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Why I decided to stand for elections
Silvia Radan / 10 September 2011
It takes strong will, compassion and a bit of diplomacy too to be a good representative of people and Abu Dhabiís Moza Saeed Al Otaiba thinks she got it all and that is why she is now one of the candidates for the National Federal Council (FNC).
In an interview with Khaleej Times she talks about herself, her ambitions and her beliefs.
Who is Moza Seed Al Otaiba?
I was born in 1974, being the oldest of my brothers and sisters. Looking back at my childhood, I was a leader from an early age. For example, when I was about 10 years old, I shared a room with my sister. I wanted to have my own room, though, and we had one upstairs, a TV and library room, which nobody was using. I asked my mom if I can move there and she said yes, but weeks passed and I wasn’t moved. Eventually, I took matter into my own hands and asked my brother to help me move.
We were both kids, but we managed to unscrew my bed into parts, take them upstairs into the new room and screw everything back on. The first thing I did after moving was to go to the stationary shop and buy two tags — one said “private” and the second said “general manager”.
I still live in that room today. The great thing about it is that it contained all my father’s books. They ranged from politics and history to religion and philosophy, which I began reading and even though some were on subjects, like death and I was too young, I did understand them.
Name three things that best describe you.
I would say I’m courageous, respectful and compassionate.
You have always been involved in philanthropic work. How did this come about?
I owe it to my father. When I was very young he used to take us to India. As you you know, in those days, Arabs used to go shopping in Bombay. My father took us to the poor areas, though, and he opened a school for orphans in Kerala. It was very hard work. There were no five-star hotels back then, so we stayed in very poor ones, and had to walk up the mountain, but my father made us do it. He taught us to be compassionate and tolerant towards others from a very young age.
Later on, he opened a second one, also in Kerala, which he named after me and my sister, and we carried on the work. I still go to visit this school in Kerala at least once a year.
Why did you decide to candidate for FNC?
I woke up on August 14 and something inside me said I had to do it. There were only four days left to register. I trusted in myself that I could be very transparent in bringing the issues and problems of Emiratis to the government in the best possible manner. I know I am trusted by the people around me, who come to me with all kind of matters. I was also inspired by Shaikha Fatma, who has done so much to empower women.
So on that August 14 morning I went to ask my father what he thought about me being a candidate. His reply was: “What are you going to do for the people? “Do you have the courage to represent people and do it in the best possible manner?” I told him “yes, you raised me up in such a way that I believe I can do this with dignity and a strong will.”
Then I talked to other members of the family I trust and next day I went to Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre to register. As I was getting closer to the FNC hall, I start getting goosbumps and even had a tear in my eye. I was feeling so proud and happy, thinking “oh my God, what a great honour! People want to hear my voice!”
In a country with strong tribal traditions can democracy work as a political system?
The tribal system is a democratic one. For example, Shaikh Zayed, peace be upon his soul, always had his majlis opened. When someone had a problem he went to the head of the family, who went to the head of the tribe, who went to Shaikh Zayed. Now there are many more of us, and no majlis can accommodate all heads of tribes. Having a parliament, the FNC, is the majlis status quo; it is more suitable to the demographic structure of UAE.
Who influences you most in your decision-making?
My father and my brother. I love my father to pieces; he has always been a great father. He allowed me to study abroad when society was at a critical stage. My school made me graduate one year early saying that I was too advanced, so I finished high school when I was just 15 and a half years. My father said I was too young to go abroad, so I graduated from Higher Colleges of Technology, but then he allowed me to go do my master’s in international relation in UK, at Webster University, which I completed when I was just 22 years old. I’m also a high achiever, always tough on myself to do more and better.
One of the issues on your electoral agenda is empowering women. Does it mean sacrificing traditional family values?
Lots of women have to work nowadays, either because they have to help support their family or because they are ambitious and need to fulfil their needs. We have to make sure that the work environment allows them to be successful mothers as well. In Sweden there is a good system where women work 60-70 per cent of the working hours, so they have time for the family and still feel fulfilled in the workplace and have the opportunity to go up the ladder. By the time they reach an executive position, their children are grown up, and they can give more time to their work.
Who inspires you most from the current FNC cabinet?
Ahmed Shabeeb Al Dhaheri. I’ve seen him in many TV interviews and heard him many times on the radio. I respect the manner in which he presents the issues and views of Emiratis and the way he responds’s to people’s problems. It takes a lot of patience to listen to someone who is very frustrated and might not be able to focus and concentrate on the problem itself and al Dhaheri is very good at listening to people and put the problem in the right frame.
What is your favourite part of the day?
Late in the evening. I have dinner with my father and my family, and we have a beautiful family dynamics. This is the time when all the stress gathered throughout the day is finally going. Then I go to my room, I watch the news, reflect on the events of the day and read one of my books, which are now have reached such numbers that are overflowing into others’ rooms and spaces in the house!
How proud is your father of you?
He wouldn’t tell me directly, but would tell other people that he is proud of my brothers or me. “God bless them, they are very good children”, he often says to people. Sometimes he even talks to my brothers about me and vice versa and my brothers and me often ask each other “what did father think of what I did?” He is very reserved with praises one to one, but very generous with them and talking to others. This keeps me grounded, but I still long to hear him saying to me an entire article of praising about me. —firstname.lastname@example.org
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