Dubai: Critical contributions by women in UAE society owe a great deal to the sage example set by Her Highness Shaikha Fatima Bint Mubarak, Chairwoman of the General Women’s Union (GWU), Supreme Chairwoman of the Family Development Foundation (FDF) and President of the Supreme Council for Motherhood and Childhood.
So say women serving in top financial, political, legal and cultural posts across the country, who praised and thanked Shaikha Fatima for her continuous commitment in championing the cause of women’s empowerment and establishing their role as catalysts of growth and development of the UAE.
Thursday marks the occasion of the first Emirati Women’s Day, celebrating the achievements of Emirati women and their contributions to the growth of the nation.
Gulf News spoke to influential Emirati women about what this day means to them and how much the UAE has achieved in gender equality.
She said UAE women now hold more than 60 per cent of public sector jobs and 30 per cent of senior decision-making positions in the government sector. Noura is proud of the role women now play in UAE society and says Shaikha Fatima is the one who paved the way for Emirati women to strive for more, achieve more and contribute more of their talents to the community, society and nation.
Noora, who is also a committee member of the UAE’s Federal National Council (FNC) and the Economic Development Committee, chairwoman of the Emirates Media Measurement Company (EMMC) board, board member of the UAE’s National Media Council, Abu Dhabi Media, Image Nation, the Abu Dhabi Sports Council and UAE University, is the first UAE national to be ranked on Foreign Policy magazine’s ‘Top 100 Global Thinkers List’. In 2014, she was named one of Forbes Middle East’s 30 Most Influential Women in Government.
“From founding the first women’s organisation in 1976 to her ongoing scholarship programme providing tuition for girls, Shaikha Fatima has initiated countless programmes to further women’s rights and, in particular, to ensure access to education for girls. I am immensely proud of the role women now play in our society and I believe that our society is richer and stronger as a result of this inclusivity. Shaikha Fatima, the Mother of the Nation, is a truly inspirational role model for Emirati women,” Noora said.
Noora added that globally, women account for only 48 per cent of the total public sector workforce. “Almost a quarter of FNC members are female and women make up ten per cent of the UAE diplomatic workforce. Three is no doubt women are playing a critical role in building our nation and I am honoured to be one of them.”
Laila Mohammad Suhail, CEO of Dubai Festivals and Retail Establishment (DFRE), said “the mother of the nation, Shaikha Fatima, stands as a testament and inspiration to all the Arab women in the world and that this day serves as a reminder that women of the UAE have a bigger role to play in continuously reaffirming the country’s pioneering position in the world.
“The UAE has made great strides in women’s participation and gender equality and is continuously establishing its unique place on the world map as a country that truly values the contributions made by its women across every sphere. In the last few years especially, the UAE has strongly emerged as a powerful international force championing the cause of women empowerment and equal rights. Our women leaders have played an extremely instrumental role in driving the growth of the UAE and ushering it into a new era of progress and development,” said Laila, who is the first woman to lead DFRE and is a Board Member of the Dubai Events Council and Head of the Women’s Sports Committee.
Laila said all these achievements by women in the UAE have largely been possible because of Shaikha Fatima’s strong leadership and innumerable initiatives that have helped shaped the rights of Emirati women as equal partners and beneficiaries in the growth and evolution of modern societies in the UAE.
Mona, who serves on the board of several non-profit organisations, is an active mentor at the Dubai Start-up sessions, and a frequent opinion columnist for Gulf News, was presented the Emirates Women’s Award for outstanding achievers in 2010.
“Shaikha Fatima has given every woman a chance to thrive. We can and should be proud of all that we’ve achieved in terms of gender equality. The government introduced quotas for women on boards and the UAE joined countries like Norway to ensure that on a global level we reach higher standards. If we do not continue the campaign for women’s rights and opportunities, the world we want to live, the country we all love and cherish, will not be what it should be. This day means a lot to me. It embraces a 21st century approach to advancing the rights and opportunities of women in the UAE and across the globe.”
Mona said to take it to the next level, she would like to see more women join the private sector. “I am, however, proud to see women in every field, from female engineers to supreme court judges to politicians, particularly as women used to shy away from these career options.”
“Regardless of culture and geography, historically women obtain fair rights only when they themselves actively seek these rights. Shaikha Fatima has been very active since the founding of the UAE to give Emirati women a voice. We don’t seek gender equality, we seek gender justice. The roles, rights and needs of men and women are different, and this is true both in our roles in the home and the work force. Marking this day makes me grateful because Emirati women have been blessed in many ways. These accomplishments prove that stereotypes about Muslim and Arab women must be questioned and not blindly accepted. Also, we shouldn’t take these blessings for granted, areas of success must be sustained and areas for development must be worked on.”
Najla was selected one the ‘500 Most Influential Muslims’ by the Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Centre in Jordan. She is a member of the World Economic Forum’s Young Global Leaders and also a member of the Global Agenda Councils of the World Economic Forum.