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First Ever Gathering in the Arab World of the International Women's Forum Draws Record Attendance

Tuesday, May 15, 2007 @ 5:54 PM

AMMAN, JORDAN, May 14  -- On a high hill overlooking the lights of one of the most progressive cities of today's Arab World and surrounded by the 1300 year old ruins of the Palace of the Citadel, women leaders from 45 countries made history last night.  

 

I am privileged to be one of the 500 women from business, academics, the professions and the arts who are gathering here for the 2007 Cornerstone Conference of the International Women’s Forum (IWF), “Building Bridges and Breaking Walls.”   The opening ceremonies were held last night under the stars and beside an open Bedouin tent, where the leading women of Jordan welcomed their guests for the first ever such gathering in the Mideast.  

The three-day event is being covered by media throughout the region, including The Jordan Times and the Turkish Daily News. 

 http://www.turkishdailynews.com.tr/article.php?enewsid=73147

 

Before the opening ceremonies, IWF Jordan president and lawyer Reem Abu Hassan told journalists the event will pave the way for a venue for women worldwide to engage in a dialogue and put their challenges on the table for debate.  “We have a responsibility of conveying the true image of the conflicts and challenges facing us in our part of the world,” she said.  “This conference is an opportunity for honest and in-depth dialogues to discuss these conflicts and reach a better understanding for all the issues that concern us as women.”

 

Gay Cook, president of the Washington-based global IWF described the three-day event as an ". . . opportunity to dispel deepening misconceptions between the East and the West." 

 

Over the next few days, I will post short reports on this site, including insights, personal observations and any breaking news from the three-day event, which is being held under the sponsorship of Her Majesty Queen Rania Al Abdullah of Jordan.

 

A few personal observations about my experience since arriving in Jordan three days ago:

   
  • First, I find it hopeful and deeply moving to see women coming together in one of the most troubled places in the world.  The front pages of The Jordan Times, the nations English newspaper, have been filled these past few days with news of more than 60 new bombing deaths in Iraq, vice-president Cheney’s visit to the region, the abduction of 15 in Gaza and Jordan King Abdullah’s planned visit to Ramallah.

 

  •  Second, contrary to the concerns of my family and many friends who questioned the sanity and safety of my visiting Jordan at this time, I have found the country to be an oasis of hope and possibility.  Amman, a city that has grown from only 3,000 in 1921 to nearly three million people today is very clean with most buildings made from white limestone.  Women, children and men are welcoming to visitors and eager to show off their country and practice their English.   

 

  • Third, I have the incredible fortune of having one of the Forums long-time leaders, Marjorie O’Connell, as my roommate. O’Connell, of Washington, D.C. based O’Connell & Associates is one of the top international tax lawyers in the world. Before last night’s opening ceremonies, O’Connell and I traveled together to The Dead Sea and Petra, sharing our thoughts on the forces that brought us to this historic gathering. 

 

“I am struck by the potential of the power gathered together at this meeting,” she told me last night as we shared a bottle of wine and lavosh. “Not just in so-called 'women’s circles,' if there is such a limiting thing anymore,” she added, “but in the halls of government and business decision makers all over the world.  With this gathering, we have an opportunity to begin to bring sustainable calm to this tinderbox.”

 

We’re off now to today’s plenary sessions, which include discussions on:  “Faith, Identity and Co-Existence” and growing efforts to strengthen women’s political participation in Arab nations.  Security is extremely tight, with Queen Rania Al Abdullah to address the conference tomorrow.

 

Stay tuned.

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