Cablegate: Women's Symposium Gets Positive Reviews but Modest

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

160706Z Oct 05



E.O. 12958: N/A

1. The University of Bahrain hosted a symposium October 1-2
entitled "Reinforcing the Role of Arab Women in Economic
Development." The symposium brought together civil society
representatives from several Arab and European countries in a
preparatory event for the November 11-12 Forum for the Future
Conference to be held in Bahrain. The symposium's focus was
on increasing opportunities for women in business and
entrepreneurial ventures; it also included discussion of
other social issues. Although there was strong early interest
when the event was announced in mid-summer, the 50
participant turnout was lighter than expected. Attendees
praised the content and presenters, telling Poloff that they
felt inspiration from the activities of pioneering women in
the Arab World.

2. The symposium was opened by the President of the
University of Bahrain, Dr. Mariam Bint Hassan Al Khalifa who
said, "the Kingdom is heading towards development and is
giving women opportunities to achieve leadership positions in
all local associations." But turning to shortcomings, she
said, "Women are more aware of their rights and are seeking
amendments to various laws, but social aspects stand in the
way. Women need to be given equal opportunities." The
gathering received substantial media coverage, being featured
on local evening television broadcasts and covered by the
print media.

3. The symposium organized sessions into four main topic
areas, each of which featured speakers highlighting different
issues within the topic. The areas were Education and
Training, Laws and Legislation, Cultural and Economic
Awareness, and Women in the Workplace. Among the overall
goals of the gathering were to build awareness about the
social status of Arab women, build solidarity among
participants, and work to end discrimination.

4. Eighty percent of attendees were Bahraini; several of the
presenters were from other Arab countries and Europe. Poloff
met with several organizers, presenters and participants to
discuss the impact of the gathering. In general,
participants found illustrative personal case studies most
valuable. In addition to providing inspiration to
participants, presenters gave practical ideas and suggestions
that may be replicated in Bahrain and elsewhere. One
particularly interesting study outlined the activities of
five Bahraini women who started businesses with micro loans.
Another presentation was given by a Bahraini woman who built
a small roadside stall selling homemade perfume into a
successful personal care products business.

5. Another stated goal of the symposium was to create a
network of groups at the local, national and international
levels. One presenter/participant expressed disappointment
with the networking possibilities at the symposium. She told
Poloff it is not sufficient to create a network among
individual women or between women's organizations in
different countries; rather, there needs to be a concerted
effort to establish contacts in the mainstream male-dominated
business sector. She had hoped that the symposium would
provide such an opportunity. She recognized that cultural
limitations in Arab countries inhibit such contacts, but
thinks more effort should be made.


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