The OSU Women’s Center Director, Dr. Mirabelle Fernandes-Paul, and three student staff members took a trip to Abu Dhabi towards the end of Winter term 2012 to attend the Women as Global Leaders Conference. Dr. Fernandes-Paul shares her experiences at the conference – from connecting with partners to secure funding, to the lengthy air travel, to meeting individuals such as Sigrourney Weaver!
The WOMEN AS GLOBAL LEADERS CONFERENCE (WAGL) conference, hosted by the Zayed University in the United Arab Emirates, has occurred in 2005, 2008 and was held again from 13 – 15 in March 2012. Women Center graduating seniors Toni Dondero, Mary Kessler and Katelyn Banta were able to accompany me to the conference to represent Oregon State University.
The Women as Global Leaders conference lived up to its promise to provide a forum for women from all over the world to interact with established leaders, create worldwide partnerships, share experiences and learn from each other. We were able to meet internationally and locally renowned women leaders; share ideas; and engage in debates around the conference theme “Creating a Sustainable Future for the World“. In addition to listening to powerful and informative key note speeches from the distinguished speakers, we were also able to attend several breakout sessions that opened our eyes to the lived realities of women from other cultures, socio-economics, religions, races and nationalities. Participants also had opportunities to create a global network for professional partnerships.
The months leading up to the conference were spent connecting with partners on campus in order to help with funding of this trip. We are very grateful for the funding support we received from the President’s Commission on the Status of Women (PCOSW), College of Public Health and Human Sciences, Office of Equity & Inclusion, the Department of Anthropology and School of Language, Culture, and Society. We also learned that going to an international conference is not the same as going to conferences in the US. I wouldn’t have been able to think of everything to do with the safety and comfort of the students without the support and advice of Allison Davis-White Eyes, ISS Director as well as members of the AABC and Risk management. To begin with the air travel is lengthy (greater than 24 hours), complicated (enduring complicated security and immigration scrutiny in multiple countries) and disorienting (multiple changes in time zones, languages, currency and cultural practices). However the people we met, friendships we made, new perspectives we learned about and knowledge we gained made the hardships of travel well worth it. In the UAE, we were touched by the generous hospitality extended towards us by the conference organizers but also by other delegates from the region and local people.
We were fortunate to meet world leaders like Sigourney Weaver, CNN’s Hala Gorani, BBC’s Zeinab Bedawi, Baroness Helena Ann Kennedy and many other women who are famous for their contributions to
social justice, world peace and the environment. We heard from them stories of their success and issues they are passionate about. We also heard alarming research findings about the fragility of our planet and the role we can play as women leaders in conserving our environment and the quality of life for all beings. Women are, after all, usually most vulnerable to resource scarcities. We also participated in breakout sessions during the three days of the conference. We learned about topics ranging from how women are portrayed in Middle Eastern cinema and western cinema; the process of emiratization and the role of emirate women in the process; Arab women business leaders; women balancing family and career; sustaining identities among marginalized groups; leadership through effective communication during public health emergencies; women and environmentalism.
We are very grateful for the opportunity to attend the WAGL conference and hope to host forums to share with students and colleagues, information we learned at the conference.