Emirati women have broken barriers and are an inspiration

They have successfully and gracefully crafted their position as powerful players, flourishing in every field imaginable. They are physicians, entrepreneurs, astronauts, scientists, fashion designers, athletes, homemakers, ministers, film directors, judges, and even mechanics


Rasha Abu Baker

Published: Wed 24 Aug 2022, 9:27 PM

On August 28 every year, the UAE celebrates Emirati Women’s Day. A day which the majority of government and public entities around the country are marking in one form or another and when media organisations like this one fill their pages, both in print and online, with motivating stories of Emirati women and their successes. It is, perhaps, the one day of the year when we openly celebrate the unlimited ambitions of the women of this country, reminded of their truly inspirational journeys, including their trials and tribulations when trying to remodel a world that was built by men.

But what brought about the celebration, and what is its significance? Emirati Women’s Day was launched by Her Highness Sheikha Fatima bint Mubarak, known as the Mother of the Nation, in 2015. The choice of August 28 was made as the date coincides with the founding of the UAE’s General Women’s Union, which launched on that day in 1975.

For me, this day represents a very welcome opportunity to not only acknowledge, but also show appreciation for the immense progress and achievements of Emirati women over the decades. Looking at where we are today, it’s easy to forget that Emirati women came from humble beginnings, with their mothers and grandmothers before them living a nomadic and seasonally harsh lifestyle, with their roles and life pathways already laid out before them. For many generations, Emirati women had rather limited opportunities to become independent and work outside the home; some roles, as in many other countries, were traditionally and culturally reserved for men, and women’s typical roles remained centered around the home and rearing children.

However, this way of thinking was superseded by the UAE’s progressive leaders, who recognised very early on the importance of empowering the half of its society which was not effectively engaged in order to move forward and achieve a well-balanced population to serve a growing and ambitious nation.

To this end, laws were reformed, the formal education of girls was extended and women were supported in all areas in order to fulfil this noble objective. However, it wouldn’t be accurate to assume it was all smooth sailing for Emirati women, because the journey has certainly been testing and challenging at times. They fought their way forward and earned respect, they challenged cultural norms, and many had to work hard to convince brothers, husbands, fathers or other family members that they were making the right choices for themselves, whether that choice was a different form of attire, an unusual career path, or even an untraditional marriage. Those little battles were, and in some cases are still being, fought. So in many ways, for me, this is one of many reasons why it is so important to celebrate this day - to acknowledge the bravery and perseverance of Emirati women, for forging their own path and inspiring women, and men, all around the country, the region and beyond.

Emirati women, in just a few decades, have successfully and gracefully crafted their position as powerful players, flourishing in every field imaginable. They are physicians, entrepreneurs, astronauts, scientists, fashion designers, athletes, homemakers, ministers, film directors, judges and even mechanics. They have proven beyond all doubt that nothing is out of reach for Arab women as they consistently break down barriers and set records in a region that has been historically inhibited by stereotypical attitudes but which is now actively supporting women’s empowerment.

One characteristic that undoubtedly sets an Emirati woman apart, is her ability to open up to the world, confidently carrying her past, owning the present and ruling the future. She has become this terrific mix of a contemporary Arabian woman who has strong opinions and aspirations, but has developed them without losing her way, retaining her original spirit and dignified presence.

Emirati women have demonstrated that with hard work and persistence, they can achieve the previously impossible, break down barriers and go where no other women have gone.

It also helps, of course, that this country’s leadership have given unlimited support to women, encouraging their involvement across all fields, supporting a shift in perspectives, raising awareness and instilling acceptance. One good example is when then Crown Prince, His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, phoned Huda Al Matroushi, the first Emirati female car mechanic, telling her, “We all follow role models. We are proud to have someone like you among us. We encourage you and will support you... because you are a role model for others." It could be easily imagined that someone, somewhere, would have been dismayed by the thought of a woman of their own dressed in overalls and with oily skin, laying under a car to change a part, an activity that they might never have carried out themselves. That one phone call will have helped shift perspectives, and even if some might once have frowned on such progress, we have fortunately arrived at a point of acceptance, approval and admiration of the gender parity we now enjoy.

As we celebrate this special occasion for every Emirati woman, we should all honour her unwavering spirit and successes while also acknowledging the battles that she could have been secretly fighting to eliminate preconceptions, and supporting her in a meaningful way, whatever that might mean for you.

Happy Emirati Women’s Day!

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