350 women gather in Dubai for MENA Businesswomen’s Network Forum


The MENA Businesswomen’s Network Forum concluded today (April 13th, 2012) in Dubai with a roundtable discussion between some of the region’s most prominent businesswomen, including several of the 100 Most Powerful Women in the Arab World.

The two-day event drew over 350 businesswomen from across the Middle East and North Africa, and was held under the patronage of HE Sheikha Lubna Al Qasimi, UAE Minister of Foreign Trade. Hosted by Dubai Business Women Council, the Forum received support from MENA BWN’s global partners – Vital Voices Global Partnership and the ExxonMobil Foundation.

With the theme “Unleashing the Economic Potential of Women in the MENA Region,” the Forum kicked off Thursday morning with a keynote address by Sheikha Lubna, highlighting the collective nature of the event and remarking how the Forum’s goal is for each woman to gain the skills necessary to achieve success.

The Forum continued with a discussion between Sheikha Lubna and Alyse Nelson, President and CEO of Vital Voices Partnership that focused on cultivating women’s leadership potential and how leadership should focus on empowering everyone, not just those in senior positions.

“Being a leader is about staying the course no matter how difficult the path may be,” said Nelson after the session, “while maintaining your vision and inspiring those around you along the way. Over the past two days we have provided a platform for these women to grow and ready themselves for the challenges and opportunities ahead.”

Thursday afternoon continued with focus sessions and hands-on workshops on how partnerships can bolster innovation, how women entrepreneurs can leverage technology, and how business women throughout the region can access capital and new markets. The first day wrapped-up with one-on-one mentoring sessions and a gala dinner.

Afnan R. Al Zayani, President of MENA Businesswomen’s Network, commented on the regional representation of the event and expressed her hopes to continue the Forum’s success in the future.

“It is indeed an honor to see over 350 outstanding women from over 15 countries learn, connect and gain the skills necessary to transform their enterprises to achieve higher levels of growth and success,” said Al Zayani. “We are beyond pleased with the Forum’s outcome and we look forward to building upon its success in the coming years.”

As the Forum’s local host, Raja Easa Al Gurg, President of the Dubai Business Women Council (DBWC), highlighted the DBWC’s role in the event.

“MENA BWN’s first region-wide Forum was a phenomenal success and we are honored to have played a key role,” said Al Gurg. “More and more opportunities are opening up for women across the region and I urge every woman here to use her imagination and potential to grow her business. There is no better time.”

The Forum’s second day opened on Friday morning with a session on increasing media access for businesswomen and a panel discussion on growth-driven supply chain strategies featuring key representatives from IBM, Dow Chemical and the World Bank. The session highlighted opportunities for collaboration between the private sector and regional governments and what supply chain models work best in the region.

The Forum was made possible by a grant from the ExxonMobil Foundation. The ExxonMobil Foundation has provided funding of more than US$5 million dollars to Vital Voices Global Partnership to support the strategic development of businesswomen’s networks.

The Middle East and North Africa Businesswomen’s Network 2012 Forum was held at the Park Hyatt Dubai. The organizer, MENA Businesswomen’s Network, represents over 2,500 members from Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Palestine, Qatar, Tunisia, and the UAE. The Forum is sponsored by the ExxonMobil Foundation and supported by Vital Voices Global Partnership. The Dubai Business Women Council, UAE member of the MENA BWN, is the local host.