NAT 211122 HIND & VIBHA ARAMZAN-3-1637659250860
Hind Alowais (L) and Vibha Bakshi at Women's Pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai on Monday

Dubai: More than 50 countries are expected to take a pledge on November 26 at Expo 2020 Dubai, calling for an end to violence against women and the need for gender equality.

The initiative has been spearheaded by two women – Hind Alowais, vice-president of International Participants Department at Expo, and Vibha Bakshi, an award-winning film director and producer from India.

The event is expected to bring together influencers and change-makers to draw attention to the global theme of gender justice; and will support UN Women’s 16 days of activism against gender-based violence.

Film screening

It will be launched with the screening of the award-winning documentary film ‘SON RISE’ by Bakshi. The documentary won the National Film Award for Best Film (non-feature), awarded by the President of India. It has been selected by UN Women for its global #HeForShe campaign across 71 countries.

The 45-minute documentary film showcases ordinary men who have taken on the ‘extraordinary’ fight against patriarchy. “It is changing the narrative on gender injustice globally,” Bakshi told Gulf News.

Call to action

The screening will be followed by a call to action by the commissioners-general and heads of diplomatic missions based in the UAE, to stand together on the world stage, calling for an end to violence against women and promoting a safer, more equitable world.

Diplomatic representatives of over 50 countries are expected to participate in taking the pledge to lend more power to the cause and inspire guests to be the ambassadors of change.

Some countries taking part are New Zealand, India, Norway Sweden Brazil, Switzerland, Canada, Finland, Portugal, Sri Lanka, Philippines, Angola, Lithuania, Costa Rica, Bahamas, Mauritius Palau, and Nigeria, among others.

‘The second pandemic’

“The UAE attaches great importance to the issue of gender equality and women’s empowerment. Violence against women is not separate from that. It’s an issue that has held women back. It is an issue that became the second pandemic after COVID. It is time to address that,” said Alowais, who worked in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. She then became a senior gender advisor and moved on to various roles in the UN. She is now working at Expo.

“We are very lucky and honoured to have partnered with Bakshi on this initiative. We are also partnering with the United Nations, New Zealand and India pavilions to come together for this very important issue,” she added.

‘Breaking the shackles’

Talking about her national award film, Bakshi said that it is a gender rights film that has only men in it. “It has men who are from in their seat of patriarchy are breaking the shackles of patriarchy. And as we all have seen, when we talk about violence, when we talk about biases, it is not a women’s issue anymore. It is a human rights issue,” she added.

“And it is very, very important to have the men stand in solidarity with the women to create a bold and united force,” said Bakshi, who has won four National Film Awards from the Indian President.

Expo as a global platform

Alowais said violence against women is a very serious problem. “And we as part of an international community must choose platforms like Dubai Expo 2020 to shine a light on the issues that matter not only to us, but to the world. We recognise that if we want to build a more peaceful and more prosperous, more sustainable world, we have to have women be part of its design, inception and implementation,” added Alowais.

The UAE model

She continued: “The UAE is a unique model. Our Federal National Council is 15 per cent women. 60 per cent of public sector workers are women. You know straight away how empowered our women are here in the UAE. This is all thanks to the nation’s founding father the late Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan. He wanted women to be educated. Also our rulers are visionaries who have confidence in their women.”