Even for a city such as Dubai, which is used to hosting glamorous events, Tuesday night's Global Gift Gala at the Waldorf Astoria was a dazzling affair. Hosted by the founder of the the Global Gift Foundation, Maria Bravo, and her co-chairs Eva Longoria and Huda Kuttan, the seventh Dubai event was a sold-out, black-tie gala and auction aimed at raising money for Harmony House India and the Eva Longoria Foundation.
Actress Longoria has been part of Global Gift since it started, while also running her own charitable foundation. She was effusive about the women of the region. "It's the women that have done all of this event, who said to us: 'Yes come on over, let's do it'. We have worked with many women throughout the years here who have just been so impressive, like Huda and Mona Kattan," she told The National. "What they built, what they are doing is really phenomenal. It's inspiring."
Founded 12 years ago, the Global Gift Foundation is a philanthropic, non-profit organisation that raises awareness and funds for some of society’s most vulnerable members – women and children.
With several charity galas and auctions taking place each year all over the world, including Cannes, Madrid and London, the aim is to use the platform as a force for change.
Ahead of last night's event, Bravo explained to The National why it is so important to support families in need. "If you give something to a mother, you are sure the family will be taken care of, so we want to embrace the family, the mother, and the children because they are the future."
In addition to an auction that included a work by acclaimed artist Sacha Jafri, guests were treated to performances by Egyptian singer Carmen Soliman, Spanish guitar group Gypsy Heritage and the flamenco singer and dancer Sabrina Romero. Bollywood actress Jacqueline Fernandez was also in attendance.
As part of the evening, Mona Kattan received the Global Gift Women Empowerment Award, in recognition of her work empowering other women, while Rosemin Madhavji was presented with the Global Gift We Believe in People Award for her work supporting the foundation over the years. Jaahni Shastra was named Global Gift Young Philanthropist.
When asked why Bravo brought the event to Dubai in 2012, her answer was candid, if unexpected. "I came because I thought there was a need for us to come here, and to empower more women. My perception of Dubai wasn't really what Dubai is about. I thought the women here were suppressed, and they are not. So with this as a beginning, let's now go and embrace more women from the Middle East," she said.