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Women Power: Talent to succeed

Mona Al Marri is a frank woman. She admits to being aggressive, ambitious and self-confident. As executive manager of Dubai Press Club, she has used her tact and talent to place Dubai on the map of international journalism.

Gulf News

Women, known or unknown, have a special presence and influence. Every week, meet a different woman who symbolises, in very special ways, what being a successful woman means

Mona Al Marri is a frank woman. She admits to being aggressive, ambitious and self-confident. As executive manager of Dubai Press Club, she has used her tact and talent to place Dubai on the map of international journalism.

Though she is aware of the stir she has caused in her own social circles, Mona feels she owes it to the next generation to give them a positive role model.

She believes she has earned her position through determination, hard work and by making most of the opportunities that came her way.

"As soon as I graduated from the Higher Colleges of Technology in 1996, I began working for the Dubai Shopping Festival. At first I was doing everything," says Mona.

However, it was the media centre where Mona particularly enjoyed working most. "Part of my job was to be a tour guide for visiting journalists and to gather and provide information that they required. Sometimes I was going out late at night, and without a driving licence, I had to rely on taxis at all odd hours," says Mona.

Her parents brushed aside some resistance from an elder brother because they understood her dedication towards work. Now, when people talk about her having a comfortable job, Mona makes sure they know how hard she worked to get there.

At 20, Mona took charge of the marketing and media centre of DSF. She found herself dealing with Arabic editorials, brochures, posters and other marketing activities. She took some media courses to improve her capabilities.

In 1998, when Dubai Summer Surprises was introduced, Mona became the project manager. "This was an added responsibility, but I knew I would rise to the challenge," she says. By 1999, Mona felt she had reached a stage where she could take overall charge of marketing.

"By forming an in-house public relations team of professionals and students, we saved Dh400,000 for the Dubai Summer Surprises," she says.

Mona's success did not go unnoticed. When General Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai and UAE Minister of Defence, asked Mohammed Al Gergawi, Chairman, Dubai Development and Investment Authority, to form a team to work on the Dubai Press Club idea, Mona was an integral part of it.

"But I really never thought that I would be asked to run the place. I was so happy working in the DSF that it was a hard decision taking up the new assignment," says Mona.

She spent two weeks in the Washington Press Club to learn the ropes of the job. At the launch of the Press Club in November 1999, Mona's desire to succeed was fuelled by discouraging critics.

"I heard a lot of comments about how young and inexperienced I was, and also the fact that I wasn't really a journalist by profession," she says.

One of Mona's goals is to prove herself, especially to those who underestimate her.

Within three years, "We have launched two major media projects - the Arab Journalism Award and the Arab Media Summit. Moreover, I have invited 20 press clubs around the world and we have formed the International Association of Press Clubs, of which Dubai is the permanent secretariat," she points out.

Mona has kept in mind the basic idea of promoting communication and liaison with the international press. She has managed to invite several well-known media figures as speakers to the Dubai Press Club.

"In April we had invited Thomas Friedman of New York Times, and Bill Bradley, vice-president of the Washington Post," she mentions.

Her immediate goal is to make Dubai Press Club an even bigger and internationally-renowned organisation. Eventually, Mona would like to immerse herself in social work, helping women reach their full potential.

"A lot of proficient women have been wrongly placed. I hope to create a data bank of these talented individuals, so that if a certain job opening comes up, I can offer the right person for the task," she says.

While most of her peers are getting married and starting families, Mona is busy travelling the world and hosting international seminars. "Of course, I see myself as a wife and mother in the future, but till then I am happy to give my 200 per cent to my work," says Mona.

She does not believe that society discriminates against strong, aggressive women. Her biggest fear is that young UAE national women do not realise the opportunities that are passing them by.

"When the government is willing to support us and society backs us then why should we still hold back? Young women need to use skills to increase the pace of technological improvement and progress within this country," she emphasises.

Blunt and to the point, Mona has brought a freshness to the image of the UAE national woman.

As she says: "I feel proud when international journalists are so obviously shocked to meet a well-educated Arab woman. It means I am changing the image that the rest of the Arab world and the international press have about us."