Emirati women who have been making the country proud

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Emirati women who have been making the country proud
Shamsa Saleh, CEO, Dubai Women Establishment

The UAE provides a safe and nurturing environment for women to empower and excel


Farhana Chowdhury

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Published: Tue 28 Feb 2017, 3:40 PM

Last updated: Thu 2 Mar 2017, 6:01 PM

While the world debates about gender equality, the UAE already has a pro-women environment across various spectrum from politics and science to business and economy. 
According to the recent World Economic Forum, the UAE tops the list for treating women with respect. Here's a look at some Emirati women who have been making the country proud: 
Advocate of leadership
Shamsa Saleh, CEO, Dubai Women Establishment

In a bid to improve the lives of women across the country, Shamsa Saleh climbed the ranks to lead the Dubai Women Establishment as the CEO. She had given rise to a number of projects such as the Women Leadership Exchange Programme, The National Child Care Centre Project, and the Arab Women Leadership Forum, to name a few, which encourage women to take part in decision-making roles and actively contribute towards society.

Quote: "I think government bodies such as Dubai Women Establishment and the UAE Gender Balance Council are playing a big role in creating an environment where women have the opportunities and support their need to pursue building their careers in the business world." - Shamsa Saleh.

Need for speed
Nahla Al Rostamani, Licensed racer

Nahla's interest in Formula One dates back to childhood. While other girls frolicked with dolls, she set her sight on conquering the tracks. Despite the negativity and isolation she faced in a male-dominated sport, she successfully earned her racing licence as the first Emirati woman to do so and was one of the best drivers on the field. Her stints in Dubai Autodrome and Yas Circuit later earned her another first, the timekeeper's licence, and a chief timekeeper and deputy circuit manager, respectively, that allows her to time races officially.

Quote: "At every event I am the only female among who knows how many males. I am very strict and professional. Everyone thinks that it's a man's world and no female should be in such an environment. But if somebody says something to me I just say, 'Well, that's your opinion.' I do get upset, but I take it as a challenge. I think: 'I will prove you wrong'." - Nahla Al Rostamani

Ability in disability
Thuraya Hamad Al Zaabi, Paralympics athlete

Anything is possible with the right dose of determination, and that's what Thuraya did to overcome her disabilities. She was left paralysed after a stroke at the age of 29 but retained hopes of leading a normal life, as she actively followed her passion for sports to become the first Emirati Paralympics athlete. She has competed in a number of national and international competitions, including the recent IPC Athletics World Championships in Qatar.
Quote: "Sport is the soul; that is how I call it. My disability never stopped me from being a sportswoman. I found that javelin throwing and shot put are suitable for my case, although they are not easy sports. My wish is to be the ambassador of my country to international events, to present the good image of the Emirati girl: smiling, successful, and loving." - Thuraya Hamad Al Zaabi

Cracking the genome code
Dr Habiba Al Safar, Director of Khalifa, Medical University and Assistant Professor at Biomed Engineering

With an education background in biochemistry and medical engineering, Dr Habiba found her passion for research while doing her PhD, which led her to realise a pressing concern plaguing residents in the country, Type 2 diabetes. In 2011, she set up the first diabetes registry in Khalifa University and embarked on a journey to identify the genetic and environmental risk factors associated with the lifestyle disease. She received the L'Oreal-UNESCO Fellowship Award for Women in Science in 2014 and was included in the Nobel Prize: Ideas Changing the World exhibit in 2015 conducting the first genome-wide association study of the UAE Bedouin population.

Quote: "It is not difficult at all to be a woman scientist in the UAE. Women here are succeeding as doctors, pilots or in the Government. This is because of the Government's support that women can accomplish so many things and overcome the obstacles. A woman can be a mother, a wife and a sister, and achieve many things. The scientific community is supportive." - Dr Habiba Al Safar

Enhancing the female role
Sheikha Lubna bint Khalid Al Qasimi, Minister of State for Tolerance

The first woman to hold position as a government minister in the UAE, Sheikha Lubna continues to lead as the World's Most Powerful Arab Woman for six consecutive years, according to an annual list compiled by Arabian Business. 
She was elected the Minister of Economy in 2004, and took on roles as the Minister of Foreign Trade in 2008, and Minister of International Cooperation and Development between 2013 and 2016. Her endeavours extend beyond promoting the role of women in society, as she is also a board member of the Emirates Foundation for Youth Development and Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation in the UAE, Governing Board of Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at the National University of Singapore, to name a few.

Quote: "The UAE has established itself as a role model for the region in this field, opening the door for women to invest in business and establish their own enterprises. Today, we have thousands of businesswomen running investments worth billions of dirhams. We look forward to sharing our experience and insights with participants at this important global event," - Sheikha Lubna Al Qasimi, at the High-Level Panel on Women's Economic Empowerment held in Dubai, a first of its kind in the MENA region.   

Raising the bar
Amna Al Haddad, Weightlifter

What started out as a solution to get fit transformed into a lifestyle for Amna. Her journey began at a tender age of 19 when she decided to put an end to an unhealthy way of life and stepped up well-being with jogging and CrossFit. Few sessions later she competed in the CrossFit Games Asia Regionals in South Korea to become the first Emirati to represent the country in the sport. Her love for weightlifting shone through and earned her a spot in the recent Rio Olympics 2016 after four years of training. Currently part of Nike's latest campaign, Inner Strength, she is signed to the Nike Women's Team and aims to inspire young women to take up sport and excel in their goals.

Quote: "When I first started my fitness journey, I was an unhappy person. I wanted to make a change. I was like, Amna you can do much more than this, you can be better than this, and that's when things changed for me." 
"People will always have an opinion about what you do. don't let that bother you. It is your life, you can do whatever you want."
- Amna Al Haddad

Honourable mention to Hanifa Taher Al Blooshi, Assistant Professor at the Chemical and Environmental Engineering Department at Masdar Institute, for her research to design a novel system for enzymatic biodiesel production.

Did you know?

Emirati Women's Day is observed on August 28.

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