Presidential Welcome

From left, Lance Askildson, Ken Harmon, Former President Jimmy Carter, H.E. Rawya Saud Al Busaidi, and H.E. Hunaina Al Mughairy

Former President Jimmy Carter helps kick off “Women of Oman” conference KENNESAW, Ga. (…

Georgia (Nov 11, 2014)

Former President Jimmy Carter helps kick off “Women of Oman” conference

KENNESAW, Ga. (Nov. 11, 2014) -- Former President Jimmy Carter welcomed visiting Omani officials and representatives and guests of the Sultan Qaboos Cultural Center and Kennesaw State University to formally kick off an international conference highlighting the role of women in Oman.   

The evening reception at the Carter Center in Atlanta set the stage for the all-day conference — “Women of Oman: Changing Roles & Transnational Influence” — held on campus Nov. 7. The conference was held as part of Kennesaw State’s “Year of the Arabian Peninsula.”

At the reception, Carter warmly recalled his relationship with Oman and his first visit to the country.  He also praised Kennesaw State’s vision and leadership in international education. 

“When I became president, I had a very close relationship with Oman and we reached out to them on many occasions to help us on difficult issues,” Carter said.  “After I left the White House and started the Carter Center, one of my first desires was to go to Oman.”

When he did visit Oman, Carter said he was most impressed by the Sultan’s hospitality and his preference for showcasing the country’s art, music and architecture rather than its military might and factories. Since that visit, Oman has supported the Carter Center’s work to eradicate a “Guinea worm” disease that has affected more than 3.5 million people in East Africa but now only affects about 100 people in 20 countries. 

“It is a great honor for the Carter Center to be included in this way with Kennesaw State, which gives wonderful support, not only to Oman, but to the people and students from so many other countries,” Carter continued.  “Kennesaw State is rapidly expanding in the quantity and quality of [international] instruction.”

During the conference, the rapid progress towards women’s empowerment in Oman since 1970 when Sultan Qaboos bin Said Al Said came to power was described in both poetic and practical terms.

It was the Sultan’s desire to have women – those in the villages and in urban centers — contribute to the process of economic development in Oman, said Rawya Saud Al Busaidi, Oman’s minister of higher education and the first woman appointed to full ministerial rank. 

“We’re not as oil rich as some of the other countries in the region, so the country needs every pair of hands [to work],” she said. “Would a bird be able to fly without one of its wings?”

Al Busaidi noted that Sultan Qaboos initiated many social and political reforms to equalize opportunities for women. As a result, women in Oman now hold 40.6 percent of government jobs and represent more than half of those who attend college. They also are well represented in the banking and commercial sector, in sports, the police and the royal armed forces. Oct. 17 is celebrated each year as “Omani Women’s Day” to highlight the role of women in the society.

“In 40 years, Sultan Qaboos has taken Oman from the 17th century into the 21st century,” said Hunaina Al Mughairy, who has served as Oman’s ambassador to the U.S. since 2005.

Also among the delegation of Omani officials participating in the conference were Sultan Qaboos University’s Ali Al Bimani, fifth-vice chancellor, and Mona bint Fahad Al Said, vice chancellor of international cooperation. Other Omani administrators, as well as international and Kennesaw State scholars, also participated in three panel discussions on women’s changing roles in culture, civil society, sports and health in Oman.

Kennesaw State’s Division of Global Affairs hosted guests from Oman and from the Sultan Qaboos Cultural Center in Washington, D. C., throughout the conference and during an evening concert performance by the Oud Hobbyist Association and the Al Najoom Dance Troupe, both from Oman. The SQCC sponsored the Carter Center reception and partnered with Kennesaw State to sponsor the conference.

“It is critical that we gain a better understanding of other regions and countries of the world,” said Ken Harmon, Kennesaw State provost, who presented a special award to Higher Education Minister Al Busaidi for her dedicated service. “The Women of Oman conference is another step on the way to that.”

“The Year of the Arabian Peninsula” is Kennesaw State’s 31st annual study of a country or region. The yearlong study typically includes a series of weekly lectures, special courses, cultural events, study abroad and other faculty and student exchanges, a faculty learning community and an international conference related to the country or region under study. The program, which recently garnered one of two honors awarded annually by the American Association of State Colleges and Universities for excellence and innovation in international education, is coordinated each year by Dan Paracka, director of academic initiatives for the Division of Global Affairs.

The “Year of” program is about elucidating cultural differences in order to showcase our shared humanity — our common struggles, aspirations and achievements — while also developing new partnerships and dialogue with our fellow global citizens around the world," said Lance Askildson, vice provost and Kennesaw State’s chief international officer.


— Sabbaye McGriff




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