Ebele Okobi: “Through partnerships with both government and civil society, we are creating opportunities to amplify women’s voices and businesses.”
Dubai, UAE, 17 February 2020: Global Women’s Forum Dubai 2020, organised by Dubai Women Establishment, put the spotlight on how innovative technologies like social media networks alongside partnerships, are helping women to expand their contributions for a better future.
“We know that empowering women leads to better economic growth, but GDP is not always the most salient factor to consider. We should be looking at better outcomes in health, education and even happiness indexes. When we focus on women, we actually help families and societies. It’s critical to not hold women back. Through partnerships with both government and civil society, we are creating opportunities to amplify women’s voices and women’s businesses,” said Ebele Okobi, Facebook’s Public Policy Director for Africa, the Middle East and Turkey.
#SheMeansBusiness, a global platform to share digital training and mentorship, was launched in Dubai in 2017 and Okobi said 14,000 women in MENA have benefited thus far. Okobi also said she is very excited about the possibilities to enhance the region’s competitive economy as a result of Facebook’s partnership with the Khalifa Fund, which will see more women receive training and mentorship.
She mentioned social media plays an important role in supporting small businesses that are underrepresented in this region, especially with reference to its power in connecting people and businesses. She referred to her own clothing items originating from small Nigerian and Vietnamese businesses which are only able to access markets through platforms.
“Stories are really important, because they give us an idea of what’s possible now and in the future,” said Okobi, mentioning some of Egypt’s women entrepreneurs. She continued by telling the story of her grandmother’s adventures as a Nigerian entrepreneur and political activist. “I come from a long line of trouble-making women,” she joked, before giving credit to those in whose footsteps she followed. “I have had great examples of bravery and courage that show you can have a family, a career, and independence – one doesn’t have to take away from the other.”
Okobi said she started her career as one of the unhappiest corporate lawyers, but after volunteering and taking time off, she started working in non-profit with a focus on human and women’s rights. After business school in Paris, she worked with Nike, Yahoo and then Facebook.
When asked for her advice to women, she said: “Just because you get resistance, doesn’t mean you’re wrong. Often the hardest pushback comes because you’re doing exactly the right things. Bring your authentic self to the table and find mentors.” She urged women to figure out their mission and purpose, and listen to their inner voice. “Trust yourself, you know more than you think you do.”
GWFD 2020 is organised by Dubai Women Establishment under the theme ‘The Power of Influence’. The event was focused on discussing how both men and women can influence factors in government, economy, society and future, in order to create a better future for all.
Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (DEWA) was formed on 1 January, 1992, by a decree issued by the late Sheikh Maktoum bin Rashid Al Maktoum to merge Dubai Electricity Company and Dubai Water Department, which had been operating independently before then. Both organisations were established by the late Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum in 1959. Dubai Government fully supported the Electricity Company and the Water Department to provide Dubai’s citizens and residents with a continuous and reliable supply of electricity and water. Since then, DEWA has made considerable achievements, to be ranked as one of the best utilities in the world. DEWA provides services today to more than 900,000 customers with a happiness rate that reached 95% in 2018.
The UAE, represented by Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (DEWA), has maintained its first global ranking, for the third consecutive year, with scores of 100% in all Getting Electricity indicators in the World Bank’s Doing Business 2020 report. The report measures the ease of doing business in 190 economies around the world. DEWA achieved competitive results in global benchmarking, surpassing the private sector and major European and American utilities in efficiency and reliability. DEWA raised the efficiency of its energy production by using the latest technologies and adopting technological innovations, surpassing European and American utilities, by reducing losses from electricity transmission and distribution networks to 3.3% compared to 6–7% in the US and Europe. DEWA also achieved the lowest customer minutes lost per year (CML) in the world of 2.39 CML compared to 15 minutes in Europe and was also able to reduce water network losses to 6.5% in 2018 compared to 15% in North America, which is one of the best results in the world.