WE CAN DO IT

Sharjah 2020 | DIPLOMACY | INTERVIEW

Creating a society where women and men have equal roles and opportunities requires a lot of work, and demands a re-imagining of how we educate and raise our children.

Reem BinKaram
BIOGRAPHY
Reem BinKaram has been the Director of NAMA Women Advancement Establishment since 2016, where she manages and oversees the implementation and execution of its strategies. NAMA is an umbrella entity for three other entities: Sharjah Business Women Council, Irthi Contemporary Crafts Council, and Badiri Education and Development Academy. She was also appointed board member of the UAE Girl Guides Association-Sharjah chapter the same year. BinKaram, who holds a bachelor’s degree in interior design from American University of Sharjah, is passionate about philanthropic work and chairs the Pink Caravan Breast Cancer Awareness Campaign.

Could you tell us about your latest efforts to activate the roles of girls and women in addressing global sustainability challenges?

This January, we announced a strategic partnership with the Masdar-led “Women in Sustainability, Environment and Renewable Energy," or WiSER, platform, during Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week. Through this year-long partnership, we will collaborate with WiSER on several programs designed to position women and girls of all nationalities as drivers of change and innovation. This is a tactical step in furthering our joint ambition to empower present and future generations of female leaders and help them play more active roles in the attainment of the UN SDGs Agenda 2030. The collaboration aims to promote women's engagement in key sectors such as energy, environment, and technology through evidence-based and targeted programs, and seeks to ultimately boost their participation in sectors in which they are underrepresented. Both NAMA and WiSER's mandates are built on making international initiatives for women locally relevant. Together, we are making concerted efforts through 2019 to accelerate women's access to education, professional training, and networking opportunities.

How is Sharjah's government contributing to female empowerment?

The two individuals at the forefront of Sharjah's women's empowerment efforts and advocacy need no introduction. HH Sheikh Dr. Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah, and his wife, Her Highness Sheikha Jawaher bint Mohammed Al Qasimi, have passionately created an environment in Sharjah where girls and women are never left behind. As an example, there are 32 women-centric entities in Sharjah, including NAMA, which function under HH Sheikha Jawaher's leadership. There are around 3,000 women employed in different departments working under the aegis of HH Jawaher Al Qasimi. Her Highness' way of leadership emphasizes the importance of being thorough and learning from experiences. It is due to this focus that we have developed tremendous research skills.

As 2019 has been deemed the Year of Tolerance, how should schools teach the next generation about equality, tolerance, and inclusion?

The lesson of gender equity, tolerance, and inclusion should begin at home. Mothers and fathers should be role models. Gender divides creep in unnoticed when we tell our girls to spend more time in the kitchen and keep repeating to our boys that they must get excellent grades as they will be providing for their families when they grow up. Our children must be treated the same, at home and in school, and must be offered the space to discover their interests without telling them what is “right" for them or “expected" of them. It is when our children see us not differentiating based on gender, nationality, or social standing that they will be able to see gender equity, equality, tolerance, and inclusion as a norm rather than an exception. I believe tolerance cannot be forced. We should all establish a world in which tolerance is spontaneous and is the norm.

What are your future plans, goals, and objectives?

The second edition of the Women Economic Empowerment Global Summit (WEEGS) is coming up in December. This is a massive project we are working on with UN Women. We want to deliver this two-day summit in a way that doubles the success of the inaugural edition, opening news doors of opportunities for women in all sectors—including but not limited to procurement, finance, city planning, and STEM. Through WEEGS and other initiatives, NAMA will continue its efforts to improve economic and workplace equity for women, especially in key sectors, such as technology, which are dominated by a male-driven culture. Finally, we are furthering our commitment to drive evidence-based research and data collection on the challenges women face when entering the workforce and the economy, as business-owners or entrepreneurs across various sectors.