opinionBy Hajiya Bilkisu
Mni — I always cherish an opportunity to attend meetings in Saudi Arabia as it provides me the means to work and worship. I therefore went with zeal to the selection meeting for the 8th edition of the Islamic Development Bank, IDB 1434AH prize for "Women's Contribution to Development." It held February 18-20 2013 at the Bank's head office in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. The Islamic Development Bank (IDB) is an institution that fosters the economic development and social progress of member countries as well as Muslim communities in non-member countries in keeping with the principles of Shari'ah (Islamic Law). The IDB aims to alleviate poverty through human developments thus offers assistance in different shapes and forms. The Annual IDB Prize for Women's Contribution to Development is one of the many activities the Bank engages in for the purpose of socio-economic development of societies especially hoping to promote women who are capable of uplifting their societies. The Prize stems from the Bank's belief that recognizing and celebrating successes plays a vital role in encouraging yet more participation on the behalf of women in contributing to development.
For the 8th Annual IDB Prize for Women's Contribution to Development, the IDB entrusted Effat University (EU) to be the Academic Consultant hence handle the screening and short listing of candidates. Effat University, the first private university for women in Saudi Arabia, is a non-profit organization that aims to educate women to be active members in their societies capable of contributing to the socio-economic development of communities in keeping with the culture and teachings of Islamic law of Saudi Arabia: "Effat University aims to be among the leading independent higher education institutions, educating tomorrow's leaders at an international standard to become ambassadors of Queen Effat's educational legacy" which "[exemplifies] the spirit of Islam in its quest for knowledge, truth and enlightenment."
The prize was advertised using multimedia channels worldwide and particularly in all the IDB countries. Three out of the 13 member IDB Women's Advisory Panel were invited to join a group of consultants from the Jeddah based Effat University who work with Bank officials to undertake the screening process. The Women's Panel members were Dr. Raeda Al Qutub from Jordan is Secretary General from her country's Higher Population Council, Dr Saleha Abedin of Pakistan is the Vice Dean, Institutional Advancement Dar Al Hekma College and my humble self. Two subject specialists were invited as consultants to join the group and add their insight to the contributions from the Effat consultants and Panel members. They are, Dr. Balgis Osman Elasha from Sudan who is a staff of the Africa Development Bank, climate change adaption expert and 2008 Laureate of the United Nations Environment Program Champions of Earth Award, Dr Nuran Talu from Turkey is an environmental management and climate change policy expert.
Members arrived and were warmly welcomed by the Bank's protocol staff and particularly who work directly with the Women's Panel, Mr Riad Ahmed Manager of the Cooperation and Capacity Building Department and Kristonia Lockhart of the Gender and NGO Division of the Bank. They have remained supportive of the members of the Selection Committee and the prize process.
The meeting began with welcome address by the Capacity Development Department and introduction of Selection Committee members. Effat University, consultants for the prize screening and short-listing made a presentation on the screening process. Presentations on the shortlisted individuals and organisations were done on a case by case basis. The Panel received 108 applications in three different languages, English Arabic and French. There were two categories of prizes, one for individuals and another for organisations. To be eligible for the prize, organizations must meet the following requirements: Be legally registered and work in the IDB member countries or Muslim communities in non-member countries, be a not-for-profit institution, have women in the decision-making level of the organization, hold values and principles and run operations that do not conflict with those of the IDB, support projects/activities that have clearly helped to increase women's participation in making decisions regarding the environment and be nominated by an independent organization.
The panel and Effat University also agreed that the general criteria adopted in selecting and assessing applications for the Prize from individuals and organizations shall include four main areas: impact, creativity, outreach, and sustainability and impact: Individuals and organizations are to show projects/activities that have contributed to the improvement of the socio-economic status of women by helping them build their capacities. On creativity individuals and organizations nominated should have projects /activities that are outstanding, innovative and unique. For outreach individuals and organizations nominated should have mechanisms for extending their projects/activities to surrounding areas to ensure their services are offered to as many young people as possible particularly young women. For sustainability individuals and organizations nominated should have projects/activities that are sustainable. The prize carries a cash award of 50,000US dollars for a woman or group of women and 100US dollars for an organization.
For this year, the Panel received 108 files. Some of the shortlisted candidates are campaigners and lobbyists for environmental issues, some promote development of bio-fuels and renewable energies. Various projects are community focused such as those providing energy to remote villages, economic empowerment, solar energy installation. One of the candidates has created a fertilizer that doubles the yield of grapevines and making the soils more fertile. Another candidate is working on waste management emphasising, that if the tons of waste are not processed and recycled correctly, they will produce 600,000 tons of greenhouse gases. Dispersal of this waste as-is would lead to the destruction of land, not to mention the dangers to the health of the city population. Another candidate is planting trees around mosques and has succeeded in getting the seven-year tree-planting project. The candidate said she encourages women of all ages to make everyone aware of the importance of the environment and to "use religion to get the men involved," and using the Islamic phrase that conveys the duty of stewardship of the earth bestowed upon us all. Among the organisations that applied is a national NGO and was also the first environmental organization to be established in the country. It is advocating for a constitutional law for environmental protection. Among the activities it is involved in are provision and promotion of solar stoves, gasoline usage, conserving natural resources, fighting desertification, and using irrigation systems to conserve water.