The Higher Committee of Human Fraternity (HCHF) hosted its first-ever Women’s Virtual Forum on Monday, March 8, featuring powerhouse female leaders, experts, and activists, including Vice President of Costa Rica Epsy Campbell Barr, UAE Minister of Culture and Youth Noura Al Kaabi, UN Women Executive Director and UN Under-Secretary-General Phumzile Mlambo Ngucka, former Director-General of UNESCO and member of the Higher Committee on Human Fraternity Irina Bokova, UNFPA Executive Director Natalia Kanem, Director of the University of Maryland SAFE Center for Human Trafficking SurvivorsSusan Esserman, Secretary-General of Religions for Peace Azza Karam and Latifa Ibn Ziaten, recipient of the Zayed Award for Human Fraternity 2021.
Her Excellency Campbell Barr, a trained economist, told the forum that the COVID-19 pandemic has threatened to set back economic development for women for the first time in 30 years, and that it is “essential to make money available to women” in order for them to develop their businesses and communities amid the pandemic.
Executive Director Mlambo Ngucka called on measures and policies to be passed specifically to support women and Her Excellency Al Kaabi offered a concrete example implemented in her country.
“The UAE has a strong legal framework to ensure women are not disadvantaged in any way in the job market. I think the most important decision concerning women and the job market [made during the pandemic] was allowing mothers with children in grade six and below, or those with children of determination, to work remotely from home,” said Al Kaabi.
UNFPA Executive Director Natalia Kanem and Ambassador Susan Esserman discussed domestic violence and human trafficking, respectively.
“The respect and value of women must start with the girl child, who must be encouraged to understand that she is the equal of everyone on the planet and that her aspirations are important,” said Kanem.
Esserman warned that criminal traffickers are using the parallel economic crisis to prey on and exploit those most desperate for income, housing, and security.
“We must strengthen the social safety net. Cash assistance and other recovery programs should be designed to take into account the needs of women and others most affected by the pandemic,” said Esserman.
The forum continued with remarks from the first female Secretary-General of Religions for Peace Professor Azza Karam and activist Latifa Ibn Ziaten, recently awarded the 2021 Zayed Award for Human Fraternity.
Professor Karam urged religious and secular institutions to partner to respond to the humanitarian emergency.
“Today we have to manifest solidarity and to support the solidarity between the religious and secular, civic spaces,” she said.
Women in today’s world are strong, Latifa Ibn Ziaten, winner of the Zayed Award for Human Fraternity 2021,said, but they need support. “I wish to create a center to welcome young girls, as well as women who are facing hardship in order to provide them with the needed assistance,” she said.
Higher Committee of Human Fraternity Secretary-General Judge Mohamed Abdelsalam closed the forum, saying: “Women face several challenges in most of the world’s communities. This requires practical projects and programs to overcome such challenges and achieve tangible results on the ground. Such goal cannot be achieved without the real engagement of women.”
He further added, “This women’s forum featuring a distinguished group of prominent female leaders is just the beginning of more efforts to be made in order to empower women and protect their rights.”
Abdelsalam pointed out that His Holiness Pope Francis, His Eminence the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, and the members of the Higher Committee of Human Fraternity have a firm conviction that without women, true human fraternity can never be translated into action.