FNC members during an informal chat at FNC headquarters in Abu Dhabi. Image Credit: Abdul Rahman/Gulf News

Abu Dhabi: Representation of Emirati women in the Federal National Council will be raised to 50 per cent from the next legislative chapter, in keeping with directives of the President His Highness Shaikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan to enable women to perform their parliamentary roles to the fullest.

This move will consolidate the future orientations of the UAE and achieve full empowerment of Emirati women, His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, has tweeted.

The Presidential decree allocating 50 per cent of the seats in the Federal National Council to women is a great leap forwards in cementing the legislative and parliamentary role of women in our nation’s development. Women are half of our society: they should be represented as such.

- Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum on Twitter

His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Abu Dhabi Crown Prince and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, also took to twitter to congratulate the Emirati women on raising their representation in the House, which, he said, is a leading step to enhance their role and contribution to national decision-making. “[Women] are partners and supporters of the process of building and development and a model in excellence,” Shaikh Mohammad Bin Zayed said.

We congratulate the Emirati women on raising their representation in the Federal National Council. This is an additional step to enhance their role and contribution to national decision-making.

- Shaikh Mohammad Bin Zayed Al Nahyan on Twitter

Next year, the UAE is set to hold parliamentary elections after the end of the current legislative chapter by the end of June.

Shaikh Khalifa decreed doubling the current percentage of women’s representation in the Federal National Council to 50 per cent from 22.5 per cent as from the next parliamentary session, to put the UAE among the elite nations in the world in terms of women’s parliamentary representation. Thus, in a record time, Emirati women will achieve what their counterparts in the world have taken decades to achieve, according to WAM.

The move comes against the backdrop of a series of cabinet’s legislative policies and initiatives to empower Emirati women and enhance their role in nation-building.

Approved in a special session chaired by Shaikh Mohammad, the policies will seek to include more women’s participation in the UAE’s judicial system as well as other leadership positions in business.

“Today, we have adopted a well-rounded package of new policies and legislation favouring Emirati women’s empowerment and leadership,” said Shaikh Mohammad in the session held at the General Women’s Union headquarters in Abu Dhabi.

“Women constitute over half of society; they build the foundations of our renaissance whether in education, medicine or engineering. We must, therefore, enhance their dynamic role in both the UAE and global communities, across multiple sectors.”

He also stressed the necessity for increased participation of women in diplomatic missions and international organisations, including UN peacekeeping missions.

Emirati women have received the full support of the wise leadership since the establishment of the Union on December 2, 1971 as the late Shaikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan was keen to support women, empower them and help them overcome obstacles to their development, enabling them to occupy the highest positions.

This vision is rooted in the approach and methodology of Shaikh Khalifa, who supported Emirati women by launching the “Empowerment Programme” in 2005, the first such policy to be adopted by the FNC.

The Emirati woman assumed, in a record time, the presidency of the Federal National Council, just 10 years after her election as a member of the House.

- Azza Sulaiman, FNC member

Azza Sulaiman, a member of the FNC from Dubai, said this historical step is yet another fruit of the political empowerment programme launched by the Shaikh Khalifa in his speech on the occasion of the 34th National Day.

“The Emirati woman assumed, in a record time, the presidency of the Federal National Council, just 10 years after her election as a member of the House, while in some of the oldest parliamentary experiences, women took 70 years to reach the dome of parliament,” Sulaiman said.

She said today, Emirati women are actively and efficiently working in all sorts of roles. These include space research, renewable energy, nuclear energy for peaceful use, manufacturing and launching satellites, aviation technology and other industries.

The UAE ranked first in the Arab world and among developed countries in women’s rights, according to the annual report of the Arab Women Studies Centre of the Arab Women Foundation 2017.

Our visionary leadership supports women and believes that for a society to be productive, it has to utilise the talents and capabilities of women.

- Shaikha Al Arri, FNC member

Shaikha Al Arri, the second women to be elected to the FNC, said the country’s government believes in the power of women and the role they can play in society.

“Our visionary leadership that supports women and believes that for a society to be productive, it has to utilise the talents and capabilities of women who represent around half of the UAE population,” Al Arri said.

There is no better place than the UAE for inspiring women and the UAE has achieved tremendous gains for women. It has encouraged women to break down boundaries.

- Naema Al Sharhan, FNC member

Naema Al Sharhan, who became the third Emirati woman to win FNC membership, praised the UAE’s record in women empowerment and gender equality, saying that the empowerment of women here is “quite striking”, and that the UAE offers a positive home-grown model for women’s development and empowerment for the region.

Naema added: “There is no better place than the UAE for inspiring women and the UAE has achieved tremendous gains for women. It has encouraged women to break down boundaries.”

Emirati women’s parliamentary empowerment

The UAE has succeeded in empowering Emirati women in the parliamentary field, with 24 of them becoming members of the Federal National Council (FNC) during the last three legislative chapters.

Dr Amal Abdullah Al Qubaisi is the first Emirati woman to become Speaker of the Federal National Council, as well as the first to attain such a leading position in the Arab region and the Middle East.

The FNC membership period, which is known as a legislative chapter, begins from the date of its first meeting and lasts four years.

The FNC’s 14th legislative chapter in 2006 was the first to see the participation of Emirati women, who won nine out of the 40 available seats. Dr Amal was the first woman to win in parliamentary elections.

The successes of Emirati women continued during the FNC’s 15th and 16th legislative chapters in 2011 and 2016. The FNC’s 15th legislative chapter witnessed the appointment of six women from the country’s emirates. Shaikha Al Arri was the second Emirati women to be elected to parliament.

The FNC’s 16th legislative chapter witnessed the appointment of seven women, and Naema Al Sharhan won the elections to become the third Emirati woman to acquire FNC membership.

There are 40 members of the FNC, apportioned among the UAE’s seven emirates, with eight seats each for Abu Dhabi and Dubai, six seats each for Sharjah and Ras Al Khaimah and four seats each for Ajman, Umm Al Quwain and Fujairah.

Since 2006, half of the 40 FNC members have been elected to serve four-year terms. The other half of the House comprises officials who have been appointed by the Ruler’s Court of the UAE’s seven emirates.

UAE’s women empowerment

Since the establishment of the UAE in 1972, the Founding Father Shaikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan believed that the development of society is achieved by empowering women, encouraging their participation, and giving them opportunities.

Dh40b

value of investment by Emirati businesswomen

Shaikh Zayed also believed that all efforts should be made to enable women to perform their roles to the fullest. During the declaration of the unification of our nation, Shaikh Zayed said: “Nothing pleases me more than seeing Emirati women assuming their role in society and achieving their rightful position. Nothing should hinder the march of women’s progress. Like men, women have the right to assume the highest positions according to their abilities and qualifications.”

Her Highness Shaikha Fatima Bint Mubarak, Chairwoman of the General Women’s Union (GWU), President of the Supreme Council for Motherhood and Childhood, and Supreme Chairwoman of the Family Development Foundation, said that Emirati women have the right to be proud of their outstanding achievements.

Shaikha Fatima attributed the stunning progress of Emirati women to the sincere efforts of the country’s founder and builder of its cultural renaissance, Shaikh Zayed, who avidly supported women’s progress, adding that Shaikh Zayed made every possible effort to support the Emirati women and to develop social conditions which encourage women’s advancement to fully participate in public life.

66%

of government staff in the UAE are Emirati women

The Mother of the Emirates also commended the efforts of the UAE’s wise leadership in supporting women’s empowerment by offering education, employment, and training opportunities. Shaikha Fatima said Emirati women constitute 66 per cent of government staff, 30 per cent of which are in decision-making positions, in addition to the private sector. She noted that more than 23,000 Emirati business women in the UAE were investing more than Dh40 billion.

She added that Emirati women account for about 70 per cent of students in government tertiary-level institutions.