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UAE Women Have to Realise Full Potential

Afshan Ahmed / 18 March 2010

DUBAI - The UAE has become a role model in women empowerment in the region with their participation surpassing that of men in the public sector and having more than a 90 per cent literacy rate.

However, the next major step is to encourage the youth to carry on the torch, say prominent women in the Arab world.

Gathered at the Second Annual Symposium, organised by Barnard College, the US Liberal Arts Institute for Women, in Dubai on Monday, successful Arab women spoke about their struggle to make it big in a male dominated society.  

Shaikha Lubna Al Qasimi, Minister for Foreign Trade said Arab women have to overcome challenges in many parts of the Middle East which limit them from realising their true potential.

“We need to encourage young Arab girls to have confidence in themselves and their abilities to achieve,” she said.

Other women speakers at the conference included Najla Al-Awadhi, Federal National Council member, Dr Houriya Kazim, UAE’s first ladysurgeon and, bestselling Arab author Ahdaf Soueif.

Though Emirati women have broken the glass ceiling and made a mark in all walks of life they continue to face barriers connected with families issues, culture, business and personal structure.

“I believe the biggest problem women face is trying to balance their personal life and career,” Al Qasimi, said.

“Due to the inherent nurturing nature of women, one often sees them give up jobs to attend to their families,” she said.

Nawal Bayari, an emirati mother of four, vice president and business head of a bank, constantly faces a dilemma when it comes to striking a balance between home and work.

With a jam packed schedule of client meetings and parent teacher sessions, she has to overcome the challenges that many women continue to face in the UAE.“I try not to stress about it and my children are very understanding and proud of my achievement,” said Bayari, who heads Women Banking at Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank.

So while the literacy rate among women is higher than that of the men, only 18 per cent assume top positions in the country as women give family commitments top priority.

Debora Spar, president, Barnard College said, women in the UAE are cosmopolitan.“They have a broader sense of the international spirit than women in other countries,” she said.


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