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Companies use CSR strategies to encourage women and youth into the finance sector

Empowering women and the youth in the (UAE) and (GCC) is a vital part of Corporate Social Responsibility aimed at building a pipeline of local talent. Companies are using CSR strategies to encourage low-income women and youth to join the finance and business sector.

"It's all about empowering women and youth from local communities. Through micro-finance, enterprise development, financial capability, asset building and youth education in the region, CSR models can be developed to transform low-income communities and empower women and youth by developing and honing their finance skills," said Karim Seifeddine corporate communications head for Citi, Middle East & Africa and speaker at this year's 9th CSR Summit.

One of Citi's most popular programs is their Entrepreneurship and Business Plan Development with the University of Dubai. It focuses on the entrepreneurial qualifications of women through specialised and focused workshops. So far the programme has benefited 150 women in the region teaching them how to develop business ideas into functioning enterprises.

"We also have the Arab Women's Entrepreneurship Project (AWEP). The program enhances the skills of 80 Arab women entrepreneurs in the UAE, Kuwait, Lebanon and Morocco. The three-week training session is on business plan creation, basic business accounting, entrepreneurship and life skills and the use of technology for business start-ups," he continued.

Another program, the Women's Entrepreneurship Initiative is focused on being a micro-enterprise. The program takes 400 students from the Higher Colleges of Technology (HCT) in Sharjah to be trained, with 80% of the students being from a low-income household. "This programme empowers women with necessary knowledge of marketing, finance and banking, accounting and management skills," said Seifeddine.

Determined to build local talent, Citi consistently provided scholarships to deserving university students across the region from low-income backgrounds in the areas of management, business, marketing and finance, between 2000 and 2010.

"We want to build a pipeline of local talent with an inclination to work within the financial sector. We work closely with universities within the region to achieve this. Our management team is also involved in lecturing and mentoring students," he said.

Seifeddine will be one of the panelists at the Summit speaking about developing a viable CSR model for theGCC by taking into account local traditions, culture and practices and its effect on community engagement. He will be using Citi as an example drawing on their CSR strategies in the region. Since 2005 the company has committed USD 8 million to CSR in the Middle East region reaching more than 8000 beneficiaries.

The 9th CSR Summit takes place from 10 to 13 June at the Mövenpick Hotel Jumeirah Beach, Dubai, where Seifeddine will discuss how organisations can lock CSR into its core business along with other speakers. Also presenting at the summit, will be Rania Tayeh, Branding and CSR officer for Dubai Aluminium Company, Huw Gilbert, Senior Director of Corporate Affairs-AMEA for PepsiCo, and the events official CSR partner. Sponsors for this year's summit include Henkel, Counterpart International and Procter and Gamble. 10 percent of all delegate fees at the event will be donated to the Dubai Autism Centre as part of IIR Middle East, the event organisers CSR initiative.

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