‘Making it happen’ for women

The final session of the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature saw a packed audience attend a discussion titled ‘International Women’s Day: Make it Happen!’ led by some of the world's best broadcasters, journalists, authors and politicians. 

A panel discussion titled ‘International Women’s Day: Make it Happen!’, brought together some of the world’s most successful businesswomen and authors to celebrate women’s achievements and discuss solutions to overcoming persisting challenges.

The discussion kicked off with remarks from Her Excellency Sheikha Lubna Bint Khalid Al Qasimi, the Minister for International Cooperation and Development in the UAE. Sheikha Lubna recounted her experience and the hurdles she had overcome while working in the private and public sectors. The panel discussion was held on the last day of the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature on Saturday.

“Women have taken major steps here in their careers,” she said. “One issue is equal pay that is still a struggle to a lot of women. When that (equality) happens, then we have made it.”

For Jenni Murray, one of Britain’s most respected radio and TV broadcasters and regular presenter of Radio 4′s Woman’s Hour since 1987, “making it happen is when men and women across the world have equal opportunities and equal choices.”

Murray stressed the importance of educating girls, the need for social change and praised the UAE’s decision that made it mandatory for corporations and government agencies to include women on their boards.

Award-winning historian, author and broadcaster Dr. Bettany Hughes spent a big part of her career studying women around the world and takes a historian’s long-term approach to current challenges facing them.

“In order to solve the problem, we have to understand how deep its roots are. It’s up to us, not to them. It’s going to take a long time to change,” she said. “We can start by writing women into history and into political history,” pointing out that most documented history neglects the role of women. 

Nigerian-born award-winning author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie joined in the discussion, arguing for greater choices for women and for men to take up greater family responsibilities.

“The ‘it’ is we need to get to a place where the responsibilities of family life shouldn’t be restricted to women,” Adichie said. “What we need to do is raise a girl not to be likable, but to be herself. We need to change perception in society.”

Women represent almost 50 per cent of society and it’s important for mothers to play a positive role in raising their children, Sheikha Lubna said.

“Boys are brought up by their mothers. Women have to create that balance at home, to treat their daughters and sons equally,” she said.

Murray said she believed it was an issue of failure in the education system. “We’ve spent years trying to understand what we mean by feminism…what we haven’t thought about is educating boys and what they mean by masculinity,” said Murray.