When the leaders of the UAE sat down to plan a new nation, four decades ago, equality of women was a principle that was fundamental. Today, women soar as equal partners, whether at the home, in society or in the skies — they are even becoming pilots with our national airlines.

Across the border, in Saudi Arabia. women are not even accorded the right to drive.

With the Olympic Games ready to begin later this month in London, the plight of female athletes in the Kingdom is again under the spotlight. Saudi female athletes now face a backlash in their own country for wanting to compete on the global stage. And it is difficult not to sympathise with them. There are no written laws in the nation that prevent women from participating in sports, but they are prohibited from entering stadiums and are also prevented from renting sporting facilities. At schools, there are no sports facilities for girls and they are also barred from physical education classes. Saudi women are also banned from entering national trials — virtually excluding them from meaningful competition.

Here in the UAE, it is difficult to understand this exclusion even though our Saudi brothers are free to make whatever choices they feel necessary to protect their society.

Until meaningful reform for women happens in Saudi Arabia, it will face criticism on the world stage — adding to suspicion and bigotry against all from this region.