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 “The UAE leadership has high aspirations for
women since it believes they have the ability to play an influential role in
the country’s resurgence in various fields,” she added, pointing out the
significant progress made in the political and economic participation of Gulf
women, which has inspired women across the world.

The
meeting comes ahead of the October 17 opening of the UN Women Office in Abu
Dhabi, which will serve as a liaison office for GCC countries.

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Al Merri
described the office as a crucial platform to promote cooperation between the
UN and the countries of the region, including their various commissions and
institutions, for women’s development and empowerment.

Al Merri
highlighted the country’s major achievements in the field of women’s
empowerment and gender balance, key among these being the political empowerment
programme of President His Highness Shaikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, which
was launched in 2005.

She
noted that the programme has achieved its objectives of expanding political
participation, enhancing the role of women in the Federal National Council and
empowering women across all fields.

Other
key achievements Al Merri mentioned included the initiative to form the UAE
Gender Balance Council aimed at enhancing the role of women as partners in
building the future, and other initiatives dedicated to enhancing women’s
active participation in various fields.

She also
spoke of the exceptional support of Her Highness Shaikha Fatima Bint Mubarak,
Chairwoman of the General Women’s Union, Supreme Chairwoman of the Family
Development Foundation and President of the Supreme Council for Motherhood and
Childhood and her commitment to enhance the status of women in the UAE and the
Arab world through initiatives and projects that allow them to achieve the
highest levels of participation in society.

The most
important of these is the national strategy launched by Shaikha Fatima in March
2015 to empower women leaders in the country through 2021 as well as provide a
framework for all federal and government institutions and civil society
organisations to develop plans for women’s empowerment in all areas of
sustainable development.

Al Merri
said that the UAE Gender Balance Council is supporting the implementation of a
Gender Balance Index which will provide a tangible measure of progress in
women’s participation in various governmental commissions and institutions,
apart from inspiring similar progress among private sector institutions.

GOVERNMENT
INITIATIVESS TO IMPROVE WOMEN EMPOWERMENT:

The
government of United Arab Emirates has tried to improve the roles played by
women in the recent past. This made the UAE a leader for rights of women in the
Arabian Countries. Before the discovery of oil in 1960, there were a very less
number of opportunities for women in the country outside their home and family.
As per the constitution, equality for women on par with men is guaranteed
including the areas like legal status, title claims and even in access to the
education. The stepping stones for women empowerment were laid by the then
President, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahvan’s wife Sheikha Fatima bint
Mubarak. She was the founder of General Women’s Union (GWU) which still stands
as a powerful component of State and in participation in the various
initiatives of the organization. (Salama, 2008)

The
leaders of Emirates have keenly tried to promote the complete participation of
the women in society activities, aligned with the objectives of optimizing the
human resources. Not only did the government take steps to improve the
condition of women in the UAE but also, there were associations formed which
work autonomously for the improvement of life of women. Not only operating in
their circles, but the six existing women associations were joined together to
expand their reach to the public more and more and to provide more services to
women.

The
government has launched a new statute of law under which, new laws would be
incorporated on issues related to protecting women and also to provide family
guidance, divorce issues and compensation, etc. The UAE government has also
signed agreements internationally to specific issues related to the women and
children welfare. United Arab Emirates was the first country to establish a
college for women army recruits among the Gulf countries. The Dubai Women and
Children Shelter started by the government to protect women and children from domestic
violence the face every day. Under this project, support and emotional care
would be provided to the sufferers of abuse and crimes such as human
trafficking. The government has launched many projects and awards for women to
encourage them and make their role known to everyone. Example can be taken
about the Intelaq project which aims at increasing the participation of women
in the government departments. Because of these new initiatives, the government
has offered women, the jobs that are reserved for men like the appointment of
Fatima Saeed Obaid Al Awani as the country’s first female marriage registrar.
(Salama, 2008)

As a
result of all the initiatives and projects, United Arab Emirates was ranked at
29th position among the 177 countries for Gender Empowerment Measures which is
the best rating any country in the Arab World has received. Along with this,
the Chairperson of the GWU, Sheikha Fatima Bint Mubarak was awarded with the
Mohammad Medal, the highest honor given by the UN. (Women in the UAE, 2010)

UAE women: A Journey
of Empowerment

ABU
DHABI, 27th August 2016 (WAM) – The empowerment of women has been one of the
notable success stories of the UAE. The UAE firmly believes that progress on
issues relating to women’s rights is essential for building a tolerant and
modern society.

Since
the very foundation of the United Arab Emirates on December 2, 1971, women have
been recognized as equal partners in national development by the UAE’s leaders,
and the Government continues to pursue a strategy of empowering women in all
fields. The UAE’s society has comfortably accepted this approach, in a way that
has made women real partners and drivers in the country’s ongoing development
process.

Government
Support Throughout the UAE’s history, the leadership of the country has
invested heavily in women. The founding father of the UAE, the Late Sheikh
Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan, made the cause of women’s empowerment a top
priority of the UAE Government. In this respect, every possible effort, was,
and continues to be made, to support the talents of Emirati women and to
develop social conditions, which encourage women to fully participate in public
life.

Sheikh
Zayed once said: “The woman is half of the society, any country which
pursues development should not leave her in poverty or illiteracy. I am on the
woman’s side; I always say this in order to uphold her right to work and
participate in the building process of her country”.

The UAE
Government has successfully delivered on this objective by offering women education,
employment, and training opportunities, and by introducing forward-thinking and
progressive laws and legislation that have paved the way for women’s
empowerment.

The
Constitution of the UAE guarantees equal rights for both men and women. Under
the Constitution, women enjoy the same legal status, claim to titles, access to
education, the right to practice professions, and the right to inherit
property. Women are also guaranteed the same access to employment, health and
family welfare facilities.

Furthermore,
the UAE has enacted a range of legislation and laws that provide legal
protection for women, and punish anyone who might compromise their dignity or
personal safety. In this context, The UAE has signed all international treaties
on protecting the rights of women. Among these are the Convention on the
Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, CEDAW, (2004), the
Hours of Work (Industry) Convention (1982), and the Equal Remuneration
Convention (1996).

Since
His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan came to power in 2004, the
issue of women’s empowerment has gained only further momentum. His Highness
Sheikh Khalifa has led national efforts aiming to create permanent and positive
changes in women’ lives. He has done so by offering more education and training
opportunities that would enhance the role and contribution of women in the
public sphere.

Furthermore,
His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, UAE Vice President, Prime
Minister and Ruler of Dubai has also been at the forefront of encouraging
women’s empowerment in the UAE. For instance, during the Government Summit in
Dubai in 2015, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed announced the formation of the
“Emirates Council for Gender Balance” which aims to bridge the gender
gap and boost the UAE’s efforts to evolve and enhance women’s role as key
partners in building the future of the nation.

While in
March 2015, Her Highness Sheikha Fatima Bint Mubarak, Chairwoman of the General
Women’s Union, Supreme Chairwoman of the Family Development Foundation and
President of the Supreme Council for Motherhood and Childhood, launched the
National Strategy for Empowerment of Emirati Women in the UAE 2015-2021, which
provided a guiding framework and reference for all federal and local governmental
institutions and civil society organizations in developing plans and work
programs to empower women in all areas.

UAE
Women in progress The UAE is a recognized leader in terms of gender equality in
the region. This achievement comes from the fundamental belief that women and
men are equal partners in society. Through a series of public and private
sector initiatives, women are playing an increasingly stronger role in all
facets of Emirati society.

Women
graduates in the UAE excel in government, engineering, science, health care,
media, computer technology, law, commerce and the oil industry, amongst other
fields. Eight women serve in the UAE Cabinet including Sheikha Lubna Al Qasimi,
Minister of State for Tolerance, and a 22-year-old Shamma Al Mazrui, who serves
as Minister of State for Youth Affairs. Nine women hold seats within the
Federal National Council (FNC), a consultative parliamentary body, accounting
for nearly one-quarter of the FNC’s membership. In November 2015, Dr. Amal Al
Qubaisi became President of the FNC, making her the first woman in the region
to lead a national assembly. She previously had made history in 2006 as the
first elected female to the FNC and in 2011 was appointed deputy speaker of the
FNC.

Women
make up 20 percent of the diplomatic corps, and there are also several women
Ambassadors. Currently, the UAE Permanent Representative to the United Nations
(Lana Nusseibeh), the Ambassador to Spain (Hessa Al Otaiba), the Ambassador to
Montenegro (Hafsa Abdullah Mohammed Sharif Al Ulama), and the Consul General to
Italy in Milan (Noura Mohammed Juma) are all women.

Today,
Emirati women constitute 66 percent of the national UAE labor market in fields
as diverse as engineering, science, healthcare, media, computer technology,
law, civil and military aviation, commerce, university lecturers, government
and the oil industry. Around a third of Emirati women hold senior-level
positions, and 15 percent of women work in highly skilled technical fields.

Emirati
women have also made great strides in the world of business and investment. The
UAE Businesswomen Council, a nationwide network of business, professional, and
academic women, was set up in 2002. Emirati businesswomen are running
investments worth more than AED 12 billion (USD 3.26 billion) in various
fields, including trade, industry, finance, real estate, tourism, fairs and
exhibitions, construction and services. While in the banking sector alone, 38
percent of employees are Emirati women.

In
conclusion, Emirati women, who account for 49.3 percent of the national
population, are today at the cutting edge and forefront of UAE economic,
political, and social life. Aided by the government’s unwavering commitment to
empowering women and providing equal opportunities, the status of women within
the UAE has flourished in parallel with the country’s growth since the
federation was established in 1971. It is evident, that this process will only
continue apace, and women will remain an ever important cornerstone for not
only the UAE’s present, but also its future.

Women’s Political Participation:

The government views the empowerment of
women as crucial
to improving their level of political
participation in the country.
Women should be at
the forefront of directing change
in the region and gender-related policies are undoubtedly more effective when
women have themselves contributed to the legislative process.
The UAE has taken a lead
in the region to empower
women politically and, over the
past few years,
women have begun
to more visibly contribute in the political arena. A good
example of the
country’s success
in this modernization process was demonstrated by the impressive role played
by women in the historic FNC elections of December 2006,
an important milestone in the history of the UAE. Through the election process, UAE women demonstrated their ability to move into the national
political arena and compete as equals
with men. Female
candidates ran effective campaigns across
the UAE on a number
of wide ranging issues
from health and
social welfare to education, economy to demographics and jobs, transportation,
local housing and
other substantive issues. While women made up 17.7 percent of the Electoral College, 63 of the
452 candidates who
contested the polls were women. The voter turnout
among women was also extremely high across the UAE. Interaction with women
ahead of the elections revealed
that many of them were keen to participate because they were setting precedents for women’s political
participation in the future.

Dr. Amal Al Qubaisi was the first
woman in the UAE’s history to win a seat on the FNC,
elected by the Abu Dhabi
Electoral College. In order to ensure fair representation, the government
nominated eight other women
across the remaining six emirates to the
40-member FNC, which translates into a 22.5 percent
share of the seats – way above the Arab
world average of 9.3 percent and the world
average of 17 percent. This affirmative action
from government to ensure women’s representation in the FNC has
enabled women to prove themselves within

the public sphere. At present,
UAE women parliamentarians are active contributors to council meetings, contributing to
the review of draft laws,
debating issues of public
concern and representing their constituents on the
FNC committees. In future elections, women will undoubtedly see
greater electoral successes as they build individual public profiles and
professional experience. Although there
are many challenges ahead, the will and
the support of the government in ensuring that women
play a strong
role in the

development and progress of the UAE, particularly in terms
of contributing to the national
policy debates was strongly
demonstrated in the country’s first election experience. Although the elections were a first
step in a wider participatory process, they were an immediate gain for women.

Women in
the Workforce

The open constitutional framework for work opportunities has
given UAE women
the chance to participate in the development of their society

alongside men. The
contribution of national women to the economy increased significantly
from 9.6 percent in 1986 to 33.4 percent in 2007, which approximately
represents a 3.5 percent average annual growth.4 Today UAE
women account for
59% of the national
UAE labor force
market in fields
as diverse as engineering, science, healthcare, media, computer technology,
law, commerce, university lecturers,
government and the oil industry.5 This positive development was not only the
result of substantial enrolment by women in education, but also because of the open social
attitudes towards women’s employment and the fact that work
was increasingly being seen
not merely as a source
of income but as part of establishing a personal as well
as professional identity. There
is also no doubt that women role models are encouraging
women to break away from
traditional areas of employment.
According to
2005 figures from the UAE Businesswomen Council, about 40 percent of women work in the public
sector, 18 percent in the
private sector, 29 percent work as representatives of various organisations, 7.6
percent are self
employed, 7.3 percent
participate in partnership ventures, and six percent work
in business. Entrepreneurship among women is also becoming increasingly popular and

in fact,
according to 2006 figures, the UAE has the
largest number of businesswomen in the region.6

In some traditional areas, women employees are clearly dominant
in both the national and expatriate
communities. For example, 100 percent of nursery
schoolteachers, 55 percent
of primary schoolteachers and 65 percent of intermediate and
secondary

schoolteachers are women. UAE women comprise
over 40 percent of all employees in education, at least 35 percent work in the health sector
and approximately 20 percent
in social affairs.7 One out of every three doctors, pharmacists, technicians and administrators

is a woman, as is over
80 percent of the nursing
staff. Continuing this trend,
the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences
at the Emirates University is attracting
more female applicants than male. The number of professional women in the media has risen
sharply since Federal
institutions such as Zayed
University and the Higher Colleges
of Technology introduced dedicated communication
courses in an effort to equip
more women for
professions in the communications and media industry.
Women are also
deeply involved in environmental
initiatives, with two environmental NGOs in the UAE
headed by Emirati
women. A leading
UAE University has recently introduced a master’s
degree in environmental sciences, and its first
graduates were women, providing an important future source
of UAE professionals who are interested in the UAE’s sustainable
development strategy.

Women leaders have
also emerged in non-traditional careers and sectors
traditionally dominated by men. In September 2008, the UAE Cabinet approved, for the first time,
the appointment of two women ambassadors to its missions
in Sweden and Spain.
The first female
Emirati pilot at the General
Civil Aviation Authority, the first
female Emirati judge
in the history of the UAE
and the first
Army Brigadier are role models
for Emirati women.
Recent changes in the UAE’s judiciary law to encompass women’s equal opportunity rights are in line with
the government’s commitment to promote more
women to the
highest posts in the judiciary.

Women are now active
members of the military establishment. The UAE established the first Women’s
Army College in the Gulf region and is unique among the Gulf countries in permitting women
to join the armed forces and police. This breakthrough was achieved
during the second
Gulf War when the
women of the country expressed interest in undergoing basic military training
in order to be equipped to defend
their homeland. Today, women work alongside their
male compatriots in the military in every position, except those involving front-line combat. The first batch
of women graduated in 1992 from the Khawla bint Al Azwar Training College, forming the basis for
the creation of the special Women’s Corps,
which now includes hundreds of members. And, as part of the police forces, they
perform a variety of jobs ranging from criminal investigation to customs control.

In the field
of arts and culture, women
have also begun making rapid
and impressive strides in mediums such as the arts, film,
design, literature, media and
much more. Women
are members of the
cultural authorities and boards
directing government strategy in the fields
of culture, arts
and music and are actively involved and recognized for their contribution to cultural growth
in the UAE.

 

Education

The stimulus for UAE women’s development has largely been access
to education, in which women have excelled, both in the local universities and also
internationally under UAE government scholarship programs.

 

Women in the UAE
are in fact
outperforming males
at every educational level. According to a PricewaterhouseCoopers report,
at 77 percent, “the UAE is registering the highest rate of females in higher education in
the entire world.”8 The United Nations also recognizes the UAE to be among
the most developed nations
in educating women.

From rudimentary
beginnings, when educational opportunities
were minimal, the
percentage of girls enrolled in primary education has grown rapidly.

There were
just 19,000 registered schoolgirls in 1972-73. In contrast, the 1975 census
listed 3,005

women with their first
university degree or equivalent.
Women literacy rates
match those of men as of 2007. Nearly half the students
registered in over 1,250 schools across the UAE are girls; about
75 percent of all
students in the UAE University are women; and, three out of every
five students in the public
higher education system are women. On average, 62 percent
of students enrolled in higher education and 70.4 percent of total graduates are women.9

Of the 278 national
students graduating from overseas universities in 2007/2008, 46 percent were women. 48 percent of
bachelor students, 38.3 percent of masters
and 55 percent of PhD holders
from universities abroad
are female.10 In 2005,

the
female illiteracy rate
in the UAE
was a low 2.4 percent, compared to 10 percent
among males and the average in the Arab World
of over 50 percent.
With only 2.1 percent of females dropping out of educational institutions during 2006-2007, women are attaining the
necessary education to enter and excel in the job
market. According to a survey
by Tanmia, the UAE’s National
Human Resources and Development Authority, women at the UAE University have enrolled in a variety of specializations including the faculties of
humanities and social sciences, education,
sciences, medical and health science, information technology, business and economics, as well as food systems.

CONCLUSIONS AND
SUGGESTIONS:

From the
discussion above, it is clearly evidential that the women are progressing in
the path of empowerment and also it is made clear that the government has
recognized the role of women in improving the society and her family. Women are
known for making decisions in the right way at times of stake. The UAE has also
been seeing a great amount of progress in this area: The women literacy rate
has gone up to 90% in 2007; Increased number of women enrolled for the higher
education when compared to men (24% more than men); Every five students have
three female children in higher education; Women are 66% consisted in the
government sector jobs; Women entering into crucial areas like the military,
air force and police are a few important achievements apart from many others
made in the UAE towards women empowerment. This process of empowering women is
a continuous and never ending path in which every step taken towards attaining
women empowerment would certainly earn the country and the society a lot.

While
the above discussion states that women empowerment is a necessary for
development of any country, there are also few factors that bar the progress of
women and hence that of the country. Those are to be dealt with utmost focus
and attention. The government should try to launch more programs in order to
encourage female participation in the arts, culture and other social activities.
It is also beneficial if the government provides all kind of monetary or mental
support needed for female entrepreneurs which would benefit in attaining more
development. Women in UAE are into the fields of army, police and air-force
which were perceived as only male oriented areas earlier. This shows that with
proper amount of training and guidance, women can perform well even in
shop-floor related jobs. Women can be provided coaching in work related issues
and also they can be educated regarding the traditions and culture so that the
culture which is being followed from centuries would not get affected and also
there would be development.

From all
the discussion above, it can be concluded that women are key role players in
the development of any economy and an economy which gives a considerable amount
of importance to this would definitely see progress towards success and
development of the society as a whole. Also, it can be said that with proper
care and education methods, the traditions wouldn’t get disturbed and so is the
progress of a country.

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