REMARKS BY YBHG. DATO’ DR. NORRAESAH MOHAMAD
Location Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
- •The Hon Tun Musa Hitam Chairman WIEF Foundation,
- HE Monther Bader Sulaiman AlEissa, Ambassador Extraordinary & Plenipotentiary of Kuwait,
- Mr. Djoko Harjanto, Minister Consular of Indonesia,
- Ms. Ishrat Jahan, First Secretary of Bangladesh,
- Mr. Abbadi Nureldin Abdelrahman Nureldin, Minister Plenipotentiary of Sudan,
- Dr. Dolat Abadi, Deputy Chief of Mission of Iran,
- Distinguished guests,
- Members of the Media,
- Ladies and Gentlemen.
They say good things come in threes. And it is indeed a good thing that we have brought together women entrepreneurs to learn, share and collaborate for the third time at the just concluded 3rd WIEF Women Entrepreneurs Workshop. This year saw the workshop attract a higher caliber of entrepreneurs who have built up their businesses to a considerable size and provides a solid networking base which the Women’s Business Network (WBN) hopes will continue to attract more such women and grow. This year we had 32 women from Malaysia, Sudan, Iran, Bangladesh, Kuwait, Philippines, Myanmar and Indonesia attend the workshop.
The workshop is not so much a place to learn techniques than it is to become a networking hub where trust and business alliances can be built. Women entrepreneurs need to know they are no longer lone warriors charting their course across the business minefield. The workshop is a jump off point for a businesswoman from a remote part of Africa to exchange ideas with another businesswoman from a remote part of Asia. A bond is formed and this bond can sometimes be more important than all the knowledge in the world. These bonds become the catalyst for business relationships later on.
The programme is now becoming increasingly sophisticated and intense. We have kept up with the times by introducing topics like Social Media, which is increasingly becoming an important business tool to use to operate a business. But let the truth be told – women, by their social nature, invented Facebook long before it became popular. Women are the ones who remember birthdays, who share pictures of their loved ones and talk about what is considered “trivial” but it is precisely these traits that help build trust and build the customer base.
A woman has the capability of bringing life into the world. Once a woman has a child, it’s her instinct to do whatever it takes to keep that child alive. This includes providing food, shelter and creating a safety net for the child’s future. If working in a company does not provide this, women will create work that will and in the process create entrepreneurship for themselves. Women are entrepreneurs not by nurture but by nature.
However women will continue to face opposition in becoming entrepreneurs. Opposition to a larger female role in business comes from conservative circles who fear that it would erode traditional family structures.
Yet such fears are totally unfounded. I have yet to see a man who can nurse a baby, cook the family meal and attend to a customer all at the same time – a common sight in many urban areas in Asia. Prophet Mohammad’s first wife Khadijah was a successful businesswoman in her day. And she happened to be his boss before she became his wife!
Women should also turn hurdles into opportunities. Take for example the glass ceiling in the corporate world. It made major headlines when Carla Florina became the first women CEO to head a Fortune 500 company. Islamic finance is growing rapidly in the Gulf Arab region, despite the global financial crisis, yet there is no woman chief executive at any Gulf-based Islamic financial institution.
Glass ceilings exist in corporations not only in the Muslim world but in many parts of the West as well. Women should view entrepreneurship as a way to break through this ceiling and start out on their own. This trend is happening all around the world as women start taking things in their own hands and relying on their natural instincts as women and mothers to become entrepreneurs.
Globally there has never been a better time for women entrepreneurs. Women-led firms are the fastest growing sector of new venture creation in the US. The trend is international, in Brazil there are more female than male entrepreneurs and China has created half of the female billionaire entrepreneurs globally a direct result of women’s economic empowerment. The time is ripe for this and with the advent of the Internet, more women can participate in the global economy from the comfort of their homes and families.
I therefore implore all women to dig deep into their inner resources and celebrate their womanhood. The Women’s Business Network is proud to be part of this effort and I would like to thank our Strategic Partner; The Coca Cola Company, Sponsor; Ministry of Women, Family and Community Development Malaysia and Bangladesh Federation of Women Entrepreneurs for supporting WIEF in putting the programme together, the trainers for sharing their knowledge and last but not least the participants for sacrificing their time to attend.
This 3rd Workshop has certainly exceeded our expectations in terms of participation and outcomes. We are very happy with the high level of commitment and motivation here and look forward towards empowering more women around the world.
In the last 9 days we have learnt together and grown together. It is an experience that we want to propagate in different countries not just in Malaysia but throughout the world and Insya Allah this vision will become a reality.
In conclusion I would like to offer the advice given by Egyptian entrepreneur Shereen Allam who founded her second business, EcoTek – a printer cartridge recycling company – 10 years ago. “As long as women have education, they cannot be marginalised.”
Take what you have learnt in the last 9 days and continue to learn and grow.
Thank you and may Allah bless us all.