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The Arab International Women’s Forum, the American University of Beirut and University of Massachusetts Medical School hold high-level conference on ‘Women Leaders & Health’ in Beirut, Lebanon

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The Arab International Women’s Forum (AIWF), the American University of Beirut (AUB) and the University of Massachusetts Medical School (UMMS) were proud to hold a high-level conference on Women Leaders & Health: Empowering women leaders in innovation, medical education and healthcare delivery in Beirut, Lebanon under the esteemed Patronage of His Excellency Mr Saad Hariri, President of the Council of Ministers, on 16-17 April 2019.

Women Leaders & Health brought into focus key challenges and opportunities for women’s leadership in medical education, healthcare delivery, STEM, research, innovation, sustainability and international development. The conference welcomed over 170 senior representatives of the Arab public and private sectors, international development organisations and institutes, and civil society.

Women Leaders & Health broke new ground, examining strategies to foster an inclusive and empowering environment for women-led innovation, research and discovery through regional and international best practices. The conference sessions explored capacity building for women in medicine through technology, training, intra/entrepreneurship, executive leadership and social enterprise. The conference participants also heard the deeply valued reflections of women leaders on meeting the region’s most critical health challenges through cross-border collaboration, capacity building, medical education and initiatives to improve gender diversity in medicine and the health sciences.

The high-impact Women Leaders & Health programme was developed in full partnership between AIWF, UMMS and AUB, with Pfizer and PwC as valued Conference Supporting Partners. The conference discussions yielded actionable recommendations for empowering women in these critical sectors which will be included in the official conference report due for publication in the early summer of 2019.

His Excellency Mr Hariri delivered the Guest of Honour Keynote Address in the opening ceremony. Opening session speakers included Mrs Haifa Fahoum Al Kaylani, Founder and Chairman of the Arab International Women’s Forum; Dr Fadlo Khuri, President of the American University of Beirut; Dr Mohamed Sayegh, Executive Vice President & Dean of the Faculty of Medicine at the American University of Beirut. Women Leaders & Health was proud to welcome Distinguished Guest Speakers representing the University of Massachusetts Medical School, the American University of Beirut, St Marks Hospital in London, Pfizer Biopharmaceuticals and King Faisal Specialist Hospital and Research Centre, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, among others.

Valued delegates attending represented the Lebanese Council of Women, European Bank for Reconstruction & Development, UN Global Compact, National Commission for Lebanese Women, International Labour Organization, The World Bank, Lebanese Republic Economic and Social Council, World Vision Lebanon, Mercy Corps, Arab Thought Foundation, Palestinian Medical Relief Society, Palestinian National Institute of Public Health, University of Colorado, University of Chester, the American University of Beirut, Pfizer, UN Women Fund for Gender Equality Arab States, Lebanese American University, PwC Academy Middle East, and the St John Eye Hospital, among others.

A half-day workshop following the conference on 17 April 2019, titled Addressing maternal and child health in conflict/vulnerable settings in the MENA region, also welcomed distinguished speakers representing the World Bank, the ESCWA Center for Women, the Ministry of Public Health in Lebanon, the Lebanese Order of Midwives, International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), and Medicins Sans Frontieres. The workshop elaborated on three key themes: refugee maternal health in conflict and vulnerable situations; vulnerability, maternal mortality and the making of maternal ill health; and strategies to maintain services and support when faced with donor fatigue.

The workshop was designed to help host countries like Lebanon and the NGOs operating within them to navigate the shift from emergency short-term solutions to more long-term solutions and sustainability, through collaborative action between civil society, government-led organisations and the private sector. The workshop sessions brought together leaders in public service, international development and global advocacy to discuss the impact that the refugee crisis in the MENA has had on women in vulnerable and conflict situations in the region, and to provide insight into how these challenges can be overcome or mitigated through multi-level engagement, concerted action and dialogue.

AIWF, AUB and UMMS convey their deepest appreciation to all distinguished Guest Speakers, Conference Supporting Partners and delegates for their valued contributions towards this unique and exceptional opportunity for Arab and international women leaders in medicine and the healthcare sciences to examine key empowerment and development challenges for women in these critical sectors, in the MENA region and internationally, as well as addressing refugee issues as intrinsic to solving broader and equally critical sustainability challenges in the Middle East.

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