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Posted on on June 29th, 2010
by Pincas Jawetz (

Cecilia is the wife of Richard Attias of Davos fame, and presently the founder of the new NEW YORK FORUM. Cecilia is also the former First Lady of France and her interest in helping women globally goes back to those days. She created the Foundation with Richard in 2008, building upon 13 years of commitment to bettering the lives of women around the world.

The official website is:

The first annual Dialogue for Action of her Foundation took  place in conjunction with the New York Forum, and brought together  NGO leaders, experts, and “influencers” from the private and public sectors. The interactive format of the meeting was based on methods devised for the Forum and provided a new platform, where action-driven discussions can focus exclusively on identifying and finding solutions to main issues facing women, in a way that highlights differences per continent – Africa, Americas, Asia and the Middle East, and Europe.

We wrote about the upcoming meeting –…

Following the Dialogue for Action, The Cecilia Attias Foundation for Women, promised to see that dedicated initiatives are implemented where needed. Local regional meetings will be organized as part of the follow-up in the field to assess the progress of each initiative.

The International Herald Tribune was the Official Media Sponsor of The Dialogue for Action.

WANGO, The World Association of Non-Governmental Organizations, was the strategic partner of the Dialogue for Action whose global network of NGOs and affiliates is in itself an international leader in tackling issues of serious global concern. Mr. Taj Hamad, Secretary General of WANGO was present.

The dialogue aimed to find answers that would alleviate the problems holding women in a passive position in society – that was broached by Cecilia Attias in her opening statement. Cecilia Attias and her husband Richard said the main objective of the dialogue was to “find solutions” as Cecilia Attias phrased it in her key-note address, to initiate and foster programs that educate women, offer them jobs which will build their confidence and self-worth, provide them with the resources, and loans, to facilitate their own business enterprises, and to encourage social networking and partnerships with NGO’s (non-governmental organizations).…

The participants were obviously mainly women, but also a sprinkle of men was on the panels.


Panel I was the Africa Round Table that include 8 people one of which was a man:

The facilitator was Sade Baderinwa an ABC TV anchor and included also Mrs. Zanele Mbeki, the former first lady of South Africa and founder of Women’s Development Bank & South African Women in Dialogue.

Also among the panelists – Bazaiba Masudi Eve, Senator and president of Congolese women league for Election; Molly Melching from the US, living for many years in Senegal and now Executive Director of Tolstan; Innocence Ntap, Minister of Civil Service, Labor and Professional Organizations, Senegal; Letty Chiwara, Chief of the Africa Division for UNIFEM; Prinitha Pillay, Medical Doctor with Doctors without Borders; and Fatou Sow Sarr, professor at Dakar University.

The main topic was genital cutting that is done at ages 2-12 and we learned that this was not a religious issue but rather an old African tradition that predates Christianity or Islam, and is performed in communities belonging to anyone of Africa’s religions today. In Senegal, the main Islamic group does not practice genital cutting and non-Islamic groups do. To achieve change, it is possible to do this through education and in effect in the last years 4500 communities have abandoned the procedure.

We also learned that as measured by the path of achievement in the MDGs, it is Africa’s 11 countries from among Africa’s poorest, the likes of Malawi, Mali, Niger, that are among the 12 front runners according to an UNDP study just released.

Molly said that she found that the Senegalese Constitution gave full human rights to women and she was insisting in convincing the people of Senegal, like in hospitals, that they ask for the woman’s opinion when deciding on a procedure, rather then the opinion of the man. She said that she has had success. She found that when people realize they have legal rights – it works. To bring change, it is important to explain to the men that this is not against them, but rather it helps bringing something beautiful into their lives. There is no confrontation – but the suggestion of involvement towards a joint result and she advises to go this way also in the relation with the religious leaders. they are vital in order to come up with a friendly resolution.

The discussion was joined by another member from Doctors without Borders – Sophie Delauney. Molly told her: “You ask what do we want and expect them to describe a just society. Then you ask them how to achieve it as a group? You find that you can move them in the right direction as a village.”

A question from Ahava Zarembski, CEO of Yesod Strategic Consulting Group, dealt with the price of drugs – specifically the case of malaria in Kenya. This brought an answer that said that we do not want to pick specific cases as we need innovative solutions to drive down the prices with pharmaceutical companies. The bottom up approach has to be strong in Africa and we need cheap generic prices. The Chair intervened saying that she knows it worked with Malaria, but is there a similar activity in AIDS? The Israeli said that there are geo-political approaches and that Malaria is more tractable and soluble.

The Chair: A lot of corporations say – “we want our money to do something.” So we have to learn to market our cause in a better way.

The Israeli: “The more overlap there is between the business and social needs, the money goes further.”

UNIFEM said – “In Africa we have a pro-agenda pro-women program.


Panel II was the Americas Round Table that included 9 people one of which was a man:

This panel was facilitated by Cindi Leive, Editor-in-Chief Glamour Magazine.

The Special member was Mary Ellen Iskenderian, President and CEO of Women’s World Banking.

Among the panelists was Dale Standifer, Executive Director, Metropolitan Center for Women and Children in New Orleans who looks for a clean and sound environment in homes; Adriene Germain, President of the International Women’s Health Coalition; Pamela Gross, Editor at Large, The Hill, the congress daily and present was also her husband who owns the paper; Ambassador Craig Stapleton, Former Ambassador to France in the Bush Administration and currently trustee of the G.W. Bush Library and Foundation and the 9/11 Memorial foundation; Sima Quraishi, Executive Director, Muslim Women Resource Center, she is also involved with work in Afghanistan; Kathryn Wylde, President and CEO of Partnership for New York City, she is also on the board of the Manhattan Institute; Julia Robinson, Our Children Foundation.

Gross said it was terribly necessary to allow contribution to charities to be tax deductible. She said the focus is on the poorest women – they usually have a 4th grade education, one third are subject to domestic violence in the Us and in order to break the circle of poverty one must reach out to these women. Women are vulnerable to corruption and the media needs to be a watchdog she said.

Quraishi said they have about 13,000 clients per year and only 50 people nationally, but they work with universities. Many problems in places like Chicago and Missouri. Germain wanted to know if they work with the whole family and it turned out that many of the women are very religious and never went to school all their life.

Standifer said that one third of the World population is under 19 and we must use this as an opportunity. He also said that the Gulf will cost a ZILLION – so I know he was my kind of a person and that he understands that there is more to this oil-spill then jobs – but this was not the issue of the day – though it clearly will make all other problems worse eventually.


Panel III the Asia and Middle East Round Table that included 8 people one of which was a man:

The panel was facilitated by Anita Pratap, Documentary Filmmaker, Author, Journalist.

The Special member was Mu Sochua, Member of Cambodian Parliament and Human Rights Advocate.

Among the panelists Sakena Yacoobi, Executive Director, Afghan Institute of Learning – she works also in Pakistan; Dr. Basmah Omair, CEO of Khadija Bint Khawilid Center for Businesswomen in Saudi Arabia, Manju Kochar, Chairman, Prassad Chikitsa, India she has a company that sources apparel and is on the board of a fashion academy; Guy Jacobson, Founder Redlight Children; Zainab Salbi, Founder of Women for Women International of Iran; Chekeba Hachemi, President Afghanistan Libre; Dina Powell, President of the Goldman Sachs Foundation and Global Head of the Office of the Corporate Engagement;

Chekeba was the first woman diplomat nominated by Karzai in 2001, then she became Minister Counsellor to the Vice President for Economic Issues but in 2009 resigned to protest the corruption. She is also the founder of a women’s magazine ROZ. It seems that a problem for Afghan women is how to get support for their men.

Dr. Omair is credited with restructuring the businesswomen center to become the first lobbying center focusing on legislation to empower women in Saudi Arabia economically and socially.She was also recently elected as deputy chair for the labor committee at the Jeddah Chamber of Commerce and Industry. Her background includes the American University in Washington DC.

She explained that 80% of college graduates are women but only 14% are employed – they ask for more leadership positions in decision making jobs. She mentioned about a woman that proposed marriage to a 15 year older man and became a role model.

Finally it was Manju who got down to basics – awareness of AIDS and underage prostitution and changed the tenor of the discussion.

It turns out that in New York there are 15,000 under age prostitutes. In the US the total is 650,000 and Guy explains that he decided to make a difference by using his filmmaking skills. He is a former New York attorney and investment banker and now is President of Priority Films. Then we heard from Mu Sochua of Cambodia. She was the first woman Minister for Women’s Affairs in Cambodia and now she is not sure of her life. The Prime Minister of Cambodia is ruling for 30 years. People say that gold shines forever but a white piece of cloth when it is stained it is ruined forever.

She teaches economic, social and political rights and says actions must be taken. The dialogue shall support the NGOs to protect the life of the people. she wants the US, UK, France to ask the government of Cambodia to stop discrimination and go for Human Rights.

Two women from Nepal spoke on domestic violence.

The chair says we must know to ask for the 5 million grants as well as for the 5,000 grants – for mega solutions not only micro solutions. Goldman Sachs made the 5 million decision said Dina.

Two questions from Peru got back to the “Red Light Children” issue. This is a crime against humanity – it was easily agreed. The “Johns” commit the crime.

The chair says the way is: Protection, Prosecution, Prevention.

Question: What do you expect for action?

Answer:    For a meeting like this we make sure it will be discussed with government. Next conference can be in India or Pakistan etc. we need to change the mind of the people on the other side of the planet – let’s network to facilitate partnership.


Panel IV the Europe Round Table that included 9 people two of which were men.

It was facilitated by Alison Smale, Executive Editor, International Herald Tribune, lives now in Paris.

The panel included: Sophie Romana, Executive Director, Planet Finance; Edit Schlaffer, Chairman and Founder, Women without Borders, SAVE – Sisters Against Violent Extremism; May de Silva, Director, Women into Politics; Inna Tymchyk, Booard Member, Faith, Hope, love from Odessa, Ukraine; David Arkless, President Global Corporate & Government Affairs, Manpower Inc.; Kat Rohrer, Director/Producer, GreenKat Productions; and Fernando Villalonga, Consul General of Spain.

Romana has a solar panel project to raise local income. A diesel generator for a sowing machine or for fishing needs. She presented the switch to solar power. She knows a Kenya village where the kids start school at 5am in order to make use of every bit of light.

Edit knows that the Superpower-man has collapsed

Question to Villalonga about education that breaks up into gender or cultures and he sad that this is an issue odf discrimination.

de Silva reminds the Forum of Suu Kyi marks 65th birthday under house arrest and says that here an elected leader is discriminated against and governments do nothing about it.

Finally we get to some really heated topic – women trafficking brought up by Inna.

In Italy there is a decompression time of three months before prosecution. Then in all of Europe there were 5 successful prosecutions on human trafficking. Seemingly this was the main women’s issue in the European context.

The discussion moved back to who is the culprit in prostitution. Is it mainly a question of age, is it slavery at any age, or if the case is with adults – a willing choice of profession? What sort of regulation is fine and acceptable?


This brings us to the CLOSING REMARKS by Cecilia Attias and the preparation for the call for action.

The latter obviously will yet to be hammered out – but the three topics were nailed down in the closing remarks:

The first topic deals with Cambodia – clearly the most disfavored place in the world these days even worse then Myanmar/Burma. The suggestion is to create a delegation to discuss this with the government of Cambodia. There are topics of slavery, child soldiers, forced prostitution of minors etc.

The second topic is women soldiers.

The third topic is the legalization of prostitution within clear borders that do not allow for minors or slavery.


The last point – the subject of legalization of prostitution within clear limits, took me the same night from the Grand Hyatt Hotel where the Forum was held, to the Marriott Hotel on Broadway where the UN Global Compact was being held, this in order to speak with the representative of the ILO (the International Labor Organization) to look upon their material on prostitution as a labor issue. I picked up this material, and as such will have a follow up article on the third topic of the above.

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