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The 5 Biggest Lessons We Learnt from the First WILL Summit

Inside the inaugural WILL Summit. Photo: Hyku Photography

Big news: the WILL Summit is  returning this year in a new digital format, with the ever-present goal of channeling the voices of female changemakers and celebrating the achievements of Arab women. The WILL initiative was launched in 2019 and established by our publisher Nervora with the support of UN Women and the General Women’s Union to break down barriers of gender stereotypes towards women. The event brings together established women from all sectors and paths of life, from entrepreneurs, athletes, artists, and educators, to politicians, in support of female-based social action. The first WILL summit was held in November 2019 in Abu Dhabi, and the second edition of the empowering event will be held in collaboration with Mastercard.

Here are 5 things we learnt from the first edition of the WILL Summit.

1. Teamwork of like-minded individuals makes the dream work.

Bringing together those with a similar vision and goal in mind is crucial to making change. What is even more significant is giving women the space to speak on their aspirations and accomplishments. Founder and CEO of Nervora and publisher of Vogue Arabia, Shashi Menon, explains why initiatives such as the WILL Summit are so important, stating, “For things that are really monumental, it takes a lot of people that have a shared agenda, and sometimes to really make that happen you need to bring them physically into the same space and have the same conversation at the same time.” Organizations also play a key role in change, such as the UN Women and General Women’s Union, and Menon offered gratitude to that end saying, “I think that we have been really humbled by the opportunity to work with UN Women and the General Women’s Union and have the support of incredible partners that share that same mission. Our hope is that this is one of many initiatives to be able to make change in our own small way.”

Rana Hatem and Shashi Menon at the inaugural WILL Summit. Photo: Hyku Photography

2. The future of women in Saudi Arabia is visibly changing as we speak. Change comes slowly, but surely.

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is ever-changing in the rights of women. A state in progress, KSA is in the making of a more female-inclusive space. Aseel Al Hamad, motorsport enthusiast and the first female board member of the Saudi Arabian Motor Federation, commented on the future status of women in the Kingdom, mentioning that, “Actually we are living it right now, we can see it. It’s such an amazing period to witness in Saudi and I’m so happy that we are being a part of the change. Saudi women have always been working very hard, and now we can see all of the effort and the results of it.”

Aseel Al Hamad in conversation. Photo: Hyku Photography

3. Equality is at the forefront of social change.

Shining a light on equality for women in the realms of business and fashion, the summit offers a platform for steps towards balanced scaled between genders. In what she hopes to see in the future for women working in these industries, Ingie Chalhoub offers, “Equality. It’s a big word, but we are not yet there. We are in the 21st century and equality is not yet there. To look at one another the same way, give the same chances, give the same goals, and help others to achieve them in the same way, instead of having presumptions.”

Ingie Chalhoub at the WILL Summit. Photo: Hyku Photography

4. Persistence and determination is key.

The inaugural WILL summit also highlighted the fact that giving up is not an option on the road to helping others. Maria Conceicao, holder of 8 Guinness World Records and Founder of the Maria Christina foundation, spoke about the hardest thing she’s ever had to do in her life, and shared that “It was definitely to keep my promise on getting these children out of poverty”. With persistences come the best results.

A peek at Maria Conceicao’s talk with Sujata Assomull, Dr Aghadeer Jweihan, Diala Khamra, and Farrah Nabulsi. Photo: Hyku Photography

5. Keeping a focused and positive outlook guarantees success.

With the right amount of focus and the right support system, nothing can stand in your way. Five-time figure skating world champion Zahra Lari shared insights on what motivates her everyday, explaining that, “The first thing is, I really focus on my goal and I don’t let anything else distract me.” Lari keeps a positive circle surrounding her, which also includes a few special fans who continue to aid her in her journey. “If i’m having a bad day and if I get messages from fans, I read every single message because they make me want to go and train harder and they make me want to do it even better and better. My fans are the best and they inspire me to keep going,” she said.

Zahra Lari with Aseel Al Hamad. Photo: Hyku Photography

Taking place virtually on May 19 at 2pm GST, the WILL Summit can be tuned in via Zoom, Facebook, and Twitter. To register, visit

Read Next: Women Empowerment Event WILL Summit is Returning with a Virtual Edition

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