In the last decade, the MENA region has witnessed extraordinary social and political upheaval, with women often on the frontlines of popular action driving change. Despite the vast transformations already seen, the position of women remains restricted in many countries.
The ALWANE programme – a new and unprecedented international coalition of activists dedicated to promoting the status of women – is channelling and amplifying the momentum sweeping through the region. Advocating for greater freedom, influence and opportunity, ALWANE promises a new future for the advancement of women’s leadership in society.
Launched this month at major sub-regional conferences in Tunis, Dubai and Amman, ALWANE stands for the coalition of Active Leaders for Women’s Advancement in the Near East. In Arabic, “alwane” (pronounced Al-WA-nee) means “my colors,” a phrase that evokes both the ability to paint our own future and the power of diversity in leading change.
Comprised of 17 national committees representing each Arab country, ALWANE will seek to raise awareness, generate discussion and motivate change around the principal challenges to women’s full participation in society. Operating at both a national and regional level, using innovative online platforms and engaging young, new voices, ALWANE will directly inform and connect with the public, raising the profile of the most pressing issues facing women today.
At the sub-regional meeting held in Dubai, committees from Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Saudi and UAE built a unified vision on enabling women’s leadership in the MENA region. Each country discussed the most pressing challenges facing women and developed an advocacy action plan to address these issues.
The Qatari participation was led by Roudha Center, a Qatari NGO providing support to women entrepreneurs in Qatar. Offering aspiring entrepreneurs and businesswomen ideas and guidance on franchising business models and ways to overcome professional and personal barriers, the event was met with great enthusiasm from all participants.
Fourteen Qatari representatives from the Roudha Center and the broader community were chosen to lead the committee. All of the participants identified entrepreneurship as one of the foremost opportunities for women’s advancement in Qatar today, and pledged to work tirelessly in creating avenues for positive change.
Aysha Al Mudehki, ALWANE local representative in Qatar, stated: “We will advocate for the right policies to support SMEs and partner with large corporations to cultivate an environment that supports women’s start-ups. The Qatari team has people of both genders, with a great range of experience, and I am positive that by the end of the programme we will be showcasing significant achievements in Qatar.”
The discussion focused on unifying Gulf countries to strengthen their commitment to women’s leadership roles and to establish policies in support of small and medium enterprises run by women. Furthermore, the Qatari committee emphasized the importance of assisting women form the Arab world to create sustainable start-up companies.
Qatar’s participation in the conference displayed tremendous commitment and a vast knowledge of the mission and values of ALWANE, as the WCI team stated, “We see the Qatar Committee as a valuable resource and partner to strengthen and expand ALWANE at national and regional levels”.
Commenting on the launch, Kerri Kennedy, Executive Director of Women’s Campaign International (WCI), the sponsoring organisation of ALWANE, said: “The strength of this coalition lies in the diversity of experiences, knowledge and backgrounds. ALWANE celebrates the richness of talent and vision among women from 17 Arab countries, providing a voice for the concerns and challenges that women’s leadership faces in the MENA region. We are bridging the gap between generations, widening horizons and spearheading dynamic new agendas for change in the region.”
Through sophisticated advocacy campaigns and targeted policy recommendations, the ALWANE country committees will make significant progress for women across the Arab world. The committees include leading experts and academics of different genders from each country, as well as youth members adding their own distinct voice.
Central to ALWANE’s philosophy is intergenerational cooperation, creating a sustainable, long-term coalition by nurturing future women leaders in a comprehensive mentorship programme. Enhancing the programme is an extensive online network, enabling users to share and discuss their ideas on the major contemporary challenges facing women in the MENA region.
The climax of the ALWANE Coalition’s activity this year will be a regional summit in November held in Amman, where the committees from all 17 countries will gather to share their success stories and sign a Convention on the Advancement of Women’s Leadership in the region.
Maali Qasem, Regional Director of ALWANE, emphasised the public’s important role in the programme: “We encourage everyone to join ALWANE’s online community. You are our inspiration, and as witnesses in your own society you are best placed to direct our work. Anyone who feels passionately about furthering women’s leadership in our region can strengthen our coalition by adding their voice and unique insights into the central issues and obstacles facing women today. We want you to share your knowledge, experiences and perspectives to help us build momentum and create a new future for women across the MENA.”
The ALWANE programme is powered by Women’s Campaign International, An international NGO dedicated to furthering the rights of women across the world. To find out more, visit ALWANE’s live discussion forums at alwane-mena.d1g.com and upload video, pictures, new articles and participate daily. Also, follow us on Twitter (@alwane_MENA) and Facebook (www.facebook.com/ALWANE.MENA) and share your voice.
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