The Dubai Women’s College (DWC) held its annual, “Insight Dubai Conference 2012“, from March 18th – 22nd. The conference invites 65 international female students from over 35 different countries to join 65 DWC students for a week of discussion on global issues, interactive role plays, Shariah court simulations, debates and inspirational speakers. Their approach is that because the world is becoming increasingly globalized, it’s important to engage students in intercultural dialogue to address issues of citizenship, tolerance, acceptance of others and so on.
Sahar Dwaikat, FWEN alumna and owner of Flyer Ad Company, was chosen to attend the conference. The thought of traveling outside of Palestine for the first time, and alone no less, brought her mixed feelings. Nonetheless, she was eager to seize the opportunity to participate in a leadership training amongst a very bright and driven group of young women. What she expected from her journey far out-weighed what she had imagined.
On Sunday, March 18th the conference began with orientation and group (themed by colors) introductions, of which Sahar was a member of the “orange group”. Sahar and her group became fast-friends – Badriya from the Emirates, Kassidy and Zaynab from the US, Marta from Italy, and Huriya from Ethiopia. Orientation was followed by icebreakers, then opening addresses by some of DWC’s most esteemed academics and staff members. Prior to lunch there was an Emirati cultural film screening: Finding Mr. & Mrs Right. The film detailed the trials of finding a mate in the Arab world while following cultural and religious norms. After lunch and some mingling, the girls returned to the conference to participate in an intercultural intelligence quiz to learn more about their cohorts. Soon after that they broke back into their color groups to prepare for their Shariah Court and Inheritance mock trials to be held the following day. They ended their busy day with a lovely BBQ dinner and culture quiz, which included questions of geography, revered women of the world and Emirati culture.
On Monday, March 19th the conference schedule was just as engaging as the last. They started the day off by continuing to plan for the mock trials. The girls took a short break to receive some great firsthand knowledge on child custody law by Ammar Shams, Regional Head of Corporate Sustainability for HSBC. Finally the girls showcased their Shari’ah inheritance simulations, followed by debriefing on each of the cases. They ended their night with a delicious dinner and tour of the Bastakiya (historical part of Dubai), and enjoyed an Abra [boat] ride.
The conference presented a lighter day on Tuesday, taking the girls around Dubai for a tour. First they visited the Federal National Council for a talk on the “Development of Arabic Governance Systems”. After a lunch break the conference attendees set out for a tour of Shaikh Zayed Grand Mosque, followed by exciting trips to the Dubai Mall, Burj Khalifa (with marvelous views of all of Dubai from the 124th floor!) and Musical Fountain.
It was back to business on Wednesday, as the girls discussed and planned for group human trafficking projects to be presented later in the day. Dr. Anita Sunil of the Dubai Foundation for Women and Children joined the girls to shed more light on the issue. Each of the groups presented speeches on human trafficking along with posters to supplement their positions. As a treat after dinner the girls were whisked away on a desert safari, off-roading and dancing to world music through the desert night!
On the final day of the conference the attendees were sent off with a warm farewell from Sheikh Nahayan Mabarak Al Nahayan – Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research Chancellor, Ms. Raymonde Folco – Former member of Parliament of Canada, Nima Abu Warda – Presenter of BBC World’s weekly financial program of Middle east, and Rana Korayem – member of UN Gender Equality entity of Egypt. In the ceremony attendees were awarded a certificate, and given the opportunity to share their experience and insights on the conference. The week ended perfectly with a Dhow Cruise and dinner on the sea.
Prior to her travels Sahar was filled with anxiety and little apprehension. Now she says her next stop is the US, though she also received several invitations to visit all of her orange group friends in Italy and Ethiopia as well! Her biggest feat was “discovering when taxi drivers were taking [her] to a destination in roundabout ways to increase the fare charge”, and scolding them. “Before I was afraid to meet new people, but now I have no problems. It’s normal for me to connect and network with strangers. I feel free.” No doubt this will be a plus for her Flyer Ad business, as she proved during her visit when promoting her business and involvement with the Cherie Blair Foundation through Fostering Women Entrepreneurs in Nablus at TYO. Moreover, Sahar was very pleased to report that she was able to discuss how people live in Palestine, problems presented by the Occupation and gender roles. The confidence she found in herself while on this trip has propelled her to seek opportunities to study abroad for her MBA in the US or UK. She has fallen in love with traveling, and wishes to explore the world while promoting her business and raising money for it along the way.
Mabruk Sahar! We hope to find you and other FWEN Alumna many more opportunities to go abroad and seek educational and leadership skills.
Samin is The Women’s Group Program Coordinator