Final Report of the 2ndBusinesswomen Forum in Islamic Countries
Kuala Lumpur – Malaysia, 8-10 December, 2006
In response to the recommendations of the First Businesswoman’s Forum of Islamic countries held in Sharjah from 1st to 3rd March, 2005, and at the invitation of the Malay Chamber of Commerce, the Islamic Chamber organized the 2nd Businesswomen Forum of Islamic countries in Kuala Lumpur from 8th to 10th December 2006, corresponding to 17-19 Zulkaedah 1427. In organizing the Second Forum, the Islamic Chamber had the collaboration of the Islamic Development Bank (IDB) and the Special Unit for South-South Cooperation, United Nations Development Programme, (SU/SSC-UNDP). The Forum’s theme was “Creating Opportunities through Networking”.
The Forum was attended by over 200 delegates representing 40 OIC Member Countries and International Organizations, including the Islamic Development Bank (IDB); the Special Unit for South-South Cooperation, United Nations Development programme (UNDP); United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM); International Fund For Agricultural Development (IFAD); International Organization for Sustainable Development (IOSD); Femmes Africa Solidarite (FAS); and the West African Women Association (WAWA), (list of participants attached).
During the 3-day Forum the participating businesswomen made considerable progress towards identifying some common challenges they have faced in entering into the arena of industry and trade; in determining their needs for support; in networking among themselves, exchanging experiences and know-how in the establishment and operation of businesses; and in identifying new markets, thereby expanding contacts and business ties amongst their enterprises.
The Forum was inaugurated on Friday, December 08, 2006, at Putrajaya World Trade Center (PWTC), with recitation from the Holy Quran, followed by the following statements:
- Introductory address by Datuk Wan Albakri Wan Mohamad Nor, Vice President, Malay Chamber of Commerce.
- Welcome address by Ms. Attiya Nawazish Ali, Assistant Secretary General for Coordination, Islamic Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
- Message from His Excellency Professor Dr. Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, Secretary General, Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC).
- Message from Mr. Yiping Zhou, Director Special Unit for South-South Cooperation, UNDP.
- Message from His Excellency Dr. Ahmed Mohammad Ali, the President of Islamic Development Bank (IDB).
- Inaugural address by the Chief Guest Honorable Dato’ Khamsiyah Yeop, Deputy Minister of Malaysia Entrepreneur Cooperative Development (MECD).
The Forum elected the following office bearers:
- Chairperson – H.R.H. Princes Mudi Bint Mansour Bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud
- Vice Chairperson – Ms. Attiya Nawazish Ali
- Rapporteur – Mr. Syed Shahid Husain
Afterwards, a drafting committee was set up which comprised of the following:
- Mrs. Sharifah Amina Al Khared
- Mrs. Aminata Cocker
- Dr. Syed Azhar Ibne Hasan
PRESENTATION OF PAPERS:
In six sessions, the participants presented papers describing the role and issues being faced by businesswomen in the Islamic countries, with proposals for remedial measures. Each session concluded with discussions, and question and answers.
The 1stSESSION chaired by Mr. Syed Shahid Husain, Special Advisor, Special Unit for South-South Cooperation, UNDP, discussed the theme “Women entrepreneurs in a knowledge based market economy: A question of challenges and opportunities”.
- Dr. Haifa Abu Ghazelah, Regional Programme Director, United Nations Fund for the Development of Women (UNIFEM), ArabStates, Amman, the keynote speaker, addressed the forum on “Challenges being faced by women associations and mainstream organizations in enhancing the role of women entrepreneurs”. In her presentation, she identified the legal, societal, cultural and other impediments being commonly faced by women entrepreneurs in most Islamic countries, and explained how, in her experience, women organizations have assisted businesswomen in overcoming these issues, and promoted their interests in the formulation of their countries’economic and social development plans and strategies.
- Ms. Roberta Mean, Coordinator, Femmes Africa Solidarite (FAS) presented her paper on “Women Entrepreneurs’ Role in knowledge-based market economy-levelling the field”. She highlighted some of the positive impact of the activities of women entrepreneurs on a country’s GDP, and its overall economic growth, including the wider social sector, and, within it, in the fields of education and health.
- Ms. Jehan Ara, Chief Executive Officer, Enabling Technologies, Karachi, in her presentation, focused the “Role of technology in promoting women’s participation in knowledge -based market economy”. She highlighted the economies and stepped-up efficiencies that have been, and can be further, attained by the use of e-commerce and ICT devices in individual commercial operations.
- Mrs. Zamira Akbagysheva, President, Congress of Women of the KyrgyzRepublic, in her paper on “Using Internet to expand business beyond borders”, discussed the opportunities now available to businesswomen in terms of micro-credit from international organizations and NGOs, as well as those being provided by business incubators.
The 2ndSESSION “Sharing Success” was chaired by Mrs. Hazimah Zaiuddin, President of the Peniagawati organization, Kuala Lumpur.
- Madam Fatimah Al-Jadaa (Palestine), recipient of IDB Award, in her presentation, shared with the audience her success story of developing her business from the single sewing machine she once operated alone, to the large-scale industrial enterprise, with five branches, she now has, employing more than 800 workers in the occupied territories of Palestine.
- Eng. Widad Yaqoob, in her presentation, described how she entered into the business arena, and how her small construction company grew into a giant group of companies with diversed fields of production including oil, gas, refined oil products, infrastructure projects and several others.
The 3rdSESSION was chaired by Mrs. Nasreen Awal Mintoo, President, Women Entrepreneurs Association of Bangladesh, and the theme of the session was “Women Associations and Business Networks – their success in promoting women entrepreneurs”.
- Begum Salma Ahmed, President, Pakistan Association of Women Entrepreneurs (PAWE), in her paper, “Role and Achievement of Businesswomen Councils in the Islamic Countries” highlighted the role of businesswomen’s councils and both the individual and collective benefits that can be derived from having such councils.
- Ms. Dina Aljaflah, Board Members Emirates Businesswomen’s Council, Dubai, presented her paper on the “Role of women associations in U.A.E., and their efforts in promoting women entrepreneurs”. She described, in some detail, the progress of these efforts, and the ambitious plans for further expansion of business related activities, including the establishment of an ambitious but carefully planned HumanitarianCity in Dubai.
- Madam Laila Sahlab Karamy, President, Lebanese Businesswomen’s Associations, in her paper “The value of Businesswomen in Lebanon” highlighted the role of businesswomen, in the designing and implementation of projects of economic development in the country, with positive effect on national income, despite the trying circumstances Lebanon was passing through.
- Mrs. Ragia Mohamed Ebdelhalim, Executive Committee Member, Businesswomen’s Secretariat, Sudanese Businessmen and Employers Federation, in her paper, she spoke of the expanding investment opportunities in her country, and the incentives to private and foreign investors being provided by the State. She also highlighted the efforts and contributions of the Sudanese businesswomen towards the progress of the country’s economy, which, by all accounts was fast growing.
The 4thSESSION was chaired by Dr. Haifa Abu Ghazelah, Regional Programme Director, United Nations Fund for the Development of Women (UNIFEM), Arab States Regional Office, Amman, and the theme of the session was “Outreach and support plans, projects, products and services for women entrepreneurship development”.
- Mr. Syed Shahid Husain, Special Advisor, Special Unit for South-South Cooperation, UNDP, in his presentation on “South-South modalities in the promotion of women’s enterprises in the OIC Member Countries”, gave an overview of the institutional arrangements in the United Nations System in support and promotion of South-South Cooperation, and the programmes and facilities available for strengthening businesswomens’ institutions under these arrangements.
- Ms. Mariam A. Awad, Consultant, International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), in her presentation, focused on “IFAD’s programme for rural women entrepreneurs”, and how this may be accessed in supporting and strengthening women’s enterprises at the country level.
- Mrs. Khady Fall Tall, Chairperson, West African Women Association (WAWA), highlighted the activities of the WAWA and the women support program in the countries of the West Africa sub-region, and some of the difficulties encountered in accessing microfinance facility by businesswomen in these countries.
- Mr. Syed Zahid Ali, Secretary General, International Organization for Sustainable Development (IOSD) highlighted the services of IOSD in education and briefed the particpants about the salinet features of the Cooperation Agreement signed between ICCI and IOSD.
The 5thSESSION was chaired by Dato’ Kamilia Dato’ Ibrahim, Director, KUB Malaysia Berhad, and theme of the session was “Women Associations and Business Networks – their success in promoting women entrepreneurs”.
- Mrs. Nasreen Awal Mintoo, Women’s Entrepreneurs Association of Bangladesh (WEAB), in her presentation, examined the roles played by the government, private sector and research institutions in effectively supporting women entrepreneurship in the country, and made recommendations for action aimed at popularizing business activity among women and facilitating their access to finance, and know-how.
- Mrs. Aygun Denli, Azerbaijan Chamber of Commerce and Industry, discussed some of the key factors limiting female participation in the economic life of her country and made recommendations for the kind of interventions needed to ensure a stronger support for the improvement of women entrepreneurship and for fully integrating it into the economic life of the country.
- Mrs. Asekenye Joyce, Director, Uganda National Chamber of Commerce and Industry, in her country presentation gave an overview of the “Status of Women Entrepreneurship in Uganda”, explaining how the sustained growth in women entrepreneurship had been attained in her country over the past 10 years.
Owing to time constraint, the following delegates summarized their presentations on the understanding that the full text of their papers would be available to the participants and included in the published report of the Forum:
- Mrs. Abulgafarova Gulnara, Kazakhstan Chamber of Commerce and Industry
- Mrs. Shaira Saleem, Maldives’ Chamber of Commerce
- Mrs. Djindah Bal, Mauritanian Chamber of Commerce
- Mrs. Akoa Metugu Abena Angeline, Board Member, Cameroon Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
- Madame Candide Leguede, President, Association of Women Entrepreneurs of TOGO
- Mr. Charles O. Iyangbe, Agro-enterprise Advisor, Int. Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), Nigeria
- Madam Hind Abdel Jaber, President, Jordan Federation of Business & Professional Women
- Madam Sahoua Rachelle Guede, Coted’Ivoire
- Mrs. Damira Mirzakhlilova, Uzbeistan
- Mrs. Djenebou Dite Mouye Sonogo, Mali
- Ms. Lejla Sunagic, BosniaHerzegovina
The 6thSESSION was chaired by Begum Salma Ahmed, President, Pakistan Women Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and the theme of the session was Financing for Women Owned Businesses “How can the capital and technical support providers enhance their service, to promote the advancement of women entrepreneurs in knowledge based market economy”.
- Mr. Mohd. Yusof Abd. Rahman, Director, Finance & Investment Division, YPEIM, gave paper presentation on “Ar-Rahnu Scheme YPEIM”.
- Mr. Ahmed Saleh Hariri, Director, Islamic Development Bank Regional Office, Kuala Lumpur presented his paper on “Services of the Islamic Development Bank”.
- Mrs. Shengul Kirmizi (Nedjip), representing the Turkish Cyprus Chamber of Commerce, presented her paper on “Entrepreneurship in Northern Cyprus and the role of women”. With statistical details she explained that while women were increasingly taking on roles in the country’s political, social and economic spheres, they have still a long way to go in these directions. She voiced three particular expectations from the Second Businesswomen’s Forum: first to learn from other countries’ experiences new ways of enhancing women’s and entrepreneurship in TRNC; second, to establish contacts and business relations with businesswomen in other Islamic countries; and third, to develop communication especially with women engaged in the banking sector in those countries.
A number of bilateral and multilateral meetings were held on December 9, 2006. Businesswomen from almost all the participating countries met with their opposite numbers from other participating countries and discussed possibilities of further expanding trade among themselves. A number of representatives shared the view that the greater majority of the projects owned and operated by businesswomen are largely of Cottage or small-scale size, and need special consideration under IDB Line of Financing, and microfinance loans. Some businesswomen indicated that they were seeking not just finance, but also joint venture partnerships, technology transfers, market facilities and so forth. They requested the Islamic Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ICCI) for an early establishment of a web portal, and the posting of their project proposals on that portal. In this connection, informal consultations between the representatives of ICCI Secretariat, and the SU/SSC (UNDP), led to the possibility of collaboration between the two organizations in developing innovative market-oriented facilities for on-line trading and partnership along the lines the businesswomen were seeking.
FINAL REPORT AND DECLARATION:
The forum encouraged and stimulated in-depth discussions among all the participants and based upon the presentations and views expressed, it adopted the following Declarations:
We the Delegates of the 2nd Businesswomen Forum in Islamic Countries, gathered in Kuala Lumpur – Malaysia from 8th to 10th December 2006 agreed:
- RECOGNISING the efforts of the Islamic Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ICCI), the Islamic Development Bank (IDB), Special Unit for South-South Cooperation, UNDP, United Nations Fund for the Development of Women (UNIFEM), and Malay Chamber of Commerce Malaysia in organizing the 2nd Businesswomen Forum.
- ACKNOWLEDGING the initiative of the Islamic Chamber in providing a common platform for Businesswomen of the Islamic Countries.
- APPRECIATING the attention given by the international and regional organizations by strengthening the capacity of the Islamic Chamber through financial, technical and substantive support.
- NOTING that lack of communication, information and financing, are some of the main obstacles being faced by businesswomen in their efforts to strengthen and expand their businesses.
- CONSIDERING the need for closer collaboration among businesswomen of Islamic Countries in a suitable institutional setting.
- ACKNOWLEDGING the need for stepped up efforts towards networking among businesswomen of Islamic Countries, and through the establishment of appropriate database mechanism in collaboration with UNDP with particular focus on Small and Medium Enterprises.
- BELIEVING that pragmatic and action-oriented programs, with effective implementation mechanisms within a well-planned time-frame, would open new horizons for Businesswomen in Islamic Countries, and should lead especially to the upliftment of the poor and marginalized, and help in sustaining economic cooperation through strong business partnerships among businesswomen.
- HIGHLIGHTING the importance of organizing orientation and training programs on regular basis for enhancing entrepreneurial skills, enabling women to be equipped with competencies and skills in global marketing, brand development, strategic management, franchising and alliances.
- ENCOURAGING the setting up of SMEs for businesswomen in Islamic countries and granting them appropriate opportunities to enhance their competitiveness in order to access foreign markets.
- SUPPORTING the organization of exhibitions, trade fairs and trade delegations, and providing opportunities for networking and business partnerships regionally and globally.
- REITERATING the need for the Islamic Development Bank and other Financial Institutions to focus increasingly on micro-credit for the rural areas of OIC Member Countries, specially in Africa, to facilitate purchase of agricultural inputs and start-up of small businesses in the rural and urban areas that could galvanize the economy and help reduce poverty.
- EMPHASIZING the need for councils, federations, Chambers of Commerce and other business organizations, as well as educational institutions in Islamic countries, to involve businesswomen in training and skills development programs in order to enhance their expertise and capacity in conducting business activities.
- NOTING the recommendations of the first OIC Conference on the role of Women in the development of the OIC Member States
- CALL UPON the OIC, its institutions, the United Nations, its funds programs and agencies, and Member Chambers of Commerce to consider the possibilities of support to institutional arrangements aimed at identifying constraints and obstacles being faced by businesswomen in Islamic Countries, and addressing these through appropriate remedial measures.
- ENCOURAGE businesswomen in Islamic Countries to continue strengthening strategic alliances and networking among themselves by forging viable business partnerships and other measures aimed at bridging the gap among them.
- REITERATE their call on IDB and other relevant financial institutions to accelerate the access of businesswomen in Islamic Countries to financial resources, including micro credit loans on easy terms.
- NOTE the usefulness of the Businesswomen Forums organized by the ICCI, and express the hope for their continuation, in partnership with other Forums held in OIC Member Countries.
- CALL UPON the General Secretariat of ICCI to transmit this Declaration to relevant Foras of OIC, and of the United Nations
- FINALLY, we express gratitude to the Islamic Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Islamic Development Bank, Special Unit for South-South Cooperation, UNDP, UNIFEM, and Malay Chamber of Commerce for their support and contribution towards the successful organization of the 2nd Businesswomen Forum.
End of the Declaration
In her closing statement, Her Royal Highness Princess Mudi Bint Mansour Bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud, gave an overview of the discussions of the preceding six sessions. She said that the intensity of the debate had fostered the sharing of rich experiences and, from the highly productive networking among women entrepreneurs of 40 different countries, the usefulness of the second Businesswomen’s Forum had been amply demonstrated. All of this, in Her Royal Highness’s view, had justified the untiring efforts of the organizers, and of their international collaborators, in going ahead with the arrangements despite some of the impediments they confronted. She expressed her hope and confidence that in ICCI, the work of the Forum will be institutionalized as the vehicle of consultations and collaboration through which the role of women in the socio-economic development of Islamic countries would be promoted. This, in turn, should constitute the basis for inculcating and strengthening the entrepreneurial spirit, zeal and skills among the women of Islamic world.
Her Royal Highness, in her concluding remarks, expressed the hope that the Forum’s Declaration would be seriously reviewed by the policy makers in the OIC, and the United Nations, and their respective agencies and institutions, especially the ICCI, IDB and SU/SSC-UNDP, and its recommendations will attract their approval.
On December 10, 2006, a visit to the industrial estate was arranged by the Malay Chamber of Commerce during which the delegates visited the state-owned display center of high quality textile and handicraft products of Malaysia. Thereafter, they also visited two state-of-the-art food-preserving units.
The Organizing Committee of the Forum presented Awards to the “Most Outstanding Businesswomen” of Syria, Kazakhstan and Benin. The selection was made on the basis of performance and contributions to the socio-economic development of the respective countries.
A Cooperation Agreement was signed between the Islamic Chamber of Commerce & Industry (ICCI) and the International Organization for Sustainable Development (IOSD). In accordance with the agreement, the IOSD’s Euclid University Extension will provide 20 scholarships every year to students of member countries of the Islamic Chamber in the areas of Islamic International Business, Information Technologies, Diplomacy and International Affairs at Master Level. The IOSD will also provide consultancy services to the Academic Institutions of Islamic countries referred by the ICCI.
The Heads of delegations, remaining in Kuala Lumpur on 11 December 2006, paid a courtesy visit on H.E. Shahrizat, Minister of Women, Family and Community Development. During the meeting Ms. Attiya Nawazish Ali, Assistant Secretary General for Coordination, ICCI, briefed the Minister about the purpose and the outcome of the Second Businesswomen Forum, and presented her with a shield of the Islamic Chamber.