His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, speaks with a delegation of women representative of UAE society, on International Women’s Day (March 08, 2022) Image Credit: WAM

Empowerment of women in the UAE has been described as an “a miracle achievement”. It was initiated, outlined, and defined by the UAE’s founding father, the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, advanced by the late president Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, and is being continued by President His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, with more extraordinary steps and initiatives, along with the rulers of the emirates.

Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed is pursuing women’s empowerment as per the foundations of the founding father’ approach, who always emphasised Emirati women’s authenticity and authentic Arab values.

As the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, said: “I am confident that women in our rising country realise the importance of preserving our authentic customs, derived from the teachings of the true Islamic religion, as they are the basis for the progress of the family, and the family is the basis for the progress of the whole society.”

Emirati achievements in the field of women’s empowerment have been the subject of official and popular circles all over the world. All rulers of the UAE support and cherish Emirati women. The country holds seminars, dialogues, and discussions inside and outside the state to draw the world’s attention to the importance of women’s empowerment.

A consistent approach

Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan has repeatedly affirmed that appreciating women is a consistent approach of the UAE rulers. This was embodied in the selection of two women in the first cabinet reshuffle in the UAE after His Highness took over the reins of government.

Sarah Al Amiri was appointed the Minister State of public education and advanced technology, Chairperson of the Board of Directors of the Emirates Foundation for School Education, and Sarah Al Musallam, Minister of State for Early Education.

This political empowerment of women comes within the framework of Zayed School of Leadership and Governance. It raises the status of women and considers them essential partners in development.

In the UAE, women make up 70 per cent of university graduates and up to 66 per cent of the public sector’s workforce with 30 per cent of that number in leadership roles. Image Credit: Getty Images

Over the years Zayed’s school raised the status of Emirati women in the UAE and the whole world, where this experience is highlighted for its competence, culture, human, moral, scientific, and professional merit, which are the qualities that prompted the late Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan to raise the percentage of women’s representation in the Federal National Council to 50%, in a gesture that astonished the Western world and was greatly welcomed and admired in the capitals of the world, due to its significance not only for the informal but also for the fundamental and political empowerment of Emirati women.

Sheikha Fatima bint Mubarak, President of the General Women’s Union, President of the Supreme Council for Motherhood and Childhood, and Supreme President of the Family Development Foundation (Mother of the Nation), is considered the most influential female leader in the field of women’s empowerment, owing to her long and continuous journey in providing a supportive environment for Emirati women.

A major role for Sheikha Fatima

It is clear that Sheikha Fatima bint Mubarak plays a major role in empowering Emirati women, as she launched many key initiatives in this regard, such as the national strategy to support the future of women’s empowerment, which enhances the value of women and their roles as key partners in sustainable development projects.

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She went on to empower women in peace and security as her initiative was launched at the United Nations Women’s Programme to train women to work in the military, security, and peace sectors.

What distinguishes Sheikha Fatima is that she cares about the non-UAE woman in addition to her interest in the women citizens of the UAE.

Pertinently Emirati women make a great effort to promote progress in society, through their roles as mothers and teachers. As mothers they plant security and love of the nation in their sons and daughters by raising them morally, and as teachers, they build the future of the country through knowledge and culture. The same applies to all other fields, as women always prove that they are capable of making miracles whenever appropriate opportunities are available.

Belief in the role of women

The celebration of Emirati Women’s Day last month (Aug. 28) confirms the belief of the wise leadership, headed by Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, in the importance of women and their active role in the sustainable development process that the country is witnessing.

The appreciation of women by the rulers of the Emirates is mainly due to the deep spiritual understanding of Islam and its pure nature, which is an enlightening characteristic of the late founding father and acquired by Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan.

This spiritual understanding has become a constitution regulating the view of most Emiratis on women, as people are naturally influenced by their charismatic rulers. It is true that such spiritual understanding protected UAE people and others from the dark designs of extremists like the “Brotherhood” and “Daesh”.

A section of the attendees at the Mohammad Bin Zayed Majlis for Future Generations - Awareness and educational event for young Emiratis, at the ADNEC in Abu Dhabi. Image Credit: Gulf News archives

Positive transformation

Statistics show the extent of the positive transformation that has occurred in the situation of Emirati women thanks to the policies and initiatives supporting them by the wise leadership. The Emirati women have become poets, writers, and novelists, as well as ambassadors and consuls in the diplomatic corps.

The number of licenses for female entrepreneurs in the UAE during the period from 2018 to August 2022 amounted to about 44,000, of which 58% were Emirati women entrepreneurs. This was in addition to the growth in the number of licenses owned by Emirati women entrepreneurs by 132% during 2021. Their businesses focused on hospitality, services, real estate, construction, fashion, and aerospace.

In addition to the above, Emirati women have strengthened their international and regional presence in all fields. The UAE today tops the Forbes global list of the 50 most influential businesswomen in the Middle East in 2022, with 7 Emirati businesswomen.

The UAE is ranked first in the Arab world in the Women, Business and Law Report for 2022, issued by the World Bank. The country is ranked 18th globally and first in the Arab world and the Middle East, according to the Gender Equality Index published by the United Nations Development Programme for the year 2020.

The UAE is looking forward to entering the list of the Top Ten globally in the future after it entered the list of the 25 best countries in the world in terms of gender equality in 2021.

The people of UAE are confident that Emirati women will always be in a better position, thanks to the policies and initiatives put forward and implemented under the directives of Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan.

As I am aware of His Highness’s wise school of governance, I am very optimistic about the future and feel very comfortable about the future of Emirati women. The noble goal can only be achieved with the contributions of Emirati women and their active participation in its implementation.

Dr Jamal Sanad Al Suwaidi is a UAE author