Sheikha Lubna Al Qasimi speaking during the ‘From the First Female Minister to the Youngest Minister’ session at the summit Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan/Gulf News

Dubai: Sheikha Lubna Al Qasimi, who became the UAE’s first female cabinet minister in 2004, said she was dubbed as “Dubai’s secret weapon” by the US media in 2006, at a World Government Summit session in Dubai on Wednesday.

“This is something which I will never forget in my life,” the Emirati trailblazer, who has held various ministerial positions, said during an interactive session with Shamma Suhail Faris Al Mazrui, who was appointed as the Minister of State for Youth Affairs in 2016 at the age of 22, thus becoming the youngest minister in the world.

(L to R) Shamma Suhail Faris Al Mazrui and Sheikha Lubna Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan/Gulf News

Speaking about the challenging experiences that she had encountered as a female minister, Sheikha Lubna shared her story of being sent to the US for negotiations after some of the lawmakers there objected to the acquisition of six US ports by DP World, a Dubai-based company.

At that time, she recalled, she was referred to as Dubai’s secret weapon in a media report that highlighted the importance of her negotiation skills in easing the situation.

Sheikha Lubna said she had assumed that she was given that task due to her experience of working with the Dubai Ports earlier. However, she said, on her return, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, confirmed to her that she was assigned that role also because that he believed that, as a woman, she would be able to remove many barriers and change misguided impressions about the UAE.

The former minister, who was listed as one of the most powerful women by Forbes and topped the list of most powerful Arab women for several years, also recalled her first address at the World Trade Organisation’s Ministerial Conference in Hong Kong.

She remembered the organisers asking her for the minister when it was time for her to speak, as they had stereo-typically assumed that the minister would be a male.

Political enablement

“Appointing me [as a minister] was a political enablement of women in the UAE,” she said, recollecting that people then said she “raised the threshold for a woman”.

“And this impact was not just on the UAE society…but also outside the UAE, in the region, especially in the Gulf countries. And now we have nine female ministers. I remember, every year [after that], there was an appointment of female ministers in the Gulf countries, as well as in the Middle East. This is very important,” she observed.

Similarly, minister Shamma recalled how Sheikh Mohammed’s decision to make her a minister led to similar moves in various countries. Hailing Sheikh Mohammed’s vision, she said more than 42 young ministers were appointed around the world in just two-and-a-half-years after her appointment.

Takeaway lessons

Sharing the important lessons learnt during her stint, Shamma said it was important to be open to learning continuously, keep listening to others, have a good intention to serve the people and do the best for the best interest of the team that is serving the nation.

Shamma highlighted the value of being a good listener Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan/Gulf News

Sheikha Lubna said some of the most important values that she learnt were respect and appreciation which she has seen from the highest ranking personality to the lowest.

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Both the women leaders hailed Sheikh Mohammed and His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, who lead by example and give inspiring messages through their actions.

While Shamma compared the UAE’s leadership to chess players who think of not just the next step but several steps ahead (in terms of the quick response to adverse situations like the COVID-19 pandemic), Sheikha Lubna said she felt that the UAE’s leadership is akin to an orchestra playing a symphony, guided by a conductor.