By Neil King
Wife of former British prime minister Tony Blair claims Sheikha Fatima bint Mubarak and Sheikha Lubna al Qasimi are setting example for businesswomen in Arab world
Cherie Blair, the wife of former British prime minister Tony Blair, has aired her views on the issue of female entrepreneurship in the Middle East.
Quoted in a recent article published on Newsweek.com, the prominent barrister cites Sheikha Fatima bint Mubarak and Sheikha Lubna al Qasimi as beacons for the region’s women, claiming that significant advances are taking place across the Arab world.
Blair singles out Sheikha Fatima as having spearheaded education for women in the UAE since the 1970s and for having pushed in 2004 for the appointment of the UAE’s first female cabinet minister, Sheikha Lubna Al Qasimi. Today Sheikha Lubna is minister of development and international cooperation.
Further in the article, Blair notes that the UAE has the best ranking out of 136 countries for the ratio of girls to boys in education, according to a report by the World Economic Forum, and that the country has implemented various reforms to encourage greater lending for both men and women.
On the back of such information, she adds that figures indicate more than 20,000 companies in the UAE are owned by Emirati women, and this number continues to grow by five to ten percent each year.
Blair says women entrepreneurs in the region need the right kind of support and network to launch and run their own businesses, calling for assistance not only with start-up capital, but mentoring and training.
Discussing the social and business advancements of women, she says that one main factor is that more women hold positions of authority in the region than ever before, naming Jodan’s Queen Rania and Queen Noor, and Qatar’s Sheikha Moza.
Despite her positivity towards the trend for females in the Arab world, Blair also explains the gap in economic equality still remains wide, and the full potential of local, regional and global economies remains unachievable when half the population is not engaged and contributing.
But she adds that women in the region have found fertile ground for SMEs, with many overcoming barriers to capital.
Concluding, she says the signs are positive for Arab and Muslim women, and while the necessary changes will not come overnight, the arc is bending in the right direction towards gender equality.