Dubai: They are trendsetters who believe in taking the path that others were afraid to walk on. They preferred to fight the challenges and blaze new trails so that others could follow. They were able to do this because of the unique policy of inclusion that the UAE government follows in inviting its women to participate in nation developing and decision making exercises. On the occasion of the 43rd National Day, meet pioneering Emirati women who talk about their inspiration and reveal their wishlist for other UAE women.
Rabab Al Tajir
First Emirati Woman Car Rallyist
She gave up a career in human resource management to get into the field of car rallies because of her passion for driving. “I love cars and am passionate about driving. I decided to get into this field where no other Emirati women had ever ventured because I wanted to overcome my fears,” says Rabab, who started as a navigator and finished 8th among a 100 cars in the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge 2013 and as an independent driver she finished 4th in the Umm Al Quwain car rally in the same year.
Car rallying, she says, is not for the faint-hearted. “You have to brave 52 Celsius temperature inside the car and you are not allowed eat anything all day. One is only allowed to sip an energy drink replenished with salts to correct the electrolyte balance.
The heavy rally suit makes you sweat so much that one is covered with a film of salt excreted from the body. And you have to have a lot of patience, endurance and alertness,” says Rabab of the challenges she has faced and the biggest triumph for her was securing a second place at the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge in 2010. Now, all I want to do is qualify for real world-class rally and prove myself,” says the enthusiast who is currently on a break from rallies.
Rabab gives all credit to the UAE government. “The government has given every Emirati woman the freedom and facility to pursue her dreams. Sometimes, the government is more supportive than family in inspiring you to excel in your field,” she says.
Her wishlist for other Emirati women includes more woman empowerment, more women taking up employment in every field and breaking into traditional male bastions, more women being groomed for leadership and management roles. ”I want women to step out and have the courage to fulfil their dreams. They need to remain focused and have a clear goal and move towards it with determination.”
Jameela Al Za’abi
First Emirati woman paramedic
She now heads the first Disaster Management Committee, which will be equipped to meet any kind of national emergencies in Dubai.
Thrumming with dedication and patriotism for her country, Jameela Al Za’abi enrolled into a nursing course in the early 80s because she wanted to serve her country. She joined as a nurse with the army hospital in 1985. “I loved my job as I could bring relief to the sick, but when I was offered the job of becoming the first woman paramedic, I jumped at it because it would give me an opportunity to give emergency assistance to those in real need of medical help,” she says.
Jameela, who married at 15, was a mother of two children when she accepted the challenge and went on to train as paramedic, first in the UAE, then in Kuwait, on to London and eventually in Australia for more than three years giving up precious family time to be of help to the nation. “The job of the paramedic is challenging as she is the first to meet a patient even before a doctor or nurse do and she has to take tough decisions. There are 10 golden minutes I have with my patients when I arrive with the ambulance to either lose or save them and that is why I required special training,” she explains of the many challenges she met on a daily basis as a paramedic.
Her biggest award came when His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, visited her at her home to personally thank her for her services.
“It was an unforgettable moment when he bestowed on me the title of Mother of Ambulance (Umm Al Isaaf) and told me that not only him but entire Dubai was proud of me. I felt all my hard work was truly worth it,” says Jameela, who at 49 today is a grandmother and loves to impress her five grandchildren with her daily action-packed routines.
Her example has now been followed by many other Emiratis and now there are more than 300 Emirati women paramedics. “Our government does not differentiate between genders and gives women all the support and encouragement they need to step into a professional field,” she says.
As the head of the newly formed disaster management committee, she has new challenges to face and wants all women to be dedicated to their goals. “In the coming years, I want more and more Emirati women to seize the opportunities they have and make the most of them.
They must realise their true strengths and know that no department, no field, is out of bounds for them. They need to have the willingness to work hard and the determination to reach there. In a few years from now, with better education, better training and more focus, our women are set to break more barriers and get into top leadership roles.”