The first MENA Women’s Congress was inaugurated on Tuesday, October 15, at the Kempinski Hotel Muscat. Organized by the Public Establishment for Industrial Estates – Madayn, represented by the National Business Centre, and in cooperation with the US-based CTEK Foundation.
Aimed at presenting an inclusive platform for high-profile delegates from across the MENA region, the first iteration of the congress convened to discuss the empowerment of women in the IT sector of coding.
Comprising sessions that highlighted various topics including outcomes of a coding pilot program, a framework for challenges and proposed solutions and identifying barriers, stakeholders, and next steps that will follow the congress.
Speaking at the event, Her Excellency Dr. Madiha bint Ahmed Al Shaibaniyah, Minister of Education, stated that the notion of gender equality and inclusion ensures empowerment and the right of education for all citizens including women, children, and people with disabilities and special needs.
Al Shaibaniyah pointed out that, the number of students in 2019/2020 has touched 759,307 across the Sultanate, with female enrollment at around 50 per cent or roughly half.
“The National Strategy for Education emphasizes technology and innovation in line with the Oman 2040 Vision. In fact, the Ministry of Education realizes the importance of responsiveness to the changes taking place in today’s world and continues to promote empowerment of both male and female students to help attain the goals the government aspires to achieve,” she added.
The Director General of Marketing and Media at Madayn, Malak Al Shaibani commented that, the MENA Women’s Congress comes alongside the efforts undertaken by the National Business Centre to present an ideal platform for the development of entrepreneurship in the Sultanate.
“The topic of the congress supports women through shaping coding-related programs that shall allow them to learn coding skills and thus create their businesses,” Malak said.
Dr. Marianne Azer, Member of the Egyptian Parliament, and President of the Women and Youth Committee at the International Parliament for Tolerance and Peace, explained that the difference between creativity and innovation is that creativity is about creating an idea and innovation is about implementing it.
Faiza Rahmatullah, New Business Development Manager at Petroleum Development Oman (PDO), emphasized that PDO as a strategic sponsor of the MENA Women’s Congress is passionately committed to support programs that contribute to the sustainable development of the nation; and the specific one under discussion at this congress provides talented Omani women with a platform to more effectively compete at a regional and global level, create their own business opportunities, and forge improved work-life balances.
She added, “It’s vital that all countries across the MENA region have digitally-savvy workforces and businesses, and software development skills are fundamental building blocks in any successful, modern, and competitive economy. But more than that, such skills also give women a far greater chance of making a bigger impact in their careers, whether it be as entrepreneurs launching online start-ups or as valued IT professionals helping to drive greater efficiency and agility in companies in the oil and gas, banking, technology, science, and education sectors, to name a few.”
Lu Cordova, Chairwoman of CTEK, said that CTEK aspires to break down barriers to entrepreneurship in the world.
“The MENA Women’s initiative aims at developing the technical skills of women to enhance their contribution to the digital economy. The regional and global initiatives of CTEK offer an opportunity for those who are aspiring to start their own businesses. The training program that was held in line with this congress aimed at equipping participants with coding skills and empowering them to create their own ‘business pod’ in their community and teach them to find clients and build their business globally. Moreover, this congress aims to have a better understanding of how to best craft a program and collaborate in-country to do the best for the most women,” Cordova said.
Prior to the congress, the first pilot coding program for women was launched in Oman from October 8-13. The program was delivered to a number of Omani women from different governorates across the Sultanate.
The program, which was held before the congress, aspired to teach women not only how to code to get a job, but how to form an online business to create jobs for more women like themselves, and empower them with the skills to earn income for their families.
By the end of the program, the participants were able to produce a website for themselves and employ their skills by building simple websites for others. The program focused on teaching web-building skills, plus entrepreneurship on how to market their skills, find clients, and charge for services.