The first edition in the MENA chapter was a success, the May Chidiac Foundation made its way to Amman, Jordan to host the women on the front lines conference under the patronage of Her Majesty Queen Rania Al Abdullah of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.
The conference revolved around powerful women who are challenged everyday by exceptional obstacles.
The first panel titled “Women in Politics: Women’s Participation in Public Administration and Decision Making” stirred a vibrant discussion among:
-H.E. Ms. Sigrid Kaag, UN Under Secretary General & Special Coordinator for Lebanon, H.E. —Ms. Nayla Moawad , Former First Lady, former Member of the Parliament, and former Minister of Social Affairs
– H.E. Ms. Haifaa Najjar, a member of the Jordanian Senate for the second session, the President of The Business and Professional Women Association/Amman, and a member of the council of Education
– H.E. Ms. Sahar Nasr, Minister of International Cooperation
They all discussed the importance of women coming together and sharing the same essential goal of referencing other women and potential leaders. They also mentioned that aspiring politicians should keep pushing for reform, even if they are unsuccessful 90% of the time, because the other 10% would make a big difference.
This session was moderated by Mr. Jim Clancy, International Journalist, Former CNN Correspondent and Anchor.
The second panel titled “Women in Entrepreneurship and in the Business World” was about the factors that make a woman successful in the workplace.
-H.E. Ms. Suhair Al Ali, The Executive Chairman / Social Security Investment Fund,
-Ms. Roula Moussa, Venturesome Investor and Innovator – Founder Netways,
-Ms. Hanan Saab, Founder of Pharmamed and President of the MENA Jury for Cartier Women Initiative Award
-H.E. Ms. Nadia Al Saeed, CEO of Bank Et Etihad and former Minister of Information and Communications Technology ICT,
the panel was moderated by Mr. Ghassan Hasbani, CEO of Graycoats.
Throughout this particular business, finance, and ICT charged talk, Roula Moussa elaborated on how she started the first ICT company in the Middle East right after graduating, despite resistance from her family and entourage. The panelists also talked about how they are working to create job opportunities for youth in the MENA region given the high level of regional unemployment.
Yet, the arrival of Her Majesty Queen Rania Al Abdullah to watch the third panel “Asking the Hard Questions” was the highlight of the conference. This session was moderated by the immensely charismatic Mr. Ricardo Karam, the prominent TV Show Host, and Head of RK Productions & TAKREEM Foundation.
The panel featured:
-Ms. Lamees Al Hadidi, Anchor at CBC Network
-Ms. Gisele Khoury, TV Host at BBC Arabic
-Ms. Laila Al Shaikhli, Anchor & TV Presenter at Al-Arab TV
-Ms. Aziza Nait Sibaha, TV Host at France 24
These talended media figures discussed the obstacles women face in the media, and raising the bar when conducting interviews. Lamees Hadidi mentioned how she had to keep asking the same questions even when she faced severely verbally violent and sexist comments from specific controversial figures, as well as regular commentators.
Mr. Ricardo Karam closed this session by asking a surprising question: If they could interview one leader, who would it, be and what would they ask?
Lamees Hadidi would ask Donald Trump: Do you support Syrian President’s Bashar el Assad’s Regime?
Gizele Khoury said that she would ask Syrian President Bashar el Assad: How can you sleep with your children by your side after seeing photos of Aleppo?
Laila Al Shaikhli would ask Arab leaders if they are satisfied with where the Arab world is today.
Aziza Nair Sibaha would ask the Egyptian Abdel Fatah al Sisi: Are you satisfied with where the Egyptian youth and woman are now reached after the revolution?
The rest of conference features three keynote speakers, Ms. Becky Anderson, TV Anchor of CNN International’s flagship news and current affairs primetime news program Connect the World moderated by Ms. Alia Toukan, News Anchor on Jordan TV.
H.E. Ms. Emma Bonino, Former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Former member of the European Parliament and the Italian Senate spoke to Ricardo Karam about her tough experience as a politicians at a time when it was rare to see female politicians. She also touched the audience with her moving story about surviving cancer.
Ms. Anousheh Ansari also explored her experience as the First Female Private Space Explorer & First Space Ambassador once more.
WOFL also included two presentations by: Ms. Raja’ Batarseh-Ghanma, Freelance Trainer, Author of My Yellow Suit, a personal journey of recovery from food addiction, ACORN Professional Training for Food Addiction Recovery, who delivered an upbeat presentation regarding battling food addiction.
Ms. Nez Gebreel, Fashion and Design Industry expert; Former CEO of Dubai Design and Fashion Council talked about how she got to her position as CEO of DDF in a surprising turn of events. Followed by a special interview where Ms. Lana Al Qusous screened an investigative TV report about Muath Al Kassasbeh, the air force pilot who was kidnapped and killed by ISIS.
Last but not least, the conference ended with a fourth panel “Mothers of Extremists: Stories and Recommendations” discussed by Ms. Nicola Benyahia, Families for Life, Ms. Veronique Roy Burin, Counter-Extremism Activist , Ms. Karolina Dam, Sons and Daughters of the World and Dr. Edit Schlaffer, Founder and Director of Women Without Borders, and moderated by Mr. Haras Rafiq, CEO at Quilliam Foundation.