Bahrain’s Women Pioneers: Fetooh Al Zayani

March 30, 2012 § 1 Comment

Voted as one of the top ten most influential individuals in the GCC insurance market in 2009 and awarded for “Outstanding Contribution” at GCC level in 2010, Fetooh Al Zayani has made a name for herself time and time again. Her success and fierce determination to break down barriers within the business sector and society in the Arab world has truly been an inspiration to aspiring women throughout the region.

For 30 years, she has been at the forefront of advancing women’s rights by setting an example. She showed women that they had a place in society that exceeded traditional roles. They have the opportunity to take on leadership positions in a variety of spectrums and truly make a difference in the community.

Al Zayani dedicated herself to the development of regional and international insurance and re-insurance as an executive manager. She was one of the founding team members for both the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) and Qatar Financial Centre (QFC). She also initiated and led several major projects including the first-of-its-kind web-based reinsurance trading platform “Qatarlyst,” the Qatar Finance and Business Academy and the DIFC Education Centre. While at the DIFC she played a major role in their winning of the international “Industry Initiative of the Year” award in 2005.

In regards to her incredible accomplishments as a leader in the finance world, Al Zayani stated that, “It is heart warming to see these centers becoming well established and world renowned and having attracted blue chip global players in all sectors.”

During an interview with Gulf Insider Magazine, Al Zayani credited her father for her success, saying that he was her biggest role model. She said that it was his trust and open-mindedness that influenced her to build her personality and follow her interests.

“I strongly believe that you can only thrive in what you are doing if you enjoy doing it,” she said. “Money and position should never be the object. Not every woman wants to be in business, but it is really about feeling fulfilled and understanding your purpose in life.”

Wise words from a wise, inspirational woman–a woman who taught others that the only thing keeping them from having a successful, influential role in society are themselves. Being a woman is not a limitation in itself.

Bahrain’s Women Pioneers: Maisa Hazeem

March 28, 2012 § Leave a comment

February 5, 2007, was a historical day for women throughout the Gulf, but more particularly throughout Bahrain. It marked a day where Bahraini women acquired a new role for themselves in society and among the skies.

On February 5, 2007, Maisa Hazeem was the first Bahraini woman to qualify as a First Officer for Gulf Air. According to Gulf Air Vice President of Operations, Captain Hameed Ali, Maisa was welcomed to the team after bravely coming face to face with a number of challenges. “It is by no means an ordinary achievement,” he said. “She had to pass through hurdles, which are quite challenging and demanding. The two-year training programme is a rigorous one and there are no favours or concessions shown for being a woman.”

He acknowledged that the skies were typically viewed as a male domain, something women were incapable of handling, but said that, “Maisa broke that myth by proving she is equally capable and talented,” he said. “She is a sterling example of a successful Bahraini woman, and I am sure her success will open doors for more Bahraini women who want to achieve.”

In 2000, Maisa graduated with a degree in electrical engineering from the University of Bahrain. She then began working for the Bahrain International Airport as an air traffic controller, where she stayed for two years before joining Gulf Air’s cadet pilot programme in 2004.

When she stepped out of the cockpit of the A320 aircraft, after successfully completing her final ‘line check’ on February 5, 2007, she said, “It is the proudest moment of my life… I personally think any female can do it. All one needs is sincerity, hard work, competitive spirit and the determination to succeed.”

Just like everyone else in her programme, Maisa proved herself and her ability to endure whatever obstacles came her way in order to achieve her goals. She proved that women, like men, could soar through the skies with clarity and direction.  

Bahrain’s Women Pioneers: Women in the Army and Police

March 27, 2012 § Leave a comment

Women have been appointed to a number of leadership positions within Bahrain’s society in recent years, showing the progress and development of women’s rights in the kingdom. Overall, they have gained significant recognition for their achievements in the Gulf region and beyond.

Two such women from Bahrain are Dr. Aisha Mobarak Jabir and Dr. Moza Rashid Ahmed who were the first women in the Gulf promoted to the senior rank in the Bahrain Defense Forces. Women have been involved and held prominent roles in the BDF for over 30 years. However, it was not until recently that women were granted the opportunity to receive the same training and responsibilities as their male counterparts.

In May 2004, Dr. Aisha and Dr. Moza were appointed as colonels in Bahrain’s military. According to Bahrain Defense Force Hospital Medical Services Commander Sheikh Salman, the historical day marked the government’s realization that women play a vital role in the country’s future.

At the time of their promotion, Dr. Aisha was the Chief of Doctors and the Head of Radiology and Dr. Moza was Head of the Maternity Department within the BDF Hospital Royal Medical Services.

In addition to the military, Bahrain’s police also has a female colonel. In December 2001, Dr. Col. Awatef Al Jishi was appointed to Commander of the Women Police Directorate.

Since then, women’s role in the military and police force has further expanded, showing the continued advancement of women’s rights in the region. The military has also increased the number of training programs, which have allowed women to specialize in other military activities and expand their involvement in military engineering and planning.

The Cherry Blossom Festival

March 27, 2012 § Leave a comment

Everyone in Washington, D.C.  looks forward to the annual National Cherry Blossom Festival every March and April. This year, the Festival celebrates the Centennial Anniversary of Japan’s gift of 3,000 cherry trees to the United States in 1912. Although the Festival officially began last Tuesday, it held its Opening Ceremony on March 25.

The Festival is a commemoration of the mutual friendship and amity between the United States and Japan following President Theodore Roosevelt’s help in negotiating an end to the Russo-Japanese War early in the 20th century.

On March 27, 1912, First Lady of the United States Helen Herron Taft and Viscountess Chinda, the wife of Japan ’s ambassador to the United States , planted the first of these beautiful trees in the tidal basin adjoining West Potomac Park. In 1915, the United States sent Japan a shipment of flowering Dogwood Trees as a mutual sign of friendship. The tradition of sharing continued in 1965, when First Lady Lady Bird Johnson accepted an additional 3,800 trees from Japan . Sixteen years later, the people of the United States sent saplings back to Japan following a devastating flood in the country that destroyed thousands of cherry blossoms.

The distinct pink blossoms, which are delicate and very sensitive to temperature and weather, are only in bloom for two weeks every year. The trees are considered to be in peak bloom when 70 percent of the blossoms have flowered. This year, peak bloom came early and occurred on March 20, nearly two weeks earlier than usual.

Today, over one million Americans travel to Washington, D.C. every year to behold the natural beauty of the Cherry Blossoms. This great gift from the people of Tokyo has become an unofficial celebration of the beginning of Spring. Their beauty is a wonder to behold and I would encourage all of you to visit Washington, D.C.  in the Spring time to see them for yourselves.

Bahrain’s Women Pioneers: Fatima Salman

March 26, 2012 § Leave a comment

In 2010 Fatima Salman became the first woman to be elected to a municipal council in not only Bahrain, but also in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). Salman first ran for municipal council of the Muharraq governorate in 2006. While that run was ultimately unsuccessful, the 900 votes she received, along with the support of her family and her colleagues, gave her the encouragement she needed to run again in 2010.

Not a person with great personal wealth, Salman had to sell some of her jewelry to finance her campaign in 2010. With less money than many candidates, Salman chose to focus on reaching out to people in the Muharraq community and had to forgo having a big election tent or buffet. Salman ran on a platform of hoping to upgrade and improve housing and infrastructure in Muharraq and to increase investment projects to drive more jobs for the Bahraini youth. Salman ended up winning her position in a run-off election October 30, 2010 in which she secured 52.5 percent of the votes.

Salman did not come into this role unprepared. She has more than 35 years of volunteer work and experience serving the Bahraini people in her past. Her work, and the achievement in being elected to municipal council did not go unnoticed. Salman has noted that the first person to call and congratulate her following her win was Her Royal Highness Princess Sabeeka bint Ibrahim Al Khalifa. HRH Princess Sabeeka told Salman her victory was a victory for every woman in Bahrain and the Gulf.    

Bahrain’s Women Pioneers: Sheikha Mai bint Mohammed Al Khalifa

March 23, 2012 § Leave a comment

In 2008, Sheikha Mai bint Mohammed Al Khalifa from the Kingdom of Bahrain was appointed as the first Minister of Information and Culture in a GCC country. As a woman, this unprecedented honor made her a historic icon and role model throughout the region. In 2005, Forbes Magazine included her in its list of the “Most Powerful Women in the Arab World.”

Prior to accepting the role as the Minister of Information and Culture, Sheikha Mai founded the Shaikh Ebrahim bin Mohammed Al Khalifa Center for Culture and Research in 2002. She also acted as the Assistant Undersecretary for Culture and National Heritage in Bahrain’s Ministry of Information from 2002 to 2008. Currently, she is the Minister of Culture of the Kingdom of Bahrain.

As Minister of Culture, Sheikha Mai has significantly contributed to the development and preservation of the Bahrain’s culture. She stated that her motivation derives from her desire to promote awareness about Bahrain’s heritage. “Bahrain has a particularly rich and unique history, with an archaeological heritage going back 6,000 years,” she said. “It is our duty to protect it and to make it accessible to the public.”

Utilizing her position in Bahrain’s cultural affairs, she established a sector through her project “investing in culture,” which allowed her to build a partnership between the nation’s cultural sector and the banking and financial institutions. In 2007, she opened the first International Pearl convention acknowledging the historic and economic importance of the Gulf’s oldest trade. During her speech at the opening ceremony, she said, “This initiative marks the re-initiation of our native trade which is also very close to our cultural heritage.” This was a great moment of pride for the region, for it revived a historic and prosperous business that could greatly boost the economy.

Sheikha Mai’s expertise and influence in cultural affairs developed through education and managing several cultural and art centers. She obtained her Master’s degree in Political History from Sheffield University in UK and managed the “house of poetry” and “house of press heritage.” She is also a published historian and author with several books on Bahrain’s history.

Beyond the region’s cultural sector, Sheikha Mai has played an important role for Arab women. Through her work, she has showed us the importance of education and our ability to play a significant role in society by pursuing our interests and developing professional skills in the industries of our choice. In recognition of her leadership in society and in female empowerment, Sheikha Mai has received a number of awards, including the Distinguished Arab Woman Prize in the field of Administrative Leadership awarded by the Center of Woman Studies, Paris. To this day, she continues to use her role and access to the public to influence national progress and growth.

Bahrain’s Women Pioneers: Sheikha Lulwa bint Mohammed Al Khalifa

March 22, 2012 § Leave a comment

In recognition of the important role women and children play in the development of a community, Sheikha Lulwa bint Mohammed Al Khalifa, devoted herself to advancing their rights and increasing their level of engagement in society. She invested a great deal of energy in the establishment of Bahrain’s first NGO – the Bahrain Children & Mothers Welfare Society – in 1953. Today, she serves as its President.

Since it was founded, the Association has helped encourage women to take on leadership positions in their communities and has provided assistance to patients, orphans, handicapped, elderly homes and material support for needy families. As President, Sheikha Lulwa ensured that women, children and men who helped promote and enhance her humanitarian initiatives were honored. She promoted voluntary work and solidarity in the community through such recognition as well as governmental support by expressing her constant gratitude.

Sheikha Lulwa has hosted a number of events to raise awareness about women’s and children’s rights in Bahrain and has greatly advanced the movement by placing it at the forefront of national issues. In honor of her hard work and perseverance over the last 50 years, Sheikha Lulwa was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize in 2007 by the General Secretariat of the Supreme Council for Women. She was selected for her outstanding efforts in supporting Bahraini women causes and rights as a pioneer in this domain. She has set an example for us all and was rightly praised for her work.

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