IT, private sector and government cooperate for advancement of women

Sarah El Sirgany
5 Min Read

CAIRO: The collaboration of the public and private sector was the center of the first sessions of the Global Summit of Women 2006 yesterday.

Through a briefing of the ministerial roundtable that preceded the summit, different female ministries and leaders stressed on the importance of the collective efforts of both sectors in achieving development goals, especially women-oriented.

The private sector helps make the process less bureaucratic, says Farkhanda Hassan, secretary general of the National Council of Women. She notes the Egyptian experience, pointing to major contributors to the development field from the private sector: Sawiras Foundation of Orascom and the Mohamed Farid Khamis organization for social work of Oriental Weavers.

The Bahraini Minister of Social Affairs Fatima Al Balooshi also pointed to her country s experience in the area. The first center for female victims of abuse, she says, is overlooked by an NGO.

Al Balooshi says that one of the Bahraini government s aims is to stop the role of the sole provider of services and adopt the role monitoring and planning instead. She says that governments are always seen at the top of the pyramid in terms of giving. But better strategies would allow NGOs to provide the services, she adds.

Hassan also notes the participation of multinationals in the field, pointing to IBM, which has recently helped in establishing the Electronic Gate to Arab Women, and Microsoft. Both are sponsoring several sessions throughout the summit.

Microsoft, as an international corporation has the largest participating delegation in the summit. While present in Egypt, members of the delegations will also attend the inauguration of a Microsoft developmental project.

Hassan highlighted the role information technology (IT) plays in the women development, in which the role of non-governmental bodies flourish. A CD of answers of women s legal questions was distributed to NGOs with field work in the country s villages to help women understand their legal rights, says Hassan. Audio cassettes were also available in informal and understandable language to better spread the message, she adds.

A website was created, she continues, to help advertise and market the production of small projects headed by women. Another website was created to learn and train women on the concept of E-business in order to open more working opportunities.

The economical safety of women, Hassan says, is a gate to their development. Thus, familiarizing women with technology and IT serves in ultimately realizing economical development for women.

After 16 years of activities, the summit aims at just that: the economical development of women through different aspects. It s a premier gathering of business, professional, governmental and entrepreneurial women leaders from around the world, reads its official website. Each year the summit is held in a different country; this year it is in Cairo.

At a time when the world seems mired in conflict, it is encouraging to see women extending themselves across borders to learn from each other and to share expertise drawn from their own business experiences, says Summit President Irene Natividad. Through WEXPO Online, the summit offers online services for women to market their businesses globally and offer different opportunities including product display, communication between businesswomen around the world and finding suppliers and clients. There is a WEXPO exhibition with the Cairo summit.

This year features the participation of 900 women leaders in business and government from 88 countries. Held under the theme of Redefining Leadership, the summit features a number of sessions on the different business aspects: entrepreneurial, the micro enterprise level and leadership development. The topics covered include branding, learning from failures, innovative finances and moving to long-term corporate career and the corporate boardroom.

But, economical development, however, is not enough if it is on its own, stressed the several participants. To empower women we have to be multi-dimensional, says US Undersecretary of State Henrietta Holsman Fore.

Al-Balooshi says that development in different aspects, like education, health and employment, go side by side with economical development projects.

She gave the example of a Bahraini project to help 100 families overcome poverty. The project doesn t only comprise of economical empowerment but targets education of family members, providing transportation to work for parents and nursery facilities for working mothers.

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