NAT 230308 Women's Day Expo CE001-1678355937612
The Firdaus Orchestra perform live at the Expo City Dubai International Women’s Day event on 8th March 2023. Video Clint Egbert/Gulf News

Dubai: The world would mean nothing without women. It’s their courage that exists in perfect harmony with amazing tenderness that saves our world every day.

That harmony was on display at the Women’s Pavilion at Expo City Dubai at an event that rang in the International Women’s Day with an all-women ensemble.

Ten-year-old Sarah Sharaf, from Mawakeb School who recently stole the hearts of many leaders at the World Government Summit (WGS), inaugurated the day’s events with yet another motivational talk. She said: “I want to help women as much as I can. Maybe my presence here is a step in that direction.”

The all-women Firdaus orchestra kick-started the afternoon, performing pieces especially designed by A.R. Rahman for the day. The group created for Expo 2020 Dubai was mentored by Oscar-winning maestro.


Preeti Laungani, Marketing, Comms and Content Manager, Firdaus Orchestra & Firdaus Studio by A.R. Rahman, said: “Our mentor AR Rahman said this was the most exciting thing for him in this decade. He said Dubai was a safe place, and this Orchestra is a statement, an equaliser.”

For their first piece, Firdaus Orchestra gave a heartfelt performance of “I Love You” by Omar Faruk Tekbilek, especially rearranged this for piece for occasion.

The piece was performed by concertmaster Olena, Amal, Hanan, Pascal, Lama, Sahar, Rebecca and Lea.

The next piece titled “Voice Of The Moon” is a piece written by Anoushka Shankar, a multiple Grammy nominated Sitar player, who was handed the art by her father, award winning Pandit Ravi Shankar.

The piece was performed by Anvita on the Sitar.

“For our final piece for the afternoon, we performed ‘The Four Seasons, Winter’ by Antonio Vivaldi. It is symbolic to the four seasons we enjoy on a healthy planet. This piece was performed by Olena, Martha, Furat, Abeer & Rumiyana,” said Laungani.

The International Women’s Day celebrations at Expo City Dubai was a platform to discuss opportunities for women’s’ participation in global climate dialogue, leading to COP28.

Reem Al Hashimy, Minister of State for International Cooperation and CEO of Expo City Dubai Authority spoke at the celebrations highlighting the role of women in the upcoming COP28.

Sanda Ojiambo, Assistant Secretary-General, UN Global Compact was also present making an impactful presentation on the climate change.

Platform for People and Planet

A numbers of speakers took to the stage to talk about gender equality and their responsibility to live sustainable. In this session changemakers from different parts of the world, working close to the ground shared their products, their actions of change.

This was followed by an informal fireside chat with Monica Woodman, Firdaus Orchestra Conductor with Sahar Khoueiry and Tamara Tomanovic, Firdaus Orchestra Musicians, about the role of the arts in advocating for climate and advancing gender balance.

In conversation with UAE Minister

Reem Al Hashimy, Minister of State for International Cooperation and CEO of Expo City Dubai Authority spoke with Nadia Verjee, Executive Director of Expo Dubai Group, sharing reflections from her own journey as a steward, giving insights into how she approaches leadership and bringing visions to life.

“I believe in people and I believe that the more of us who are believers, the stronger we will collectively achieve the best. Here are the times when we need to rise strong and use our collective forces to achieve the best for this planet.”

This discussion also explored what unites women from different walks of life and how they can support each other to build alliances around the common goal of protecting our planet.

Sanda Ojiambo, Assistant Secretary-General, UN Global Compact; Hana Al Hashimi, UAE Chief Climate Negotiator for COP27 and COP28; Reem Al Mealla, Marine Biologist and Climate Advocate and Fatema Al Mulla, Director of Partnerships, Ministry of Climate Change and Environment – UAE, shared their views on climate change and the need to act now.

The UAE Minister said: “I have three boys and they can do well to respect the planet we live in. Children force us to walk the talk. I find peace in nature,” she added.

“Would you ever have a barbecue in your house and throw the waste out in the open? So why is it OK for people to do that when they go camping in the beach or in the desert? It is not OK.”