The WOMANi Symposium organised by Cambridge IFA as part of its WOMANProgramme took place in Dubai this year, showcasing a gathering of women from various corners of the globe. Among them were individuals occupying senior positions, as well as those actively shaping and transforming perspectives. DDCAP group has been a staunch supporter of the WOMANi programme ever since its inception. It is their support that has been crucial in the development of a platform where the talents and capabilities of women in Islamic business and finance can thrive. This year Maybank has been a Strategic Partner of the WOMANi Programme.

For nearly a decade, WOMANi has been dedicated to commemorating the accomplishments and triumphs of prominent women in the realms of Islamic Business and Finance. This year’s symposium served as a platform for influential women from diverse backgrounds to engage in discussions aimed at addressing and bridging the leadership gap, increasing financial inclusion and transforming the Islamic financial landscape within the global Islamic economy.

The theme for this symposium revolved around the strength, resilience, and innovation demonstrated by women in Islamic business and finance. In a world that is constantly evolving, these women stand as pillars of success, breaking barriers and proving that excellence knows no gender.

Throughout history, women have shaped economies, fostered sustainable development, and promoted ethical practices. This event shined a spotlight on the remarkable stories and journeys of female Islamic finance leaders who have excelled in their respective fields and paved the way for future generations. This symposium was a testament to the fact that diversity and inclusion are essential for the growth and prosperity of any industry. The audience and participants were inspired by the insights, wisdom, and collective impact of these women leaders.

Professor Humayon Dar, Chairman of the WOMANi Programme and Director General of the Cambridge Institute of Islamic Finance has been a driving force behind this programme. He traced a trajectory of women empowerment starting from the first Islamic bank and the first women to have made a mark on the business world, to the millions of women today standing as a beacon of hope and flair inspiring millions more to follow their dreams and change the world.

The theme for the symposium revolved around the evolution of women in Islamic business and finance, tracing their impact throughout the years and looking forward to a transformed world. Once confined by societal norms, women are now emerging as influential contributors, actively reshaping the landscape of Islamic finance. In the past, this domain was inhibited, offering limited opportunities for women to engage in the intricate realms of business and finance. However, resilient women broke barriers, challenged stereotypes and paved the way for change. The present now echoes a transformed landscape, with women assuming pivotal roles, fostering diversity, and driving innovation in Islamic finance. As we look to the future, there is a palpable sense of optimism. Women are positioned to play an even more substantial role, bringing forth fresh perspectives and innovative approaches that will redefine and shape the industry.

The first panel focused on “From Pioneers to Powerhouses: Tracing the Impact of Women in Islamic Finance.” Maryam Al Shorafa, Head of Corporate Communication & Marketing, Ajman Bank, UAE moderated the panel and Sophia Kigozi, Partner at MESA Advocates, Uganda; Zahra Jassim, Director, AAOIFI, Bahrain; Melika Bedri, Cheif Executive Officer, Zamzam Bank, Ethiopia; and Atty. Arifa A. Ala, Assistant Governor, Financial Supervision Sub-Sector III, the Central Bank of the Philippines were on the panel.

The panelists discussed the opportunities and challenges faced by women in Islamic finance in their respective countries, while also highlighting the remarkable journeys of women who have transcended traditional constraints to become influential forces. The panel traced the journey of these pioneers who have played pivotal roles in shaping and redefining the landscape of Islamic finance and rose as powerhouses challenging societal norms. Their impact serves as a testament to the evolving role of women in the industry, marking a significant chapter in its ongoing narrative.

The second session of the day was on “Innovating Inclusion: Women at the Forefront of Islamic Financial Transformation” Tabinda Hussain, Manager Research & Partnerships, Cambridge IFA moderated the panel and Madina Tukulova, Head of Islamic Finance, AIFC Authority, Kazakhstan, Nerma Saracevic, Financial Development Manager, Mozaik Startup Studio, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Maya Marissa Malek, Managing Director/CEO, Amanie Advisors' global office, UAE, and Salima Obaid Issa Al-Marzoqi, Chief Islamic Banking Officer, Muzn Islamic Banking - National Bank of Oman were the panellists.