On Tuesday, in the first of a two-day event, the Middle East Businesswomen & Leaders Achievement Awards will promote regional women's leadership and honour outstanding leaders.

The event, now in its eighth year, is held annually on 8 March to commemorate International Women's Day.

The eighth Global Businesswomen and Leaders Forum will run from 7-8 March at the Burj al-Arab in Dubai.

One of the speakers hopes the forum will put an end to negative perceptions the media have about Saudi women.

 

Sawsan Shadly, a Saudi businesswoman, told Aljazeera.net: "I think forums such as this one will offer new chances for Saudi businesswomen.

 

Ostacle course

 

"There are obstacles for Saudi businesswomen in the GCC. Previously, Saudi law meant that a woman could only run a business if she had a male wakeel or sponsor. But things are changing," Shadly said.

 

"Changes in Saudi law mean that now a woman can run her own business independently of any wakeel."

 

Shadly: The forum is a chance to
show women in a positive light

Shadly, who runs her own events management company, said: "Forums such as these can show Saudi women in a different light. It is our turn to give a good impression of who we are. It is our turn to show how successful women can be and that Saudis are not just terrorists."

The conference and awards recognise Middle Eastern women who are models of community leadership.

More than 300 delegates are expected to attend the forum. Participants will interact at the forum, deliver speeches, take part in panel discussions and discuss case studies.

Women negotiate

 

Fatma ba-Uthman, an academic from Saudi Arabia, is another speaker at the event. Ba-Uthman will be holding a workshop on how to make decisions and negotiate successfully.

 

"The forum will help to bridge the gap between men and women. It is a chance to show the west that the Arab world also has educated, quality women"

Fatma ba-Uthman,
Saudi academic

She said: "Women are patient, good listeners and more, but we need to tap into these skills and implement them into the business world.

 

"The importance of such a forum is getting women in the region to share ideas together.

 

"The forum will help to bridge the gap between men and women. It is a chance to show the West that the Arab world also has educated, quality women."

 

Ihab Hamad, media and public-relations manager for Datamatix, the company responsible for organising the event, said: "By honouring these exceptional women, we hope to advance their business and personal networks.

 

"We also want to increase the number of role models and mentors for all young achievers, both male and female."

 

The forum includes presentations, open discussions and Q&A sessions, and provides networking opportunities for conference delegates.

Topics for discussion include investment opportunities for businesswomen; women in politics; and the emerging role of women in the Middle East media industry.

Empowering women

The forum is open to those interested in the field of professional development and business empowerment of Middle East women.

This includes researchers, policy makers, and officials of government and business organisations.

Aljazeera's soon to be launched channel, Aljazeera International, will cover events such as the forum. A spokeswoman for AJI's Everywoman Programme, said: "International Women's Day is an important day for every woman. Although we are based out of Qatar, we have a global remit and are committed to starting a dialogue between women that allows us to tell our stories regardless of ethnic or religious differences."

International Women's Day is an occasion marked by women around the world. This date is also commemorated at the United Nations.