His Highness Dr Shaikh Sultan Bin Mohammad Al Qasimi, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah, at the first Women’s Economic Empowerment Global Summit (WEEGS 2017) which he inaugurated in Sharjah. Image Credit: WAM

Sharjah: The first Women’s Economic Empowerment Global Summit (WEEGS 2017) opened on Monday with remarks from a number of high-ranking government officials, including His Highness Dr Shaikh Sultan Bin Mohammad Al Qasimi, Member of the Supreme Council and Ruler of Sharjah.

In her opening remarks, Shaikh Sultan’s wife, Her Highness Jawaher Bint Mohammad Al Qasimi, said: “Investing in women and girls is key to sustainable development.”

She cited research that shows engaging more women in the private sector would increase labour productivity by as much as 25 per cent in some countries.

“This clearly shows that a substantial fraction of the world’s human resources remains untapped, barring them access to job markets and hampering their ability to enjoy equal opportunities,” Shaikha Jawaher added.

The two-day summit is organised by the Nama Women Advancement Establishment (Nama) and the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women). It is being held at Expo Centre Sharjah.

Touching on the current sexual harassment and assault crisis that is dominating the headlines, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, the Under-Secretary-General and executive director of UN Women, emphasised the need for women to live free from violence, and free from fear at home or at work, in order for them to prosper without the stress that comes with being subjected to violence.

“In some countries, the average impact of this violence is 3 per cent of their annual GDP, but remains unacknowledged or even understood,” she said.

“We know that if women played an identical role to men in labour markets, as much as 26 per cent could be added to the global annual GDP by 2025. This is a lot of money and represents a major impact on the economy of the world,” Mlambo-Ngcuka added.

Also in attendance was Shaikh Nahyan Bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, the UAE Minister of Tolerance, who said: “Raising women’s salaries to match those given to men at similar positions, giving them healthcare and professional training and enabling them to be equal partners in society are the need of the hour. We need to look into new technologies and resources that will empower women.”

Data collection, statistics, studies, and supportive regulations and legislations in the field needed to be encouraged, Shaikh Nahyan added.

Themed ‘Women Excelling in Economy,’ the event brings together over 70 international experts, gender equality advocates, government and private sector representatives and over 1,000 participants.