From running a family business to serving as a member the Shura Council and promoting religious tolerance, Nancy Khedouri has done it all.
With determination and ambition in abundance, it’s easy to see how Nancy has carved a successful path that spans across business and public services. She is a member of the Shura Council Foreign Affairs, Defence & National Security Committee … and that’s only one feather in her cap.
Nancy studied law but instead went into the family import/export business after the tragic loss of her father when she was just 21.
“There are times when destiny leads you in life much earlier than you envisage,” she explains. “I lost my dearest daddy, I had to quickly take the reins of our family business, being an only child. I embraced the requirement as a dutiful daughter and took on the role as managing director and continue to do so.
“Being at the helm of affairs requires you to be sound, not just commercially but legally too. My passion for law and my qualifications have padded my ability to charter my path through a male dominated entrepreneurial society.
“It was not easy, there was much to learn the hard way, each and every day but today I am thankful for that experience. It has taught me much over the years and moulded me into the person that I have become.”
Being Jewish, Nancy has been featured in the international media as an example of Bahrain’s religious tolerance. She became a member of the Shura Council in 2010, an accomplishment which she says reflects not only His Majesty King Hamad’s stance on religious freedom but also his dedication to female empowerment.
“I am honoured to be chosen to serve in this role, which demonstrates the encouragement of His Majesty King Hamad to female empowerment in Bahrain as part of the reform process in line with Vision 2030. It also shows the fact that our Kingdom has an inclusive enhancement for all its citizens, regardless of religious differences,” she says.
Nancy says the best moments of her time on the council have been when her passion for law has been applicable to issues in contention. Meanwhile, even her low moments have been used as an opportunity to grow and challenge ideas.
“The lowest point has been the delay in promulgating the revised Juvenile Law and, at times, when prudence is overridden. During a debate last year for the revised traffic law, there was an article proposed by colleagues from The House of Representatives, which would have banned expatriates living in Bahrain from driving.
“This article, if passed, would have created a wedge in an hitherto inclusive Kingdom so I was one of the few at the Shura Council who opposed it as it was unconstitutional. Thankfully, my debate and that of a few of my colleagues, managed to steer the decision to oppose the proposed article.”
Nancy’s career spans both business and public service in the Shura Council, not necessarily traditional women’s roles in Bahrain society. However, she sees it as an example of how things are changing.
“Bahraini society has evolved and has also progressively empowered women in all facets of life,” she says. Accordingly, women here today have diverse roles as our society provides a platform to women to meet their ambitions, whilst also meeting the traditional roles of dutiful wife and daughter. I am happy that I am able to meet and fulfil both the societal norms and my ambitions.”
As another string to her bow, Nancy works with the Bahrain-Japan Business & Friendship Society (BJBFS). Although not a founding member, since its inauguration she has assisted by heading BJBFS administration matters and has served on a voluntary basis ever since.
The society was started to help strengthen bilateral ties between Bahrain and Japan, as the two countries have much in common including being archipelagos and depending on sea ports for trade. Furthermore, as Bahrain is a prominent hub in the Gulf region, many Japanese organisations have been encouraged to set-up their regional offices here benefiting from the regional location and at the same time, join the society as members.
BJBFS encourages interaction with many prominent Bahraini and Japanese businessmen and this interaction, no doubt, enhances bilateral ties.
“The Japanese people have impressive fortitude and are survivors,” Nancy says. “I have been privileged to travel as part of high-powered delegations, to help enhance bilateral relations. I have visited Tokyo, Nagoya, Kyoto and Hakone. Japan is a beautiful country and overall I enjoyed walking through the breath-taking cherry blossoms when they were in full bloom during my recent call as part of His Majesty’s historic visit to Japan during April 2012.”
The recent signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between BJBFS and its counter-part The Japan-Bahrain Economic Co-operation Association (JBECA) in Tokyo, is another boost to the society. BJBFS is confident that this alliance will have mutual benefits in realising bilateral commercial, investment and cultural opportunities between the countries.
Nancy says: “BJBFS looks forward to the formation of a Joint Business Council between Bahrain and Japan with the co-operation and support of The Bahrain Chamber of Commerce & Industry, which will enhance further
co-operation between the two countries.”
Keen to impart her wisdom to the Kingdom’s young women wishing to follow in her footsteps, she offers the following advice.
“I have always been enthralled by successful personalities and leading figures, as each one respectively brings to the table a different merit; that way we are guided by an assortment of qualities that we can personally learn from to help achieve our own success in life. My advice to young Bahraini women would be to never be afraid of failure, for that is a step towards success.”