Creating change and inspiring others - GulfToday

Creating change and inspiring others

Shamma Al Mazrui speaks during the event at the Expo 2020 Dubai.

Shamma Al Mazrui speaks during the event at the Expo 2020 Dubai.

Sharing stories of creating change and inspiring others to embrace the fear and be their own ChangemakeHERs were the messages from young, women leaders from New Zealand, UAE, USA, and Namibia at the ‘ChangemakeHER’ session which took place during the International Women’s Day Forum at Expo 2020 Dubai on Wednesday.

The event was led by New Zealand in partnership with the Expo 2020 Dubai Women’s Pavilion, where a multicultural lineup of young female trailblazers spoke about their journeys in becoming the leaders they are today. The speakers included Shamma Al Mazrui, UAE Minister of State for Youth Affairs; Patience Masua, Member of Namibia Constituent Assembly; Alexia Hilbertidou, Founder of GirlBoss New Zealand; Peyton Klein, founder of Global Minds Initiative (USA) and Rez Gardi, CEO and Founder of Empower Youth (New Zealand).

ChangemakeHER was part of a full-day programme that reflects the 2022 theme of International Women’s Day - #BreakTheBias - which values differences and imagines a gender-equal world, free of stereotypes and discrimination. The female-led conversation encouraged the audience to join the cause and be ChangemakeHERs in their own communities to accelerate the pace of progress towards gender parity.

According to the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2021, another generation of women will have to wait for gender parity. Due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, closing the global gender gap has increased by a generation from 99.5 years to 135.6 years.

The speakers shared their personal stories of transformation and breakthrough against some of the world’s biggest challenges.

Appointed in 2016 as the youngest minister in the world, Shamma Al Mazrui highlighted the importance of embracing uncertainty as a constructive force, a sign of growth and as a playground for innovation: “The best way of navigating ambiguity must be through ‘taking action’, using fear and self-doubt as fuel rather than an obstacle. The difference between average and outstanding is often just one more.”

 Curating and introducing the event was New Zealander Alexia Hilbertidou, a changemaker in her own right and a powerful advocate for women who said: “What I find so inspiring is that these are all young people, they have not let age define them. They have identified a problem in their community and realized they can be the one to step up and solve it and we want to challenge ChangemakeHer attendees to stand up and solve a problem they might see.” Rez Gardi became the first Kurd to graduate from Harvard Law, having overcome social adversity and gender discrimination.

She commented: “Today, an unprecedented 82.4 million people are forcibly displaced worldwide, due to conflicts in which they have no say. In conflict and crisis situations, higher education serves as a powerful driver for change. It shelters and protects a critical group of young people by maintaining their hopes for the future, it fosters inclusion and non-discrimination, and, fundamentally, it acts as a catalyst for recovery and rebuilding.

“For an overall change to materialize, the whole-of-society needs to play an active role. We cannot thrive while others are suffering. The only way forward is solidarity to overcome the biggest challenges facing the globe today. Only then can we ensure we leave no one behind.” The event inspired a call to action for the audience to be their own ChangemakeHers in their own communities.

Sharing her own journey, Honorable Patience Masua, Member of Namibia Constituent Assembly, who became a lawmaker at age 22, said “this is the magic that happens when you give young people a seat at the table, where young people are not spoken on behalf of, but speak by themselves, for themselves. It is just the beginning.” Peyton Klein, Founder of Global Minds Institute and great-granddaughter of Jewish refugees, asked the audience where they considered ‘home’ to be, “If there is one thing we have in common, it’s our need for human connection. Each of one of us here today has not only a shared responsibility, but a unique opportunity to make this world feel a little bit more like home. So now I ask each one of you, “Where is your home?” Close your eyes, think about it, feel it. Take that warmth, Belongingness, closeness, and spread it widely.”

Women-owned businesses: startAD, the Abu Dhabi-based global accelerator powered by Tamkeen and anchored at NYU Abu Dhabi, along with the US Mission to the UAE, hosted a closing ceremony at EXPO 2020 Dubai at the USA Pavilion on International Women’s Day (IWD) to mark the completion of the second UAE edition of the Academy for Women Entrepreneurs (AWE) program.

Highly customised for the local market, AWE enables women-owned SMEs in the UAE to develop business resilience and adaptability in a post-pandemic economy. The six-month intensive online program is run along with ecosystem partner, AmCham Abu Dhabi, and delivered by Grow ME International.

Twelve female-owned businesses covering seven nationalities, including three Emirati-founded businesses, were selected from over 200 applicants. They operate across eight sectors ranging from hospitality and education to sustainable construction and e-commerce. As a result of the program, each participating business demonstrated significant progress. Collectively, the businesses secured 34 new commercial contracts, expanded to six new markets, and built 4 strategic partnerships. One of the businesses grew its customer base from 50,000 to 70,000 individuals, while another of the cohort digitized its entire processes.

The AWE finalists are: 2071Mall, a virtual mall inside your phone that offers the look and feel that draws consumers to malls and physical stores; Auriga International, a One-stop-shop solution to help a business realize its full potential, specializing in the hospitality industry backed by a wealth of experience and in-depth analysis;

Bismillah Buddies, an innovative online and offline content venture making Islamic learning fun, engaging, and relevant for children of all ages; EcoBuild helps building professionals implement green building and environmental standards in the Middle East; iCharge Point operates a network of power bank vending machines that are accessible to the public via a mobile app; Ninjoo, a premium online concept store dedicated to innovative and stylish active lifestyle brands; Pretty Shady Parasols creates stunning garden furniture and accessories in a range of fun, bold prints, proudly made in the UAE.

RFLCT Creative Art empowers the community through different forms of art creation; Shift Eco, an ecommerce platform curating impactful eco-friendly products; Soil Store, an organic retail store, helping people make the shift to healthy, clean living; The Party, a creative design boutique, producing the best personalized party accessories and gifts and Turtlefleet Company is an eco-friendly and sustainable fashion accessories retail shop.

United States Consul General in Dubai, Meghan Gregonis said: “The Academy for Women Entrepreneurs (AWE) has helped more than 16,000 female entrepreneurs in 80 countries around the world grow their businesses and adapt to new economic realities under COVID-19. AWE promotes women’s economic opportunities and ensures women have the skills, capabilities, and resources needed to participate and excel in the economy. We’re proud to partner with startAD, AmCham Abu Dhabi, and Grow ME International to bring AWE to entrepreneurs in the UAE.”

Associate Director of startAD Hana Barakat added: “We are proud to partner with the US Embassy to aid the rise of female entrepreneurs who will help power future innovation and sustainable growth in the UAE and beyond. Women were impacted by the pandemic, especially considering areas like support for family care, schooling, and small-business impacts. Women are extremely empathetic and resilient by nature, and in today’s volatile world are key drivers to the sustainability of a business and a country. AWE is committed to providing support, tools, and networks to help female-owned businesses flourish in the months and years ahead.”

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