A champion of women’s empowerment

From fighting alongside men against invaders in the 19th century to taking the United Arab Emirates to Mars last year, there’s very little Emirati women haven’t accomplished. . Women leaders in the UAE hold positions in the highest echelons of political society.

As mothers, they played a central role in raising better and more conscious generations capable of overcoming future challenges. As scientists, women in the United Arab Emirates have conducted groundbreaking research into treatments for Covid-19 to accelerate global recovery from the pandemic.

The UAE has also been one of the leading GCC countries in integrating women into the defense sector. Through the Khawla Bint Al Azwar Military School in Abu Dhabi, the leaders of the United Arab Emirates have paid great attention to the empowerment of women, allowing them to be on an equal footing with their male partners in the national service.

Since its inception as a country, the United Arab Emirates, under the leadership of its founding father, the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, realized that education was the key to women’s economic empowerment.

Basically, preparation is everything if you want an exceptional result. The leaders of the United Arab Emirates established from the beginning that there would be no development without activating 50% of the country’s population, says Hussain Al Mahmoudi, CEO of the American University of Sharjah Enterprises (AUSE) and the Sharjah Research Technology and Innovation Park (SRTIP).

Following the examples set by Baba Zayed, the first president of the UAE, his son Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the second president of the UAE, elevated the status of Emirati women.

The third and current President of the United Arab Emirates, His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, has reinforced his commitment to continue to empower women while providing them with equal opportunities. “As a country, the people of the United Arab Emirates share a close bond with their leaders. I believe that the leadership of a country is the true reflection of society. One of the beautiful things about this relationship is that the people embraced the direction given by their leaders,” says Al Mahmoudi.

Even in the days before the discovery of oil, women were not limited to being the guardians of the family as in all developing societies. “They were involved in several traditional businesses and professions. They played the role of teachers, they were grassroots artisans, and some even ran small businesses,” says Al Mahmoudi.

Following the discovery of oil, women were trained to pursue professions in the health, business, education, science, military, and technology sectors.

Al Mahmoudi recalls a famous gathering of Sheikh Zayed with the first group of female university students at UAE University. “He spoke to them like their father after they graduated. There’s a video of him speaking to these young graduates. He tells them that women who come into the house with an income are valuable to the household. The involvement of women in our work, in our life and in society is deeply embedded in our culture,” he says.

“We never felt it was any other way. It was developed in a very natural way. Women have worked hand in hand with men to build this country. I’m 50 now and I’ve seen happen at every stage of my school, university and professional life. It was not something that the government imposed on us; it happened naturally and on purpose,” he says.

According to Shaima Rashed Al Suwaidi, Director of Marketing and Corporate Communications at the Dubai Culture and Arts Authority, gender balance has always been an integral part of the social fabric of the UAE and continues to be a key priority for the future. “Since its inception in 2015, the UAE Gender Balance Council has actively narrowed the gender gap in all government sectors. He improved the UAE’s ranking in the Global Competitiveness Reports for gender equality, achieved gender balance in decision-making positions and promoted the UAE’s position as a benchmark when it comes to gender balance legislation,” she explains.

The Council has also launched pioneering initiatives and projects to improve gender balance across the country and help achieve the Council’s vision of positioning the UAE as a global model of gender balance. “The Council’s efforts have enabled the UAE to become the first country in the Arab region to introduce mandatory female presence on corporate boards, with 23,000 registered businesswomen managing high-value investments. The Council also published the world’s first gender balance guide, Gender Balance Guide: Actions for UAE Organisations,” says Al Suwaidi.

In the UAE, women enjoy the same constitutional rights as men. They have equal and unrestricted access to all levels of education and vocational training, to employment, to social and health benefits and to the exercise of governmental functions. According to the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap report for 2020, the United Arab Emirates was one of the best performing countries in the region, having closed 65.5% of its overall gender gap. “The people of the UAE are a valuable part of its soft power strategy, and open communication with them is just as much a priority as communication with government entities,” Al Suwaidi said. “To best reflect the importance of women in the soft power of the United Arab Emirates, the presidential decree allocated 50% of the seats of the Federal National Council to women in order to consolidate the legislative and parliamentary role of women in the development of the nation. .” Laws that have increased the role of Emirati women in diplomacy and leadership. Under the leadership of the late Sheikh Khalifa, Emirati women have been continuously empowered and promoted to senior positions internationally and locally. The United Arab Emirates has nine female ministers, representing 29% of ministerial posts.

“This openness and this equality will be carried and developed by His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan. Additionally, female business owners make up 10% of the entire private sector in the UAE. There are a total of 23,000 projects run by Emirati women worth more than 50 billion dirhams and they constitute 15% of board members of chambers of commerce and industry nationwide adds Al Suwaidi.

Under the leadership of the late Sheikh Khalifa, Noura Al Kaabi, a visible supporter of cultural initiatives and an outspoken advocate for the arts, was appointed Minister of Culture and Knowledge in 2017, a role she still holds, says Al Suwaidi.

“This progressive appointment was celebrated and shed a positive light on the cultural scene in the UAE. Additionally, pioneering developments and institutions that the late Sheikh Khalifa initiated during his 18-year tenure include the Manarat Al Saadiyat cultural district, Louvre Abu Dhabi, NYUAD Arts Center and the future Zayed National Museum and the Guggenheim. Abu Dhabi. I firmly believe that His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed al Nahyan will carry on this legacy and continue to empower women across the country,” she adds.

The United Arab Emirates is one of the safest countries in the world, as evidenced by the number of annual expats who call it home. “Everyone is treated fairly and with respect, encouraging foreign investment and organizing cultural and artistic events throughout the year,” says Al Suwaidi.

Additionally, the Ministry of Education has launched a “Child Protection Unit” initiative for the benefit of students in government and private schools across the UAE. The initiative aims to protect children from harm, neglect and abuse they may experience at school or at home and to maintain their safety in their physical, psychological and educational aspects. “It is of great importance for mothers who want to pursue their careers and keep their children safe,” she says. Moreover, the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan was ahead of his time when it came to women’s rights and empowerment, insisting that equal opportunities for women should be an integral part of his vision. This legacy was continued by the late Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan and will later be continued by Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan.

According to Al Mahmoudi, one of the reasons for the UAE’s success rate in empowering women is the clarity of governance strategies and plans drawn up years in advance. “With leaders like Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, we have good practices and a strategy for 2030, plan 2050, plan 2071, for example,” he says. “The first 50 years are fundamental. Over the next 50 years, we will be moving towards a knowledge-based economy. We will have more women in entrepreneurship, more women leaders, more women scientists, more in space and CEOs,” says Al Mahmoudi. “In our teams within SRTIP, we have female technologists working in cutting-edge industries, women involved in cryptocurrencies, virtual and mixed realities, materials science and cybersecurity; each of them is involved in male-centric industries.

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Mara R. Wilmoth