Dubai: The UAE aims to be among the top 25 nations worldwide excelling in the field of women’s empowerment, speakers at a panel meeting on women’s empowerment said on Monday.
The first meeting of the United Nations Secretary General’s High-Level Panel on Women’s Economic Empowerment in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region, was hosted by the UAE Gender Balance Council in Dubai. The event, which was inaugurated by Shaikh Hamdan Bin Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai, was attended by government representatives and leaders from business, academia and civil society.
Women’s empowerment is a key target in the UAE’s national strategy, aimed to be achieved by 2021, Shaikha Lubna Al Qasimi, Minister of State for Tolerance, said at the opening ceremony. “As a part of our strategy, we aim to place the UAE as one of the countries at the forefront of women’s empowerment. Providing equality in education opportunities is a key in achieving women’s economic empowerment,” she said.
Shaikha Lubna emphasised the need for governments to form partnership with different entities, NGOs and international organisations to remove obstacles that hinder opportunities for women. She stressed the need to create equal opportunities of entrepreneurship for women.
Shaikha Lubna highlighted the cooperation between the UAE and the UN in electing the UAE as member in the UN Women, the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women, for two terms (2013-15 and 2016-18). Al Qasimi said UAE contributions to UN Women amounted to $12 million and the UAE Government supported the establishment of the UN Women’s office in Abu Dhabi to liaise with Gulf Cooperation Council countries.
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, United Nations Under Secretary General and Executive Director of UN Women, said the UN is targeting partners that can help achieve our targets. “These partners include the G20 governments, who in 2014 agreed to bring more than 100 million women into the labour force,” she said.
Mlambo-Ngcuka said that currently, only one per cent of goods and services are procured from women. “We are here to highlight some of the key initiatives not only in countries where women are significantly left behind, but also in countries that are relatively advanced, because at this point there is no country that has attained gender equality,” she said.
The ongoing discussions are also pushing for initiatives to address equal pay for work of equal value between men and women. The report, which will be themed — “strengthening the global call to action and sharpening our recommendations, especially through partnerships — is set to be published in March 2017.
170 years to achieve gender equality
Speakers also addressed findings drawn from statistics, showing that at our current pace, gender equality will take 170 years to achieve. “We are pushing forward for work that we need to do in the rest of the world in changing laws that discriminate against women in 80 per cent of countries. Only one in eight countries in the world are free from [discriminatory laws],” said Mlambo-Ngcuka.
She further explained that efforts to address stereotypes and norms that continue to discriminate against women, as well as the issue of violence against women — a challenge that exists in every country — are also ongoing. “We will only know that a country has attained equality when it has addressed all its economic issues, but in particular it is free from violence against women,” added Mlambo-Ngcuka.
Gender equality in UAE
Women make up 66 per cent of public sector workers, and 30 per cent of them are in leadership roles.
Women aged 15 years and above constitute 46.6 per cent of UAE’s labour force.
Women occupy about 75 per cent of positions in education and health sectors.
The UAE has eight women ministers, making it one of the highest rates of ministerial representation in the region.
Women representation in the Federal National Council stands at 20 per cent.
95 per cent of female high school graduates pursue higher education.
UAE ranked first in the 2015 World Economic Forum report on the literacy rate indicator and on women’s enrolment in secondary education index.
UAE ranks first among 132 countries in the ‘women treated with respect’ indicator in the Social Progress Index 2015 report.
— Natassia Chrysanthos is an intern at Gulf News