GTF London Conversation on Gender Equality in MENA

Global Thinkers Forum Roundtable:

“Gender equality priorities in the MENA region”


internationally acclaimed Iranian filmmaker, actress, artist and writer Mania Akbari

Egyptian journalist, Shahira Amin, the former deputy head of Egyptian state-owned Nile TV and one of its senior anchors.

Souad Talsi, MBE founder of Al-Hasaniya Moroccan Women’s Centre in the UK

Moderated by TV Presenter & Business Woman Saira Khan


October 16, 2014 at 18:30 at

grace belgravia logo11c W Halkin St, London SW1X 8JL

Mania Akbari photo

Mania Akbari

Mania Akbari was born in 1974 in Tehran, Iran. The daughter of schoolteachers, she started painting at a very early age. Later she worked as cinematographer and assistant director on documentaries, which reoriented her towards cinema. Her international breakthrough occurred, however, not as a result of her work behind the camera but in front of it. Akbari played a version of herself, together with her son Amin Maher and her sister Roya, in Abbas Kiarostami’s 2002 feature Ten, selected for competition at that year’s edition of the Cannes Film Festival. This was followed in 2003 by Crystal, a documentary about a young Kurdish woman who produces crystal stones from various parts of her body, including her eyes, her throat and her vagina. Her debut as sole director was in 2004 with 20 Fingers, which she also wrote and starred in. It was awarded Best Film in the Digital Cinema section at the Venice Film Festival and was screened – and won further awards – at more than 40 film festivals internationally. During the next three years, Akbari made Six Video Art works, which not only screened at numerous film festivals such as Locarno, but were also exhibited at museums such as Tate Modern in London. In 2007, Akbari was diagnosed with breast cancer. The experience of successfully battling the disease prompted her to direct and act in her second fictionalized documentary, 10+4, a sequel to Abbas Kiarostami’s Ten made four years earlier. The new film was exhibited at numerous festivals such as San Sebastián and Cannes, and received numerous awards including Nantes Special Public Award Best Film and Best Director at Kerala Film Festival. Akbari’s meditations on death, war, family, memory, beauty, relationships and above all, identity, have formed the bases not only of her filmed work but also of a series of photo-based exhibitions that took place between 2007 to 2010 – This is Mania-This is not Mania (2007), This is not Mania-This is not Mandana (2008), Van Gogh’s Ear (2008), Devastation (2009), My Family (2009), My Guernica (2009), To Be Mandana, To Be Not Mandana (2009), Happy Marriage, Mania Akbari & Behnoud Shojaee (2010) – and which toured around the world to countries as various as Switzerland, Slovenia, Brasil, Spain, Italy, UK, France, Dubai and the US. Since her move to London, various international retrospectives of Akbari’s films has drawn attention to her cinema, among which retrospectives at the BFI, Oldenburg International Film Festival and the Danish Film Institute , Cyprus Film Festival are the and most notable.


Shahira Amin

Shahira Amin

Shahira Amin is a freelance Egyptian journalist who contributes mainly to CNN’s Inside Africa and She also writes for Index on Censorship, a portal for free expression. Amin was formerly Deputy Head of Egyptian state television’s English Language Channel Nile TV but she quit in the height of the uprising in protest at state TV coverage of the developments in her country. Shahira was also a former Senior Anchor and Correspondent for the channel. Shahira has traveled the world covering major events and conflicts and has interviewed numerous statesmen and high profile figures. She has been recognized by UNICEF for her efforts to improve the status of women and children in her country. Earlier this year she received the American University in Cairo’s Catalyst for Change Award and is also the recipient of this year’s Holmes of the year award from the University of Goetheborg.



Souad Talsi MBE

Souad Talsi MBE

Souad. Talsi MBE was born in Morocco, Souad came to the UK as a young child and has lived and worked here in London ever since. As an active member of her local community, she saw the need of a centre to serve women of Arab origin and founded Al-Hasaniya Moroccan Women Centre. Thirty years on the said centre is still thriving and serving a whole community with a spectrum of needs and challenges. Recognised for her outstanding commitment to the voluntary sector and work within the Arab migrant community of London, Souad was named in the Queen’s Birthday list in June 2011, and was duly awarded an MBE. She is a member of the Council for Moroccans abroad, an appointment made by the King of Morocco Mohamed VI. During Gordon Brown’s government, she was the only Arab woman appointed as a member of the National Muslim Advisory Panel Group. Souad was also an active and regular contributor to the UN global forum on migration and development until recently. She also sat on the Mayors’ Refugee and Migrant’s Advisory Group, in addition to many other committees and trustee boards, she still serves and supports.



Saira Khan

Saira Khan shot to fame in the first series of the smash hit BBC 2 TV Series “The Apprentice” in 2005 and has since taken the UK by storm. She is currently co-presenting ITV’s new primetime consumer show, The Martin Lewis Money Programme, attracting 4 million viewers. She is a regular face on BBC television and presented the hit children’s show Beat the Boss and “Trade your way to the USA”. Her 2 x 60minute documentaries for BBC2 called , “ Adopting Abroad, Saira’s Story” was shown to great national reviews in Sept 2011. She is MD of her own company “miamoo” a luxury range of skincare products, She launched the business in 2006 directly after completing The Apprentice. Having suffered with dry skin all her life and then overcoming the condition through self care using natural ingredients, she wanted to educate parents on how to prevent and heal dry skin conditions and offer a natural range of poducts that were effective yet kind and gentle on delicate skin. She has witten a self help book called PUSH for success published by Random House and is an experienced motivational speaker.

The event is supported by UN Women, the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women.


This is a limited seat event so book your tickets NOW.


The dialogue will bring together policy makers from the region in conversation with civil society actors to discuss crucial gender equality priorities in the MENA region. The conversation will highlight priorities for implementation and a call for action to accelerate implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action in the region. The event will be structured like a moderated conversation among the panellists and will also include audience engagement and participation.

Key discussion points will include:

1) To achieve gender equality in our lifetime what needs to change in the Arab region? What does this mean in terms of a work plan for the Arab region?
2) What are the political actions that need to be taken by political leaders to accelerate the implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action?
3) How can civil society work together to make that happen and what support do they need from the global community to enable that vision to be fulfilled.

Event details:

TIME: 18.30 – 20.30pm, Thursday 16th October 2014

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