Expo 2020 Dubai and Cartier have joined forces to create the Women’s Pavilion, a space that will highlight the importance of gender equality and celebrate those making it possible. MOJEH speaks to the two inspirational women driving the project about what we will see there and why closing the gender gap is so important.
‘Behind every great man, is a great woman,’ goes the old adage. To modern ears it may sound outdated, offensive even. How could it be suggested that women’s achievements should be so obscured in this day and age? But unfortunately this phrase still rings true. According to the UN, Covid-19 is responsible for reversing recent advances made towards gender equality. Women are being squeezed from the workplace at an alarming rate, with many forced into unpaid domestic and care work. And at a governmental level, decision makers are overwhelmingly male – on average, only 25 per cent of members of national parliaments are women. So with the eyes of the world on Expo 2020 Dubai, the Women’s Pavilion is on a mission to raise awareness of the continuing gender gap at all levels of society, to educate about the ill effects it has not just on women, but on all people regardless of gender, culture or nationality and to inspire action.
“The Women’s Pavilion highlights both challenges and successes in the journey to true gender equality through immersive exhibitions that visitors will find very striking,” says Sophie Doireau, Cartier’s CEO for the Middle East, India and Africa, and one of the masterminds behind the Women’s Pavilion. “Through a multitude of different perspectives, we shine a light on women’s achievements and showcase solutions, offering compelling inspiration and calling on the millions of visitors at Expo 2020 to act on these issues so we can progress and thrive as humanity.”
Hind Al Owais, Vice President of the International Participants Department at Expo 2020 Dubai, has also been a driving force behind the Women’s Pavilion. Having spent almost 15 years working for the UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs, focusing on multilateral diplomacy and supporting the UAE’s agenda, and being an advisor to the leadership of the United Nations entity for gender equality and women’s empowerment, this is a cause that is obviously very close to her heart. “As a woman, I was always conscious of issues related to inequality, but when I compare my situation to my mother’s, or grandmother’s, I realise how far we have come in the UAE in securing opportunities and rights for women,” says Al Owais. “In fifty years of World Expo history, this is the first time there will be a stand-alone pavilion dedicated to women, and the fact that this is happening in an Arab and Muslim country means a lot. I believe this milestone will make people want to come and attend our many events and exhibitions. We already have an enormous amount of interest from the global community which is extremely encouraging.”
As one of the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals, gender equality is internationally recognised as an issue of utmost importance. “At a global level, the gender equality and women’s empowerment agenda is still at the centre of development issues and it is important to say that a lot still needs to be done; no country in the world has closed the gender gap completely,” says Al Owais. “At present, women and girls make up half the world’s population, and yet they are undervalued and underutilised. Everywhere in the world, women are still facing significant hurdles. Just to give you a few examples, women are more likely to be affected by poverty, we still have 132 million girls out of school, and one in three women experience violence in their lifetime.”
“The Covid-19 pandemic has unfortunately exacerbated these challenges and left us with even more work to do. In that context, it makes it even more important to have a platform like Expo 2020 Dubai and a pavilion dedicated to women to help address these remaining challenges and inspire people to act,” concludes Al Owais. It’s hoped that the exhibition appearing within the Women’s Pavilion – entitled ‘New Perspectives’ – will connect the dots on women’s shared experiences, regardless of age, race or social status. “Through the Women’s Pavilion, our purpose is to change hearts and minds of people and to remind the world that only when women thrive can we expect to see the whole of humanity thriving,” says Al Owais. “Through the stories we showcase, we tell the world that women’s issues are global issues and global issues are women’s issues, and therefore cannot be separated and a holistic approach is key.” Doireau is in complete agreement: “According to the World Economic Forum, the impact of Covid-19 has set back women’s equality by over 30 years, so there has never been a more important time to raise awareness and make progress on this global issue.”
“Cartier has been actively committed to the cause of gender equality for decades, and we saw an incredible opportunity to collaborate with Expo 2020. We joined forces as we recognise that achieving gender equality cannot be solved by governments alone. It is a shared responsibility that requires meaningful and substantive collaborations with the private sector, civil societies and committed individuals. Since the beginning of the project, we have been in complete synergy as Cartier and Expo 2020 are driven by a common conviction that gender equality is critical for sustainable economic and societal growth, and to ensure a peaceful and prosperous world,” says Doireau.
So what can visitors expect to see at the Women’s Pavilion? “The key inspirations behind the design and the curation were the constellations of stars, the universe and nature,” says Doireau. “Women light the way for future generations. In the exhibition, we focus on the impact and inspiration they have brought to humanity at large. As the journey continues, we acknowledge the challenges ahead and look at the actions and contributions that enable women and humanity to thrive. Every action counts. When interconnected, their impact is stronger. “For me, one of the most powerful aspects of the exhibition is a series profiling 130 women who have marked history and paved the way for change across the entire world. It also highlights men who contributed in gender equality and women empowerment around the world. The Women’s Pavilion will also host an extensive programme of over 100 talks and events that amplify the voices of women and foster open, inclusive dialogues with a diverse community of artists, scientists, thought leaders, politicians, and businesswomen,” says Doireau.
It sounds like a dream – a space where the multifaceted experience of womanhood is celebrated and valued in all its aspects. And, thanks to Expo 2020 and Cartier, the dream has become a reality. “Expo 2020’s collaboration with Cartier on the Women’s Pavilion illustrates our shared belief that gender equality and women’s empowerment cannot be achieved without making this a priority for all – the public sector, private sector, nonprofits, civil society, and even at an individual level,” says Al Owais. “Our goal is to achieve – not just promote – gender equality, and empower all women and girls, reinforcing that women’s issues are everyone’s issues, and all issues are women’s issues.” Buy tickets
- Words by Rachel Silvestri