperous future

Emirates: Empowering women and harnessing their full potential will lead to a more stable and prosperous future, experts said ahead of the Women's Economic Empowerment Global Summit (WEEGS 2019).

Held under the patronage of Sheikha Jawaher bint Mohammed Al Qasimi, wife of His Highness the Ruler of Sharjah and Chairperson of the Nama Women Advancement Establishment (Nama), the event will be held under the theme, 'Drivers of Change', which is inspired by the challenges that women face in the global workplace. Organised by Nama, in collaboration with UN Women, the event will take place on December 10-11, 2019 at the Al Jawaher Reception and Convention Centre in Sharjah. Over 1,000 experts and decision makers will discuss current strategies, potential opportunities, and case studies that enhance equitable opportunities for women in all sectors.

Designed to boost career prospects and shape a truly inclusive work ecosystem for women, WEEGS 2019 will be based on four key pillars including: gender-responsive procurement, women's participation in value chains, women's empowerment principles, and women's access to finance.

A report published by the World Bank indicates women currently make up only 21 per cent of the labour force and only contribute 18 per cent to Middle east and North Africa (Mena) region's overall GDP. Had the gender gap in labour force participation been narrowed over the past decade, the GDP growth rate in the Mena region could have doubled or increased by about $1 trillion in cumulative output. The flagship report by UN Women titled 'Turning Promises into Action: Gender Equality in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development' revealed that, at current trends, equal pay will not be achieved before the year 2086 without targeted action. Another study by the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor pointed out that on average, women start businesses at less than 60 per cent the rate of men. In addition, there are no economies where women start at equal or higher rates than men.

"We look upon women in the region and the world as a united, coherent community," said Reem BinKaram, director of Nama. "This vision is enshrined in our strategic partnership with UN Women and civil society organisations in many countries. It aligns with our belief that women are an indispensable human resource for the development of every nation. By helping create a better entrepreneurial ecosystem for women and enhancing their skills, we can really boost their role in achieving the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals.

She added that the summit's theme is ultimately a re-assertion of Nama's faith in the ambitions of the UN Women's indicators, which tell a compelling story: "If women played an identical role in labour markets to that of men, as much as $28 trillion, or 26 per cent, could be added to the global annual GDP by 2025, which is the GDP of the USA and China combined."

Women in the UAE occupy more than 66 per cent of the jobs in the public sector, make up 25 per cent of the national labour force, and 30 per cent of those in the SME sector. Enrollment of Emirati women in higher education after graduation from secondary school exceeds 77 per cent. Female entrepreneurs account for 10 per cent of the UAE's private sector, with over 23,000 women entrepreneurs generating approximately $13 billion in revenue. Also, women's contribution to the UAE labour market, stands at 46.6 per cent. As part of its inaugural edition, the summit called on all sectors of society including government departments, academic institutions, non-governmental and international organisations, SMEs, large corporations and individuals to adopt two principles inspired by the Women's Empowerment Principles (WEPs) as part of the 'WEEGS Pledge', to promote gender equity and empower women in the workplace, marketplace and community.

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