Abu Dhabi: The Emirati Women’s Day, being celebrated on Friday, is an occasion to highlight the trailblazing path that has made the women of this nation into pioneers in their field.
Gulf News spoke to three such trailblazers at Etihad Airways who share their journey and experiences.
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Rasha Al Musallami: Journey to the cockpit
Pilot Rasha Al Musallami, Senior First Officer at Etihad Airways, has been working in the airline since 2012. She has lately operated a number of repatriation and cargo flights during the COVID-19 outbreak. The Emirati pilot shares her journey to the cockpit.
“I started with Etihad Airways in 2012. Before that I used to be a branch manager in a bank in the UAE. I was in the banking industry for eight years before I switched to aviation,” Al Musallami said, “I have always wanted to be a pilot. Travelling is my passion, and aviation was my dream. But at the time when I wanted to pursue this, the industry was very male dominant. I was very unsure of whether or not I’d succeed in that field, this was in the early 2000s, so I just pursued banking instead.”
As the UAE’s aviation industry evolved, so did Al Musallami’s dreams, “After 8 years I felt that I had gained the confidence and there were many more women in the industry so I decided to finally chase my passion that I’ve had since high school. Thankfully now there’s a higher number of women in the industry today. I believe the future for Emirati women in aviation is very bright thanks to our leaders.”
We are ambassadors for the UAE. People around the world that I meet have no idea how far women have come in our region.
“My sister became the first female pilot in the UAE. She kept pushing me because she knew this was my passion too. It’s important for young Emirati women to feel represented in different fields. As a pilot, you’re constantly working with males, you leave your country very often and spend nights in different places around the world.”
Representation is an important part of the aviation industry and is the reason pilot Al Musallami encourages women to pursue this field. “We are ambassadors for the UAE. People around the world that I meet have no idea how far women have come in our region. I love representing my country with my hijab and my uniform. We are strong Arab women and we are not less capable than any other women around the world and that’s what I want to represent”.
Emirati women’s day is a source of motivation for many women, she believes. As an active member in lectures in schools and universities to explain the field of aviation to young girls, Al Musallami is excited about encouraging young girls to dream big. “I want girls who are dreaming to be pilots or anything in a typically male dominant field, to know that with the motivation and encouragement, you can do it. It doesn’t matter what people say or what your background is, you are capable of dreaming and desiring anything, just work hard and you can reach the moon.”
Dr Eman Al Hayayi: Pushing boundaries
Dr Eman Al Hayayi joined Etihad Airways Medical Centre in 2016 as a Consultant Physician, specialised in family medicine. She believes the path for Emirati women towards a successful medical career has been paved for many years allowing ample encouragement for young women in that sector, “From the beginning, there was a huge support for Emirati women. I studied medicine in UAEU and then in Sheikh Khalifa Medical city. More girls are joining medical schools. When I was studying, there were not a lot of medical schools. Now we have one in every Emirate. There are more Emirati nurses now, you can see the difference.”
Dr. Eman holds qualifications in healthcare management and leads the General Medicine Department. “Right now with all that’s going on, people are much more appreciative of a woman working as a doctor and a medical frontliner, we are receiving a lot of recognition from everyone.”
On Emirati Women’s Day, she says, “This day gives us an opportunity to celebrate all women, not just those in professional careers, even the housewives and mothers. They deserve recognition as well. They are caring for children, for elders sometimes, it is very important to have a stable home as a foundation for the community. We should never underestimate anyone’s role.”
Although the world celebrates Women’s Day, the UAE government still ensured having a day for Emirati women specifically. “Our leaders have a vision to empower Emirati women and this is what this special day represents. I think [Emirati women’s day] makes a huge difference in the community. Every one of us likes to receive the support and motivation to keep going on.”
This day gives us an opportunity to celebrate all women, not just those in professional careers, even the housewives and mothers. They deserve recognition as well.
Dr. Eman believes that it is very important to witness and represent Emirati women who are holding positions of leadership, such as Dr. Farida Al Hosani the official spokesperson for the UAE health sector.
She sends a message of encouragement to all Emirati Women on this day, “I think in the future, Emirati women will not only be leading the healthcare system but pushing it to the highest calibre. Our life is full of ups and downs and many challenges, only when we embrace these challenges and we accept them with positivity, we can overcome all the challenges.”
Dr Gadah Al Hadrami: Frontline warrior
Dr. Gadah Al Hadrami is a General Practitioner at Etihad Medical Centre. During the pandemic, she was responsible for additional tasks in a dedicated clinic.
Emirati women’s day is very important to her, especially this year. “I am a mother of five children. When they began online schooling, my job was not only in the clinic, I’m had to play mother and teacher at home. Twice, I had to isolate myself from my children for two weeks and only see them through the window and help them with their studies through video calls. A woman’s job continues at home with her children, and thankfully that tough time has passed,” she adds.
“This Emirati Women’s Day makes me feel appreciated and all the effort was worth it. I’m sure every woman in every field feels that way. Any recognition makes you proud.”
This Emirati Women’s Day makes me feel appreciated and all the effort was worth it. I’m sure every woman in every field feels that way. Any recognition makes you proud.
When Dr. Al Hadrami was receiving her education, she was grateful for the support that Emirati women could find. “When I sought higher education, there was a lot of support that helped me reach this position in my career, so I’m very thankful for our leaders. I’m proud to be an Emirati woman, and to have this special day to recognise us.”
For many Emirati women, this day proves the potential that the community welcomes, “This is Sheikh Zayed’s ambitions. There are many messages from him that you can find online, where he talks about the role of Emirati women, this is back in the 70s! He encouraged women a lot in this community. The leaders have given us the appreciation and that pushes us every year to keep improving and proving what we can offer.”