Women leaders are Qatar's pride
August 12 2017 08:48 PM
Qatar Foundation's Education City
Qatar Foundation's Education City: infusing competitiveness and freedom of academic choice

By Maryam al-Khater/Doha

Some puerile-minded people may use her name to make jibes, or drag her into their petty political squabbles, but her name in Arabic, a name of quintessential Gulf origin, is a world of meanings.

It underlines a rich linguistic history, where Arabs, when naming their daughters, had made sure to pay tribute to the sources of their natural wealth that represented the engine of their economy, even a century ago.
Indeed, a Moza, plural al-Moz, is a type of rare Arab pearls, and so are Hessa, Dana, and Lulua, all common names of women in the Gulf.
Pictures of these pearls exist and interested people can visit national museums in Gulf countries and see them firsthand.
It is necessary to highlight this history, which cannot be falsified, for those who have spared no lies to wage superficial but ill-intentioned, immoral campaigns against Qatar and the exemplary women in its leadership, disregarding all norms and religious traditions.

Men and women lead the way

The Moza they have targeted is Her Highness Sheikha Moza bint Nasser, the mother of His Highness the Emir of Qatar, whose stances on his nation’s issues have made many an Arab proud.
His father, His Highness the Father Emir, is the Arab leader behind Qatar’s modern renaissance, a supporter of oppressed peoples who was the only Arab leader to break the siege of Gaza in 2012.
With ill-intentions, some referred to His Highness the Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad, Glorious Tamim, as Tamim bin Moza, without realising it is not an insult to attribute a person to his mother.
One day, we will all be called by our mothers’ names.
None of this makes any difference in the ladder of glory, for what matters is that before resurrection, one must be upstanding and righteous.
Prophet Muhammad, praise be upon him, was sent by God to “perfect noble morals” before all else.
In Qatar, we all take pride in righteous mothers who have given birth to us and to entire generations.
And we are proud of the ideal represented by the mother of His Highness the Emir of Qatar.
But as journalists, we have the right to go further, and highlight certain things we have seen, beyond media coverage, that bear witness to her character and achievements.
On the day His Highness the Father Emir and Her Highness Sheikha Moza inaugurated Education City, in an event that was the largest yet in Qatar, we saw him emerge from the ceremony on television, then drive his car personally, with HH Sheikha Moza sitting by his side.
He held her hand, before he took the wheel, and that gesture announced without words that Qatar’s march would be led by both its men and women.
The image is still engraved in our memory.
Qatar, it was plain for all to see, was embarking on a renaissance, following the vision of its leader, to be led by men and women with direct blessing for competent women like her to be in the driver’s seat, including in education and social development.

Women and education in Qatar

Qatar was racing against time. The education of Tamim and his siblings was not the only concern of their mother, but so was the education of all Qataris and residents of Qatar, in a vision that saw knowledge from a new, different perspective.
In 1997, Qatar University invited us to attend the first-ever open and direct debate between female students and graduates, at the initiative of HH Sheikha Moza.
She had a lot to say about the future of the university and education in general in the state.
This was in the early days of His Highness the Emir Sheikh Hamad’s tenure.
In 1998, Qatar witnessed a new shift in the public education system.
An initiative was launched to develop education in science schools, implementing world-class standards and moving Qatar away from curricula full of theories and redundancies, towards critical thinking and practical education.
HH Sheikha Moza bint Nasser carried the concerns of public education in Qatar.
This sense of responsibility and push for diversity drove her independent vision, which sought to unlock different academic specialties and infuse competitiveness and freedom of academic choice in an over-bureaucratic school system.
It was not an easy thing to accomplish.
Even at the level of the world, it was a completely new endeavour, at the heart of which was a quest for fulfilling high-quality international standards in public education, and equality between Qatari citizens and expatriates.
Since everything new entails many challenges, and pros and cons, the initiative received its fair share of analysis and criticism.
Yet HH Sheikha Moza welcomed it, and closely followed everything that was written and published about it, out of a keen desire to improve it and implement all constructive feedback.
While we cannot deny the associated challenges and setbacks, we also cannot deny that the initiative led to a new generation of graduates who are critical thinkers, rather than copycats who memorise information, and who can compete with their peers in the world.
And Qatar reaped the fruits of this effort, including during the blockade of Qatar, in various fields.

World-class achievements

In higher education, HH Sheikha Moza, by chairing the Qatar Foundation and Qatar University, sought to match opportunities to specialties.
Education in Qatar University improved in quality, opening horizons that were untapped before, under the vision of HH Sheikha Moza and other pioneering women, such as Sheikha al-Misnad, former president of Qatar University, and her deputy Sheikha Bint Jabr al-Thani.
In addition, Qatar Foundation introduced advanced majors, including by opening seven branches of some of the world’s most prestigious universities and research centres, and the Qatar National Library linked to the British Library.
Internationally, it is hard to count Sheikha Moza’s achievements in education, not just in Qatar, but in the world.
In 2003, Unesco chose her as Special Envoy for Basic and Higher Education.
Her international memberships and initiatives – such as Education Above All, Educate a Child, Protect Education in Conflict, Fakhoura, and Silatech – helped create new hopes for children, youths, and women in poor and developing nations, and job opportunities for unemployed youths in the Middle East and North Africa region.
In 2010, she served in the Millennium Development Goals Advocacy Group, focusing on basic education, and in 2012, she advised the steering committee of the UN Secretary-General's Global Education First Initiative.
Beyond education, in 2016, the UN secretary general asked her to join as advocate of the UN Sustainable Development Goals Group.
In 2008, she served as ambassador for the UN Alliance of Civilizations.
I will not enumerate further achievements, which can be seen with a simple Google search, but I want to mention something I witnessed and was not covered in the media.
During the Alliance of Civilizations conference in Rio in 2010, HH Sheikha Moza visited the city’s impoverished favelas, launching education programmes there, away from the limelight.
This is who Sheikha Moza bint Nasser is, and no opinion article can be sufficient to do her justice.
But in short, throughout her work, she was not only a mother for Tamim, but for Qataris and others.
We are proud of Tamim not only because he is the son of his father, Hamad, but also because he is the son of a giving mother, and Qataris can be proud to be the children of HH Sheikha Moza bint Nasser, as he is.

*Maryam al-Khater is a Qatari writer and media personality.



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