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Women in Business forum kicks off in Damascus

Women in Business forum kicks off in Damascus

The Women in Business International Forum kicks off its annual conference in Damascus this weekend, under the sponsorship of Syrian first lady Asma Assad. Women in Business International, a nonprofit organization that has encouraged networking between businesswomen from the U.K. and the Middle East, has held its annual forum in London over the last seven years. The forum aims to build networks and partnerships between Arab businesswomen in the U.K. and the Arab world, develop skills and promote investment in Syria and other Arab countries.

This year’s forum, titled “Participation by Skills and Knowledge in the World Economy,” is being organized in cooperation with MAWRED, a Syrian nonprofit organization started by Assad and dedicated to helping women in business, the British Syrian Society and Eligo International, an international public relations company based in London.

The two-day conference is being held at the Omayyad Conference Palace in Damascus.

Egyptian first lady Suzanne Mubarak will join Assad in delivering the opening address this morning.

Also attending the conference will be Emine Erdogan, the wife of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and former Pakistani Premier Mohtarama Benazir Bhutto. Other prominent women expected to attend include Hussa Sad al-Sabah, the president of the Arab Businesswomen Council in Kuwait, and British MP Christine McCafferty.

The conference, which organizers say is expected to attract some 1,000 delegates from around the Middle East, Europe and Asia, will include panels on Muslim women in business, marketing and branding, public relations, and IT.

Dr. Fawaz Akhras, a prominent Syrian cardiologist and Assad’s father, will lead a panel on developments in health care. Workshops are also being held on starting a business, banking and financial planning, competing in international markets and managing a work-life balance.

“The conference is going to provide Syrian women with an opportunity to see good examples of successful women from both inside Syria and outside,” said Dima Akkad, the general representative for MAWRED. “It is an opportunity to share knowledge and experience and for Syrian women to network.”

Ahmad Suleiman, the founder of Women in Business International, believes that bringing the conference to Syria will also help change stereotypes about Arab and Syrian women.

“Misconceptions and stereotypes abound in the media about Arab women and the value given to them in society,” said Suleiman.

“The Women in Business International event in Syria will bury many of these prejudices as delegates can see a vibrant, dedicated business and professional community of women in Syria that have over the years had the equality of opportunity to participate in society.”

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