An interview with Honorable Lujaina Mohsin Darwish, Chairperson for Infrastructure, Technology, Industrial & Consumer Solutions (ITICS) of Mohsin Haider Darwish LLC
Honorable Lujaina Mohsin Darwish, Chairperson for Infrastructure, Technology, Industrial & Consumer Solutions (ITICS) of Mohsin Haider Darwish LLC, and Member of the State Council, is a true inspiration to women across the Middle East. Her dynamic leadership and business acumen has won her multiple awards, including “International Businesswoman of the Year” from the Stevie Awards. She also holds the esteemed position of Honorary President of the Oman-China Friendship Association and was honoured with the Citation Medal on the occasion of the Oman China Friendship Association’s 10th Anniversary. This honour from the Government of China was in recognition of her efforts towards developing trade, cultural, sports and economic relations between the two countries.
In an exclusive interview with The European Lujaina shares her thoughts on gender equality, and reflects on her recent achievements and their wider significance.
Gender equality is one of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. Where do you think Oman is on the path to achieving this objective?
Honorable Lujaina Mohsin Darwish: Sustainable development for any country is always linked to gender equality, as it is a moral and ethical imperative. A sustainable future is based on the rights, dignity, and capabilities of the world’s female population.
During his rule, the late His Majesty Sultan Qaboos gave heed to the value of gender equality as a foundation of nation-building in both his policies and rhetoric. This has continued dominantly under His Majesty Sultan Haitham bin Tarik, who has been instrumental in pushing through progressive social policies in areas such as gender equality, against resistance from traditional sectors.
Omani leaders invested in women’s knowledge, agency and collective action as it has a huge impact to improve resource productivity, enhance ecosystem conservation and sustainable use of natural resources, and to create more sustainable, energy, water, and health systems. Failure to capitalise on this would be a missed opportunity. Women ought to not be seen as casualties, but as central performing artists in moving towards sustainability.
Outline the changes and measures being carried out in Oman to help achieve a more equal society.
Many changes and measures were taken by Omani leaders to help push towards a more equal society in the past 25 years. This has led to an active participation in business, employment of females in the public and private sectors, empowerment, education, community and an overall positive development journey in the country. Oman has invested heavily in its human capital via education for all genders and has ensured there is gender equality in law and official political discourse.
With the increase in educational opportunities for women, different functions that they hold, and decision-making positions, Omani women are able to be role models for other countries. All these in turn ™ lead to progress in Oman, allowing women to participate in the development of society and a subsequent sharing of responsibilities between genders. Women’s freedom of choice, in regards to their specialisation, gives them a greater opportunity to create, therefore showing all their capabilities because they believe in what they are doing.
Omani culture is also favourable towards the role of women in every aspect of modern day life. Society is extremely respectful and supportive of the role women play, particularly in business. Omani women have proved to be strong business leaders. With their commercial acumen and broad skill-set women have risen up the corporate ladder. Women in Oman outnumber their male counterparts at many professional courses and programmes. There is no reason for the role and importance of women to diminish in any way. In fact, I am confident that women will outperform their male counterparts in most areas of professional and business activity.
How does Mohsin Haider Darwish LLC champion
We are pleased to have accomplished 77.3% of Omani women working at Mohsin Haider Darwish Group (MHD), and we have collaborated with local businesses to build capability, identify and improve talent and co-create innovative solutions for our females through many initiatives. These include women policy, benefits, a training institute where we conduct training to all Omanis, internship training, and SME training, There are also women empowerment programmes, technical, commercial, soft skills and vocational training.
Empowering women requires policies and human resource programmes that support this goal. When women form nearly 50% of the total population in Oman, the challenges faced by them are a bit more unequivocal. For the typical professional Omani woman, besides the age-old challenge of co-managing their professional and domestic lives, overcoming some of the remnant socio-cultural barriers represent the principal challenges.
What are the advantages of a more diverse workforce that MHD has benefitted from?
Today, we are living in a cosmopolitan business environment which requires a diverse workforce, and it has become a major goal for every company. It is not just about your reputation, either. It is not just about some lofty corporate social responsibility goal. A diverse workforce has many benefits such as increased innovation and better results, increased productivity, employee competitiveness and global impact.
MHD has the strength of legacy and the spirit of ambition to leverage these opportunities. Together with our partners and people, we will continue to inspire progress that will build meaningful values for future generations. With our network and presence, we are collaborating with local businesses to build capability, identify and hone talent and co-create innovative solutions.
How do you feel that younger women in Oman are inspired to reach their full potential?
Women in Oman now pursue careers and professional training, moving from their previous and traditional role at home to the public sphere. In Oman, 17 October is celebrated every year as the Omani Women’s Day with various pro-female events.
I have been part of the Oman Woman’s Association, Arab International Women’s Forum and the Business Women Committee by the Oman Chamber of Commerce & Industry (OCCI), during which I have worked with the Omani women to make them financially independent through small scale companies. In fact, Omani women are at the forefront in almost every sphere of life. We as women should have the opportunity to attempt anything we want to try. Sometimes, there will be limitations, but don’t listen to restraints that others put on you. The only obstacle in your way is yourself.
You are consistently referred to as one of the most influential businesswomen in Oman and the Middle East. Describe why it is that you feel passionate about gender equality.
I have a clear vision towards my goals and what I want to achieve in the next five years. By abiding to my vision and practicing it, I am working towards female empowerment. I want to remove all barriers that are being faced by every businesswoman and be their role model in their business journey.
For the Omani businesswoman, in addition to the above, the ability to raise resources for their ventures is a big challenge. We are encouraging Omani women and influencing them to utilise the resources for their ventures which are provided by the government and banking sector who have several schemes and opportunities to ease their concerns, it will require the continuing inner strength and determination of spirit to drive Omani women forward. Awareness is something that I always encourage and I look to contribute more towards creating and educating more Omani women which will only improve these situations going forward.
During 2020, I achieved global recognition and was honoured with the Citation Medal on the celebratory occasion of the Oman China Friendship Association’s 10th Anniversary. This award from the Government of People’s Republic of China was in recognition of my efforts towards developing trade, cultural, sports and economic relations between the two friendly countries.
I was also recognised as “Woman of the Year” by International Business Stevie Awards and “Businesswoman of the Year” by Middle East Stevie Awards. Followed by “The Most Outstanding Corporate Leader of the Year” by Alam Al- Iktisaad Awards, “Woman of the Year” by Al Mar’a Excellence Award, “Hall of Fame” – Oman Best Employer Brand Awards and a special recognition award as “Inspirational Woman of the Year” by Le Fonti, Italy.
From my side, the effort will always be to raise the bar higher and work towards achieving new and bigger goals, while at the same time meeting the expectations of my family and all stakeholders.