Sunday 19 October 2008 (20 Shawwal 1429) 

      Businesswomen pull out of MCCI board elections
      Badea Abu Al-Naja | Arab News 
      MAKKAH: Three businesswomen contesting elections to the board of 
directors of Makkah Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MCCI) have withdrawn 
their candidacies accusing chamber officials of not cooperating with them.

      Areej Justaniyah, one of the four businesswomen who had submitted 
nominations, told Arab News that the chamber did not provide an appropriate 
atmosphere for women's participation in the elections.

      "This was my first experience in the elections, but I didn't find the 
necessary ambience and that is why I am withdrawing," Justaniyah said. "When 
all doors are closed in your face you have no option but to withdraw."

      Amina Zawawi and Sameerah are the other two businesswomen who withdrew 
their nominations.

      Justaniyah claimed that chamber officials were hesitant to provide the 
women candidates with the election plan. "Is this acceptable when there is only 
one day left for the elections?" the businesswoman asked.

      More than 5,000 registered members of the chamber, including about 800 
businesswomen, will elect 10 members to the MCCI board of directors tomorrow 
out of 29 candidates, including one woman.

      Justaniyah criticized the chamber officials for not making sufficient 
preparations for the election of women and said that they were not willing to 
welcome businesswomen to the chamber's board of directors.

      "Even in other matters, businesswomen are being marginalized. The chamber 
is not informing us about lectures and seminars it organizes which may help 
improve our performance," she said.

      Justaniyah had lamented the inability of Fatimah Center, the women's 
section of MCCI, to provide necessary services to businesswomen.

      "The center makes empty promises. It claims it is launching new schemes 
and initiatives for women. But they are never translated into reality," 
Justaniyah, a distributor of imported lingerie with a shop in Makkah, told Arab 
News in an interview a couple of months ago.

      Justaniyah did not cite any reason for the hostile attitude of the 
chamber officials. She, however, expressed her hope that the media would 
encourage businesswomen by highlighting their grievances. She also hopes that 
Commerce Minister Abdullah Zainal would consider her name when he selects 
appointed members to the board.

      Zahra Qadah, the only remaining woman candidate, expressed happiness over 
her candidacy. "I am happy to compete regardless of the outcome; it doesn't 
matter whether I win or not," she said, adding that she will run again next 
year if she did not make it this time.

      Qadah said the chamber provided the women candidates with a CD-Rom 
containing the names, addresses and telephone numbers of 800 women voters but 
they were not able to contact them because much of the data was not updated.

      "It is obvious that the chamber does not want any woman element in its 
board of directors," she said, implying that the male lobby was dominating the 

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