Habiba Al Marashi is an Emirati environmentalist. In 1991 she founded the Emirates Environmental Group, which she continues to chair.
In 2004 she founded the Arabia CSR Network (ACSRN), devoted to corporate social responsibility across the Arab peninsula. This is a multi-stakeholder platform, the first in the Arab world. The platform helps businesses and governmental institutions to strengthen their engagement in sustainable development.
She took time to answer some questions before the session “Multinationals, regions and cities” she was moderating.
What makes you most proud of all that you have done?
I think my role as a mother is a role that I am very proud of. I have raised four children, and each one of them is a qualified person in their own thing. They are all living their life independently, successfully. They are contributing on their own ways. I look at that as one of my achievement. I am grateful and I feel privileged that Allah is giving me all of this.
I think that starting a movement against the tide has been an achievement that is recognize by everybody. It humbles me to see how much I have managed to impact policy changing on the national level in my country, to see how I have managed to rally the masses on the sustainability journey and to capture the attention of the private sector to make them an effective partner. The environment that my government has provided me with enabled me to do my work.
These are all achievement I value very much.
Is your project harder to promote because you’re an Emirati woman?
I always say: “if you did not succeed, is because you did not managed to sell it properly”. It does not matter who you are, where you are from, what is your gender. If you have a call in life and you believe in your mission, if you structure it properly you have your audience.
What does your presence here mean for women?
I believe strongly in women empowerment, in women given the opportunity and giving them the environment to excel. I push myself to be involved and present in this kind of global platforms. It is very important for us to be part of the decision-making process, of the change movement that is happening around the globe. I think at the core of sustainability, women should be there.
How do you consider the future, concerning sustainable development in the Arab world?
I am a very optimistic person and that is why you see me continue against this journey for the last twenty-seven years. I know that regardless of the ridiculing sometimes of all what you can do on an individual basis, this is a work for the government to deal with, this is a work of the male world. You have to persevere, and you have believe in yourself. You have to believe that the impact that you are doing on the ground, on the individual level, counts. And that is what keeps me moving and what motivates me. I attend events nationally, regionally, globally and always I get inspired by what I hear and what I see. That gives me the energy to go back and continue, innovate, roll out, push the boundaries and achieve.
Do you think your project is feasible all over the world?
It is not just one project. I run more than one organization. I would say that every person in their own country would be the best ambassador for running and doing what needs to be done or whether is on the environmental, social, humanitarian or political angle. We should have faith and believe in the human capacity in dealing with issues.
The models that I have developed are very practical models: simple, straight-forward, with clear messages. I think in the way we structure programs, we keep in mind that is has to be scalable. It has to be implementable and practical. I even make it appoint for every project that we do, after implementation, we write a full procedure for it. So that we can share it with others that are asking for it.