Muscat: Intending to present an ideal platform for high profile delegates from the MENA region to discuss the empowerment of women through coding capabilities, the first MENA Women’s Congress on this topic kicked off at the Kempinski Hotel, Muscat.
Organised by the Public Establishment for Industrial Estates – Madayn, represented by the National Business Centre, in cooperation with the US-based CTEK Foundation, the MENA Women’s Congress in Oman is a CTEK initiative that aims to supporting women in the region by shaping programmes that give women opportunities to learn coding to start their own businesses.
Speaking at the event, Dr Madiha bint Ahmed Al Shaibaniyah, Minister of Education, stated that the notion of gender equality and inclusion ensures the 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, and about 50% of the students are females.
“The National Strategy for Education emphasises technology and innovation in line with Oman 2040. In fact, the Ministry of Education realises 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 aspire to achieve,” she added.
The Director-General of Marketing and Media at Madayn, Malak Al Shaibani commented that the MENA Women’s Congress comes along the lines of 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 programmes 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 Women and Youth Committee at the International Parliament for Tolerance and Peace explained that the difference between creativity and innovation saying that creativity is about creating an idea and innovation is about implementing the idea. “Change is inevitable and innovation is no different,” Azer said, adding: Innovation leadership traits include the readiness to accept risks and readiness to work with half-backed ideas, among other traits.”
On her part, Faiza Rahmatullah, New Business Development Manager at Petroleum Development Oman (PDO), emphasised that PDO as a strategic sponsor of the MENA Women’s Congress is passionately committed to supporting programmes 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.
“The theme of empowering Omani women through coding capabilities is well-chosen as the Fourth Industrial Revolution unfolds apace. There is no doubt that digital disruption presents us all with many challenges but also many opportunities as the nature of work, connectivity and technology undergoes fundamental change,” Faiza pointed out, adding: “It is 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 but a few.”
Lu Cordova, Chairwoman of CTEK, said that CTEK aspires to break down barriers to entrepreneurship in the world. “The MENA Women 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 programme 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 programme and collaborate in-county to do the best for the most women,” Cordova said.
The congress comprised sessions that highlighted various topics including the outcomes of the coding pilot programme; framing the problem and proposed solutions; identifying barriers; stakeholders, and the next steps that will follow the congress. It is worth mentioning that before the congress, the first pilot coding programme for women was launched in Oman from October 8 – 13. The programme was delivered to a number of Omani women from different governorates in the Sultanate. The programme 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 programme, the participants were able to produce a website for themselves and employ their skills by building simple websites for others. The programme focused on teaching web-building skills, plus entrepreneurship on how to market their skills, find clients and charge for services.