Dr Amal Al Qubaisi was elected the first woman Speaker of the Federal National Council in November. Image Credit: Ahmed Kutty/Gulf News

Dubai: Across society’s spectrum, from the political arena to the diplomatic corps, from the judiciary to the commercial sector, Emirati women have helped build a stronger nation in 2015 as the vision of UAE’s leaders enabled them to take greater strides.

The year has seen a series of milestones being reached in the field of women’s empowerment.

In February, His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, announced the formation of the UAE Gender Balance Council, which was designed to activate the role of women as an essential partner in building the country’s future and as the main building block of society.

In March, Her Highness Shaikha Fatima Bint Mubarak, Chairwoman of the General Women’s Union, Supreme President of the Family Development Council and President of the Supreme Council for Motherhood and Childhood, took the issue a step further and launched the Strategy for Empowerment of Emirati Women 2015-2021, which provided a framework for federal and government institutions and organisations in developing work programmes to empower women in all areas of sustainable development.

In representing the nation, women have made up 17.5 per cent of the UAE’s partially elected representative body, the Federal National Council (FNC), and in senior positions, five women hold ministerial positions in the Cabinet, including Najla Mohammad Al Awar, who has been holding the position of Secretary-General of Cabinet since 2006.

Furthermore, three of the UAE’s ambassadors, one Consul-General and the UAE’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations in New York are women. Dr Hessa Abdullah Al Otaiba (ambassador to Spain), Shaikha Najla Al Qasimi (ambassador to Portugal), Hafsa Al Ulama (ambassador to Monte Negro), Noura Mohammed Juma (Consul General in Milan) and Lana Nusseibeh, UAE’s Permanent Representative to the UN.

In the local political arena, eight women were among 20 members appointed to the new House. Naema Abdullah Saeed Al Sharhan, from Ras Al Khaimah, made history as she won a seat in the FNC election 2015, one among 20 victorious candidates from across the country. Naema became the third woman to be elected to the council, with 1,004 votes. Women empowerment reached new heights with the election of Dr Amal Al Qubaisi as the first woman Speaker of the Federal National Council in November, a position which ranks her among the most powerful women in the country and in the Arab world.

In the last few years, four women have been appointed as judges, two as public prosecutors and 17 as assistant public prosecutors and marriage officials. four women were appointed as judges, two as public prosecutors and 17 as assistant public prosecutors and marriage officials.

Women serving in diverse fields, such as the Armed Forces, Customs and Police — that are usually dominated by men — have also come under the spotlight, particularly after the heroic efforts made by Major Mariam Al Mansouri who became the UAE’s first woman pilot to lead a strike mission in Syria against Daesh in October 2014.

Significant government entities, such as twofour54 media free zone, Tecom Business Park and Jebel Ali Free Zone Authority, are headed by women.

Women currently constitute 66 per cent of the public sector workforce in the UAE — the average global rate is at 48 per cent — with 30 per cent in senior and decision-making positions, which is close to the level in advanced countries.

(With inputs from WAM)

Emirati women speak on empowerment

“While the legal practice [in the UAE] is dominated by men, it changed about 10 years ago when it began to take a different route and women became engaged with it on many levels and many ways, such as including women in the in-house council and having them as judges. UAE women studying at universities in the faculty of law and Sharia have increased and it makes me happy to see that. My father has practised law all his life and I didn’t hesitate to enter that field. When I studied law, I found it to be a very hospitable environment where law firms wanted to have women on board. I believe the country has empowered women to do many things and have a diversity of job opportunities, such as having your own legal practice.”


Diana Hamade Al Ghurair, 48, litigation lawyer


“Art is a powerful tool that empowers everyone; [so] I do not like to be labelled as being just a woman [because it suggests that your work] is secondary. Having a creative outlet to express opinions and ideas is a powerful medium to bridge cultures and create a dialogue. There are various art forms that lend themselves powerfully to a message and convey it to the audience. To me, that is empowerment. A message can lead to change and change empowers individuals. Through it, communities form, ideas develop and conversations take place. Education is a powerful tool that lends itself to art, and the more aware you are about your surroundings, the stronger your message.”


Lamya Gargash, 33, artist and photographer


“I have been working as a psychiatrist for 20 years and, apart from myself, there was only one other woman doctor employed in the psychiatric department at Rashid Hospital at the time, as it was male-dominated. Our colleagues would try to protect us from difficult cases because they assumed that as women we were sensitive and would be affected by our patients’ condition. On the contrary, we did not want any help and did not want to be treated any different from our male colleagues. As a woman, I did not have to prove myself. All I had to do was be a professional and show that I could protect myself from violent patients. I received a lot of support from my family; everybody encouraged me to get into this field.”


Dr Alia Al Murri, 46, psychiatrist


“The UAE has set the bar for gender equality in business, not just in the region but, arguably, in the world. The late Shaikh Zayed [Bin Sultan Al Nahyan] and our leaders, as well as Shaikha Fatima have developed a strong legacy that encourages and supports women to pursue any field of interest and contribute to society. Women have made a noticeable presence and have achieved a great deal in different sectors, private and public. As a woman, I feel the sky is the limit for what my gender can achieve in this country. Having applied for jobs and gone through several interview processes, I have come to appreciate that employers are eager to hire women and are not presumptuous regarding stereotype [impressions] that women might not commit to their jobs fully, or might eventually quit to raise a family. Employers are keen to develop their women employees at whatever level they happen to join and make their experience meaningful and fulfilling.”


Shamma Al Mazroui, 22, assistant investment analyst


Milestones in women empowerment


Dr Amal Al Qubaisi makes history by becoming the first woman in the Arab world to be elected as Speaker of UAE Federal National Council (FNC)


Mariam Al Mansouri, the first female squadron leader, and F-16 fighter pilot of the UAE Air Force, receives the Asia Game Changer Award at Asia Society’s Game Changer Awards at the UN headquarters in New York


The UAE is setting a precedent in gender balance and women’s empowerment at the workplace. Accounting for more than 66 per cent of jobs in the workforce in the public sector, they occupy key decision-making positions, according to Dr Shamsa Saleh, CEO of the Dubai Women Establishment and General Coordinator of the UAE Gender Balance Council.


UAE women leaders attend the 11th Women’s Forum Global Meeting held in Deauville, France. They visit the forum under the directives of Shaikha Manal Bint Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, President of UAE Gender Balance Council and President of Dubai Women Establishment.


Hind Abdul Aziz Al Owais becomes the first Emirati woman to be posted at the United Nations headquarters in New York as a senior adviser since the UAE became a member of the United Nations in 1971.


Martyrs Mothers’ and Children are Ours, a humanitarian initiative, will see a group of Emirati media representatives visit the mothers of martyrs to support them emotionally and financially.


The UAE dedicates the day as Emirati Women’s Day in recognition of the role of Emirati women in the sustainable development of the country. This is announced by Her Highness Shaikha Fatima Bint Mubarak, Chairwoman of the General Women’s Union (GWU), Supreme President of the Family Development Foundation (FDF) and President of the Supreme Council for Motherhood and Childhood


Shaikha Fatima Bint Mubarak is named the Islamic Personality of the Year 2015, making it the first time the award has been conferred on a woman.


35 young women, including Emiratis and expats from all seven emirates, launch ‘e7 Daughters of the Emirates’. The young women will have the opportunity to make their country better.


The Dubai Women’s Establishment (DWE) signs a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Ducab for ongoing partnership and collaboration towards empowering Emirati women in the workplace, especially in the private sector. The agreement will see Ducab sponsor the annual Women Leadership Exchange Programme (WLEP) organised by DWE in collaboration with the Women for Sustainable Growth network and Sweden-based Mil Institute.


Her Highness Shaikha Fatima Bint Mubarak launches the National Strategy for Empowerment of Emirati Women in the UAE from 2015-2021


His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, announces formation of UAE Gender Balance Council. The council aims to boost UAE efforts to evolve and enhance women’s role as key partners in building the nation’s future.

Compiled by Gulf News Archives