MENA Businesswomen’s Network Concludes its First Board of Directors’ Meeting in Jordan Announcing a Number of Developmental Initiatives
Members of the Middle East and North Africa Businesswomen’s Network (MENA BWN) concluded their first Board of Directors’ meeting that started in the Jordanian capital Amman on Wednesday, where they discussed a number of key issues aimed at enabling Arab businesswomen and strengthening their presence in decision-making centers in both the public and private sectors.
Members of MENA BWN, representing 11 Arab countries, said that the two-day meeting was an outstanding opportunity to exchange expertise and knowledge and to discuss ways of strengthening women’s representation in higher places in the private sector and elevating women’s participation in investment and the economy in general.
Jordanian businesswoman Reem Badran, President of MENA BWN, said in a press conference at the end of the Network’s meetings that the level of women’s involvement in the Arab economy is still low and below aspirations. According to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), Arab women’s economic participation does not exceed 28%, and these women have great potential to prove a tangible presence in all the fields of the economic sector.
Badran added that the Network was able to connect with regional and international economic and investment corporations to introduce its mission and to further strengthen Arab women’s participation in leading international economic podiums and forums, and their networking with larger numbers of developmental and financing corporations.
Badran noted that the main objectives of the Network include financial empowerment for women through financial inclusion policies and finding ways to fund projects founded by female entrepreneurs through connecting with regional and international financial and developmental institutions that support their ideas and efforts. Badran thanked the Chairman and Board Members of the Amman Chamber of Commerce for supporting the network and its goals.
The Secretary General of MENA BWN, Bahraini Businesswomen Society’s representative and member of the Board of theBahrain Chamber of Commerce, Afnan Al Zayani, who is in charge of the mentoring program for businesswomen and entrepreneurs, said that the network’s work will focus on enabling women and increasing the chances of their contribution in the job market, especially with the rise in unemployment levels in the Arab world, which has had direct and negative effects on society. She pointed out that the network’s efforts will focus on inviting strategic partners to provide financial support to women entrepreneurs.
The Network’s Secretary, Sheikha Nour Al Thani, member of Qatar’s Chamber of Commerce, introduced the interactive website to be launched shortly, and which will act as a forum and an active marketing tool to aid start-ups in showcasing their products and reaching new markets. She emphasized the role of electronic marketing, which is considered a less costly method than other traditional methods, in supporting the success and continuity of their products and reaching a wider range of customers in a faster, easier way.
The founders of the MENA BWN kicked off their forum with an executive meeting at the Amman Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday, continuing the dialogue that was started in Bahrain in March this year. A number of initiatives were announced at the meeting, including exploring methods of networking and communication between Arab businesswomen and financial and developmental institutions locally, regionally and internationally. In addition, programs were launched to activate and strengthen women’s empowerment in numerous economic sectors.
The Network’s founders, represented by women from Bahrain, Qatar, Egypt, Lebanon, Sudan, Tunis, Algeria, Morocco, the UAE and Kuwait, agreed to launch a number of initiatives including an integrated financial support program for businesswomen and female entrepreneurs in Arab countries by creating partnerships with regional financial entities including Arab Monetary Fund and Arab Women Organization, as well as international ones such as the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the International Finance Corporation (IFC). These organizations provide credit facilitation and raise the level of support targeted at projects founded by women.
A second program will be launched specializing in learning by mentoring and will focus on teaching and consultation in a variety of vocational sectors in order to exchange expertise between women working in the same field, discussing ways to overcome legislative and social challenges. A third program will aim to support start-ups through the use of marketing tools and consultations in different fields including packing, quality, distribution and expansion. This support, which will be available through the network’s interactive website, is expected to be launched soon.
The Network announced a fourth program that will focus on strengthening and activating women’s presence in decision-making centers, with an emphasis on the private sector in which the Network, according to Badran, is studying the launching of a prize in the network’s name that will help prompt companies and corporations to enhance women’s representation on managing boards and in high ranking positions.
The Network’s Board met with and presented their goals and objectives during their visits with the Jordanian Minister of Industry, Trade and Supply Engineer Maha Al Ali; members of the Upper House; the CEO of the Jordan Investment Commission; the CEO of Jordan Enterprise Development Corporation (JEDCO); the Chairman and Board Members of the Amman Chamber of Commerce; the Chairman of the Jordan Chamber of Commerce; the Chairman of the General Union of Chambers of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture for Arab Countries; the Chairman and Board Members of the Amman Chamber of Industry; as well as the members of the Jordan Forum for Business and Professional Women.
Also during their visit to Amman, Board Members decided to convene the Network’s next meeting in November in Ajman, the UAE, on the sidelines of the Gulf Businesswomen Forum.
In addition to participants from Bahrain and Qatar, Bdour Al Smeiti and Mishael Al Asousi from the Kuwait Business and Professional Women Network were also present, as well as Rawda Bin Saber, head of Chambre Nationale Des Femmes Chefs d’Entreprises in Tunis; Nashida Jarbouaa representing Algerian Female Business Owners; Reem Siam representing the Egyptian Economic Board for Businesswomen and the Egyptian Chambers Union; Laila Salhab Karami representing the Lebanese Businesswomen Assembly; and Fadia Suleiman Hussein from Sudan’s Chamber of Kindergarten Owners.