The UAE is taking a progressive and natural step forward with the announcement yesterday that Emirati women will occupy half of the seats in the new Federal National Council (FNC) after next year’s election. President His Highness Shaikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan’s decision will help consolidate future endeavours of the UAE and ensure full empowerment of Emirati women.

This is a very significant development, one that is certainly unprecedented in Arab nations and, given that half of the seats in the new national parliamentary body are to be reserved for women, goes further than measures that have been enacted in legislative assemblies the world over.

From the very earliest days of this nation, when the founding fathers gathered in Union House and committed to forging a new homeland from the former Trucial States that were under British protection, they committed this leadership, government and nation to a course of equality. By enshrining the principle of equality in the makeup of the new FNC, the UAE leadership is clearly saying that all are equal in forging the identity of this nation, and that all have an equal role to play in ensuring its future development. Government policies and march of progress are entrusted to men and women as equals. That itself is a fundamental statement of empowerment, showing that together, men and women, Emiratis all, have an equal say in building this national and delivering its progress.

This act of empowerment also comes at a time when across the Arab world, women are struggling to have their voices heard or to play a full and meaningful role in society and the workplace. Here, in the UAE, though, sky is the limit, as both sexes work in tandem, creating partnerships in a harmonious society that benefits all. Ensuring that women representatives in the new FNC will have an equal voice will also mean that the laws and policies adopted and enacted by the government will fairly reflect the interests and concerns of all members of society, taking all points of view into account, and shaping laws that will ensure a harmonious and gender-equal nation moving forward. The new FNC elections are to be held next year and currently there are seven women members in the chamber of 40. Women do, however, currently occupy the position of Chairperson and Speaker of the FNC.

“Women are half our society: They should be represented as such,” noted His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai.

We couldn’t agree more.