Dubai alumni forum lauds higher education in Arab women’s empowerment
Mrs. Magda Abu-Fadil, Mrs. Maha Kaddoura, Dr. Joseph G. Jabbra, Mr. Saad El Zein, Mrs. Adalat Nakkash, Dr. Dima Dabbous-Sensenig, Consul-General Donna Turk, Dr. Abdallah Sfeir, Mrs. Emily Nasrallah, Mrs. Jeannette Mufti, Mrs. Taline Avakian and Dr. Hissa Al-Sabah.
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August 22, 2005—
Women in the Arab world rarely have positive role models to emulate, except perhaps their mothers, but higher education can boost their empowerment, an expert told LAU’s Dubai and Northern Emirates alumni chapter.
“Women’s issues are neglected from the debate,” said Dr. Dima Dabbous-Sensenig, acting director of LAU’s Institute for Women’s Studies in the Arab World (IWSAW), during a daylong forum as she pointed to stereotyped role models in the media, where physical attributes surpass mental qualities.
She stressed the importance of networking, adding that women needed to overcome their power illiteracy, be self-confident, hone their leadership skills and be mentored by women who had made it, as she had, thanks to her education at LAU.
Dabbous-Sensenig, a communication assistant professor at LAU, was one of six alumnae speakers at a forum on the “Role of Higher Education in the Empowerment and Achievements of Arab Women” organized by the Dubai chapter December 3, 2005.
Mrs. Jeannette Mufti, a one-time parliamentary candidate in Jordan who has been active in academia and charity work for years, joined her on the first panel.
Mufti explained how Jordanian students of her generation had chosen to attend then Beirut College for Women, as LAU was known. “Many chose the field of education for work,” she said, adding that BCW graduates proved highly motivated.
On the business front, Dr. Hissa Al-Sabah, Vice President of the Committee for Women’s Affairs in Kuwait, said despite a high female literacy rate in her country, political involvement was not widespread.
Sheikha Hissa, daughter of Kuwait’s crown prince, who has helped create the Council for Arab Businesswomen, said the answer was to focus on women’s education and on involvement of the media to raise awareness of such issues.
“We need training in economics,” she said, and disclosed that she would work closely with LAU to help train entrepreneurs.
An equally enterprising contemporary of Sheikha Hissa, Mrs. Taline Avakian, helps run an internationally renowned family jewelry business. As a member of LAU’s Board of Trustees, Avakian said alumni were always high on the Board’s list of priorities.
“Women have become an equal part to men in education,” she said quoting statistics on the Arab world. But she noted that the effects of culture and certain attitudes had become a barrier to women’s development.
Any system that privileges men from birth is bad for the men, she said. “One of the greatest values is a culture of tolerance, since it builds trust and is a foundation of entrepreneurship.”
Novelist and researcher Emily Nasrallah acknowledged LAU’s role in empowering women in education to empower others.
Speaking on the socio-cultural context of women’s empowerment, Nasrallah lauded the early educators for their pioneer work that extended beyond Lebanon’s borders.
“No civilization can be complete without a university,” Nasrallah argued. “LAU has made a difference in advancing our society.”
The founder of the Maha Kaddoura Scholarship at LAU said the progress of society related to the progress of its women. “Educated women symbolize society,” she said, adding that the Prophet Mohammad’s wife was a businesswoman.
Educating women could be the solution to social ills since educated women make social improvements, she concluded.
Lebanon’s Consul-General in Dubai, Mrs. Donna Turk, referred to the centrality of higher education in the future economic well being of communities.
“Lebanon has established itself as the main center of education in the region,” she said, adding that Lebanon had historically been referred to as the pioneer of the alphabet and that the first post-independence ministries established in the country were of education and higher education.
LAU President Joseph G. Jabbra opened the forum with a salute to Arab women’s steadfastness and their struggle for just causes across the region.
He said it was necessary to bring down the walls of separation between men and women in the Arab world and to consider everyone as human beings.
He also announced that alumna and speaker Mrs. Maha Kaddoura had set up a scholarship to help pay a Palestinian student’s tuition at LAU amounting to $10,000 per year.
Mrs. Adalat Nakkash, President of the Dubai and Northern Emirates Chapter, welcomed guests and thanked sponsors and speakers at the event. She said Arab women in the past decade had come a long way towards advancing their role in society.
Also on hand was chapter vice president Mr. Saad El Zein whose indefatigable efforts helped make the forum and gala dinner the night before a great success.