Jehan El Sadat, former first lady of Egypt; Mariane Pearl, author of A Mighty Heart; Dalia Ziada, women’s rights activist and blogger; Kimberley Krenshaw, professor of law at UCLA and Columbia University; Dianne Laurance, an Australian businesswoman and Femi Oke, a broadcast journalist, all provided insight on how women can be empowered to break through the challenges they face.
Oke sees that the power to help and inspire women lies in her e-mail inbox; using her connections as a renowned journalist to help ambitious young girls is one of the things that she highlighted when talking about empowering women. She says that replying to the e-mails she gets every day and meeting up with people who reach out to her can make a big difference.
Two generations of Egyptian women, El Sadat and Ziada, discussed the different approaches they employed when promoting a cause in Egyptian society. Ziada, in her mid-twenties, took fighting Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) into her own hands. After witnessing the surgery that female members in her own family were forced to endure, she decided to take action. She started by talking her uncle out of putting his daughter through this ordeal.
Ziada and her friends then launched campaigns in the poorer districts and areas in Egypt against FGM, and even went out on their own and spoke to people in the streets and public markets.
El Sadat on the other hand talked about how different society was during her time, with no Facebook, blogs or Twitter. El Sadat traveled from one village to another to visit women to promote civil rights law, despite the criticism she faced due to her very active role in the public sphere.
Laurance highlighted the importance of having quotas in the government to encourage female political participation and laying the grounds for women who are interested in joining government.
Pearl also presented the audience with another inspiring example of female empowerment. She talked about her Moroccan housemaid, Fatima, who was illiterate but had a passion for poetry. Fatima always used to recite poetry verses and dreamt of being able to publish her creative work one day, and today she has accomplished this dream after taking the first step of educating herself.
Krenshaw weaved into her discussion the racial factors that also come into play when talking about stereotypes associated with African American women. She believes that racial problems still do exist in the United States.