Unleashing Women's Economic Potential

The Middle East and North Africa Businesswomen’s Network (MENA BWN) convened more than 350 participants at its inaugural Forum, Unleashing the Economic Potential of Women in the MENA Region, on April 12 and 13 in Dubai, UAE. Under the patronage of H.E. Sheikha Lubna Al-Qasimi, UAE Minister of Foreign Trade, the Forum was a unique peer-to-peer event that offered businesswomen of the MENA region the specific, hands-on skills and contacts necessary to promote economic growth in their businesses and in the region. The Forum attendees were businesswomen, a range of entrepreneurs, professionals, small-to-medium size-business owners, and leaders of family businesses. 

With support from global partners, ExxonMobil and Vital Voices, and the Dubai Business Women’s Council as the local host, the Forum was designed as an interactive, dynamic platform for enhancing business cooperation and providing opportunities for exchange of ideas and networking among businesswomen and entrepreneurs in the MENA region. Delegations from the MENA BWN's 10 hubs represented Palestine, Bahrain, Lebanon, Algeria, Dubai, Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, Qatar, and Tunisia, along with businesswomen from other countries like Saudi Arabia and Libya. 

The Forum was an opportunity to mobilize the MENA BWN, key stakeholders and partners to produce a strong agenda of future regional initiatives. Based on the Forum’s outcomes, the MENA BWN strategic focus for 2012 is mentoring and access to capital. The Network is planning to expand its mentorship program across its regional hubs and will engage Vital Voices for its global expertise in that effort. The MENA BWN, Vital Voices and the International Finance Corporation will also investigate the capital needs of entrepreneurs, women businessowners and family businesses in the region. A forthcoming survey will be conducted by the Network to determine those needs and to inform the approach to banks and capital providers regarding access to capital for MENA businesswomen.

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