BEIRUT: Hundreds attended the 7th edition of the “Women on the Front Lines Conference” organized by the May Chidiac Foundation, on March 7 at Phoenicia Hotel, in celebration of International Women’s Day.
The annual conference features influential women who have initiated change, broken stereotypes, and proved themselves as leaders and pioneers in their respective fields.
Women of all ages attended the conference, along with men who seized every opportunity to reaffirm their strong support to women everywhere.
Karma Ekmekji, International Affairs and Relations Advisor to the President of the Council of Ministers, addressed young Lebanese women through the panel, “Women in Negotiations, Peace-Deals, and High-Level Diplomacy,” and urged them to “not give in to social pressure but to go confidently in the direction of their dreams” regardless of society’s expectations.
It’s a challenge to be a woman in man’s world, but there’s always something that can be done and that is the “sweetness of it all” assured Rend Francke, former Iraq Ambassador to the US.
Under the hashtag “wofl_2019” users from Lebanon and around the world reaffirmed their full support to women’s issues, and the tractions were projected during the conference.
Former French Minister of Justice, Elisabeth Guigou, acknowledged the leading role that her family played in her life as a young girl that helped shape her into an empowered lady ready to face the “tough challenges of a patriarchal world.”
“My father told me I can do whatever I set my mind to do, and I did,” she added.
Lucy Hawking, daughter of world-renowned scientist, Stephen Hawking, is a journalist and is also known as a children novelist and science educator; and she was also a keynote speaker during the conference. She stressed the importance of teaching science to young girls.
“Science helps them look at things they’ve been told and decide for themselves if it’s true or not,” she said.
She highlighted how historically, we have great female scientists who are not as famous as their men colleagues, because men are better at self-promotion.
During the panel “Women in Business: Investors, Risk-takers, and Innovators,” Nadera Chamlou, International Development Advisor, noted that “women usually don’t network effectively, thus can’t capitalize their capabilities.”
Chamlou reiterated that when women stop being shy and stand up for themselves, and go after what they want, there is no stopping them, “patriarchy or no patriarch.”
Many young women in the audience repeatedly asked one question: how can one balance between being a mother and a wife, while being an active female leader and career driven women?
Shaima Salmeen, Kuwaiti engineer stated that unlike a job, being a mom doesn’t really come with instructions, and when you’re capable of being a mother you are actually capable of doing anything.
However, Mireille Hayek, owner of “Em Sherif” restaurants had another opinion.
“Having your own business is similar to having a family. I follow up on every detail that goes around in my house and with my kids, just like I follow up on all the details at my restaurants and with my team.”
The speakers during the conference all stressed the importance of instilling resilience in the minds of the young women in the new generation.
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