Dubai: Despite obstacles facing women in many regions of the world, over 130 female students from 30 countries were urged to help bring about change by simply showing the willingness to engage and champion causes.
A variety of speakers held up examples for students on the concluding day of the Dubai Women's College's (DWC) Insight Dubai Conference last week on how to bring about change.
"The Arab world has been through great change in the last year, we have seen revolutions where people took to the streets to demand change," said Nima Abu Warda, presenter of BBC World's weekly financial programme on the Middle East. "This is therefore in theory the year of the people and what we see on the ground is part of the process of change."
She added that, in her view, democracy is not about people agreeing in unison but about those who care — those who bother to vote or champion a cause, which in turn may bring about or effect change.
"What are you doing to enable yourself or other women to effect change? It could be as simple as this," she said holding up a copy of Desert Dawn, DWC's quarterly magazine, written and produced by students.
"This [magazine] is about people engaging and bothering, students spending time and energy to put out a thought or a message," she said. "By sharing thoughts and information we can bring about change, because one person's idea could cause another to question."
Shaikh Nahyan Bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research and Chancellor of the Higher Colleges of Technology, delivered a keynote speech on the concluding day of the conference.
Tahrir Square recalled
"The activities of Insight Dubai should strengthen the belief that women, working individually or together, can lead other people toward worthy goals," he said.
Rana Korayem, a member of a United Nations gender equality entity in Egypt recounted scenes from Tahrir square during the Egyptian revolution last year.
"Women were fighting on the ground with the men during the resistance, but did not realise any concrete gains as their representation in the current parliament is only 2 per cent," she said.
"Yet when they went back to Tahrir to ask for their rights they were told: not now."
She added that conservative groups questioned women's participation in the public sphere, attributing their position to women's perceived role in Islam.
"The Holy Quran has a whole sura [chapter], a set of 176 verses titled Al Nisa — The Women — to guarantee the rights of women."
Rana added that the women in Tahrir Square taught her that women across the world need to continue to believe in their potential and work together as strong agents of change.
"My lesson learned is ask for your rights otherwise nobody will give them to you."