UAE's top businesswomen, lady professionals and senior government officials attend a symposium on 'Women: Reality and Future Expectations' that began on Monday in Abu Dhabi. Image Credit: Ahmed Kutty/Gulf News

Abu Dhabi: Despite cultural constraints of the times, Fatima Al Mughni persisted with her education to complete the bachelors degree.

Studying in a UAE university with three female Emirati students among thousands of male students, she overcame many cultural barriers to complete her education.

Now Fatima works in the Ministry of Social Affairs in Sharjah and is among senior members of the UAE Women's Union.

During a symposium titled UAE "Women: Reality and Future Expectations", that began yesterday, Fatima said: "I've witnessed tremendous change before and after the UAE became Emiratised. Previously, it was the norm for young girls to ignore education or drop out of school early; which is unheard of these days. Even if an Emirati woman doesn't continue her education these days, she can still find a job that can help support her," she said.

Research in 1981 by the UAE Women's Union showed the main reason for divorces among UAE families was girls' ignoring of their education and getting married early. Now, however, Fatima blames the majority of divorces on technology. "Even though technology has made communication easier, it's also the main reason why couples separate, because they become too dependent on mobile phones and the internet, which in return leads to lack of face-to-face encounters. I know of a lot of couples who got divorced because of prices going down in the stock market for example," said Fatima.

Taking part in social, political, and economic events, is what helped Emirati women voice their opinions and take part in decision-making concerning the UAE, said Dr Amal Al Qubaisi, Member of the Federal National Council (FNC), adding that 22.3 per cent of FNC members are currently women. "The benefit of Emirati women taking part in prominent positions is how we structure our own regulations for the sake of other woman. For instance, we are working hard on regulating a law that will permit widows, divorced women, or women over 35 to have her own accommodation or [be] granted a piece of land so that she can help support herself," said Dr Al Qubaisi.

Dr Zubeida Jasem, Director of Studies and Research Department at the Foreign Ministry, said a regulation would soon give Emirati citizenship to children born to Emirati women married to non-Emiratis.

Are you a working woman? Have gender biases been an issue for you in the work place? What difference would it make if more women were encouraged to work?