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Priyanka at Dubai forum: Stop telling women what to do

Educationists, thought leaders and celebrities are in Dubai for the sixth annual Global Education and Skills Forum

Gulf News

About GESF 2018

Organised by the Varkey Foundation, the forum is a major private sector initiative that contributes to Dubai’s growing role as a catalyst for global educational development.

The event runs usually runs for two days (March 17 and 18) and the talks are underway at Atlantis the Palm. 

Updates, videos and quotes from GESF:

On stage: Jennifer Hudson

American singer and actress Jennifer Hudson performs live at the Global Teacher Prize awards night in Dubai. 


Priyanka Chopra on feminism: "Stop telling women what to do. Let us be”

By Manjusha Radhakrishnan, Chief Reporter

Actress and activist Priyanka Chopra gave a feisty crash course on feminism and cheekily reprimanded an audience member who seemed to have skewed ideas about equality between men and women. 

His question — directed at the Quantico star and UNICEF goodwill ambassador during an interactive session held on the last day of Global Education and Skills Forum was about fairness behind men eve-teasing and getting slapped by the woman he teased lasciviously. 

“Are you actually saying that when a man eve-teases a woman, slapping him is an abuse of a man?,” asked Chopra incredulously, adding that feminism did not mean beating the [expletive] of a man or wanting to be as strong as him physically.

She was asking for equal footing when it came to matters of cerebral rather than physical strength. 

“Feminism is not about berating men or putting them down. What we are saying is that let us have equal opportunities. Let us get ahead of the game on our merit, while you [men] support us,” said Chopra, asking if he was now a reformed feminist. 

“Give the woman the ability to make choices without being judged,” said Chopra.

The articulate actress, whose journey from Bareilly to Bollywood and Hollywood is legendary, spoke about how she was never born with the proverbial silver spoon but had the tenacity to chase her dreams. 

“Nowadays, the audiences are too intelligent. They know who they want to watch. So you don’t have to be the prettiest or the most intelligent, people may still want to watch you,” said Chopra, who described herself as a fluke.

She also discussed the  burning topic of #MeToo movement and #TimeIsUp movement which called out sexual predators in Hollywood. Those protests are symbolic that women’s voices won’t be silenced anymore, said the actress.

“We are not OK with it and we are going to stand up for our rights … It’s such a powerful time to be an artist,” said Chopra. 

Chopra also implored every privileged, educated members of the society to be sensitised toward the global humanitarian crisis in war-ravaged nations. The actress also revealed that she is in talks with the UNICEF to plan a field visit to the Rohingya refugee camps.

“Have we become de-sensitised to kids washing up ashore and the scenes of children being displaced?,” asked Chopra.

Live with Wassim Akram

Live with Nicolas Sarkozy

Fomer President of France Nicolas Sarkozy tells GESF delegates that the best school is where students are happy "because we can't learn anything if we are not happy." He says schools today are out of sync with the world, illustrating his point by saying that students with best scores are not the ones with best careers.

Meditation time

A meditation session breaks out mid forum.


Live with Jennifer Hudson

Jennifer Hudson is the next speaker. During her talk, she breaks out into song and talks about how Whitney Houston is her idol to this day. She discusses the importance of incorporating real life into a "book-smart" education. 

Jennifer Hudson

Live with Brian Lara, cricketer, at #GESF

Live with Suits actors Gina Torres and Sarah Rafferty

By Manjusha Radhakrishnan, Chief Reporter

They may look like they have nothing in common, but West Indian cricketer Brian Lara and the stars of the hit TV series of Suits Sarah Rafferty and Gina Torres were united in their goal of stressing the importance of education and chasing your dreams.

In a session, led by comedian and impressionist Rory Bremner held at the Global Education & Skills Forum, the actors looked back at their eventful journey and their childhoods.

Rafferty, whose mother is a teacher, spoke about how being empathetic has helped her tremendously in her craft. Asked if her mother as an educator had a tougher job than Rafferty who is a mother of two children, she said “certainly my mother.”

“She was so passionate about teaching … When I was a child I was sad that my mother wasn’t playing with me and then I remember being in eighth grade and seeing the students she taught and that made a difference,” said Rafferty, adding that she took her own daughter to her mother’s classroom before she retired two years ago. 

Torres also spoke about how her childhood in New York City in Bronx and how it had shaped her. 

Former Prime Minister of Britian also made an appearance and spoke about the importance of education and said that the biggest injustice in the world today is denying the rights to education 

“Education has always been a passion for me and this is one of the important conferences in the world today … Education is the key to the future. If you look at the world today, there is no country that can succeed without educating their world today. If we are not educating younger minds then we are not giving them a chance in life. I had a privileged education and without it I would never have done the things I did,” said Blair.

Cricketer Lara also spoke about how being tenacious helped him conquer the world of cricket.

Live with comedian Rory Bremner and former British Prime Minister, Tony Blair

Former UK prime minister Tony Blair says during GESF session if he was back in power, he would take a more revolutionary approach towards the education sector, which he says has perhaps the single most transformative power for change to national development. 

Tony Blair




Live with  Al Gore 

Former US vice-president Al Gore tells GESF about 'flying rivers' and 'rain bombs' caused by 'systemic' changes in atmosphere, triggered by climate change.

Celebrities speak at GESF

‘Next Billion’ Edtech Prize

On Saturday, Varkey Foundation launched the inaugural ‘Next Billion’ Edtech Prize to recognise the most innovative technology destined to have a radical impact on education in low income and emerging world countries.

This new prize will identify, spotlight and celebrate the world’s leading edtech startups that have shown through ingenuity and innovation that they can improve learning in parts of the world where there is limited access to good quality teaching.


The two-day forum will generate cutting-edge insights into some of the key developments shaping education across the world.

The GESF will conclude with an awards ceremony highlighted by the $1 million Global Teacher Prize 2018, the fourth time that it is being awarded. The thematic focus of this year’s GESF of preparing young people for the future echoes the aims of educational initiatives announced by Dubai’s leadership.

These include the Arab Reading Challenge and Translation Challenge launched by His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai.

Education in Dubai

World-class education is a vital pillar of Dubai’s vision for transforming itself into a knowledge-based society. 

In 2007, Dubai created the world’s largest free zone dedicated to higher education and the pursuit of intellectual growth — the Dubai International Academic City (DIAC).

Home to numerous regional and international colleges and universities, it serves over 24,000 students from all around the world with more than 400 undergraduate and post-graduate programmes.