Women today are expected to play a more critical role in their communities as suggested by the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, said Dr Hanif Hassan Al Qasim, chairman of the Geneva Centre’s Board of Directors.

He was speaking at the panel discussion titled ‘The Advancement of the Status of Women in the Arab World’ hosted by the Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue, in collaboration with the Unesco Office in Geneva.

Held at the United Nations Headquarters in Geneva on the sidelines of the 31st session of the Human Rights Council, the panel offered a platform to discuss and exchange insights on the progress and challenges in promoting gender equality in the Arab World. The enriching discussion witnessed remarkable participation from various diplomatic missions, intergovernmental and NGO representatives.

The event focused on the advancements achieved in women’s rights and empowerment in the Arab world, particularly from the standpoint of access to education and women’s political and economic active participation. Panellists highlighted the key challenges hindering achieving improvement in Arab women’s status and outlined strategies and plans aimed at reinforcing the status of women in the Arab region and advancing towards gender equality.

Dr Al Qasim pointed out that Arab women are today more empowered to improve their status and establish a new status that complements their cultural and social environment with no external pressure. Al Qasim attributed this progress to higher education rates and participation in the labour force, in addition to governments’ efforts in this regard and the increased awareness of civil society organisations on the need to empower Arab women and reinforce their role in society.

“This panel comes in the framework of the centre’s commitment towards monitoring all facts related to women’s status in the Arab world because we can best understand and analyse our issues within the special cultural factors that dominate our region, and therefore we can make better recommendations in international forums.” Al Qasim explained.

The panel reviewed the Emirati experience as well in women empowerment and highlighted the prominent role played by Emirati women in society through facts and statistics that reflect their great achievements in various areas. During the discussions, Ambassador Obaid Salem Al Zaabi, Permanent Representative of the UAE to the United Nations, highlighted UAE’s achievements in women empowerment, providing some strong examples of what the UAE has done recently to reinforce the role of women in society.