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Breaking barriers and pushing the boundaries of what is possible, businesswomen across the UAE are taking the shot and coming out stronger than ever

By Rhonita Patnaik

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Published: Wed 28 Oct 2020, 1:19 PM

Last updated: Wed 28 Oct 2020, 3:51 PM

According to the World Economic Forum's most recent report, at current rates, it will take 108 years for the overall global gender gap to close. However, when it comes to entrepreneurship, some nations are bridging the chasm quicker than others, with the aid of technology that removes business and social impediments - and all this is in a region you might not expect: the Middle East and, specifically, the UAE.

Women make up for at least one-third of the population in the UAE and their importance in the UAE's economic future cannot be understated. From a surge in female entrepreneur support groups, to increased funding for new businesses, there has never been a better time for a woman to start a business in the UAE.

Alefia Zaki, founder of The Butterfly Effect, which is an ethno fusion jewellery brand for the urban woman, said: "The UAE has given my brand the opportunity to materialise into a business from just being a mere dream. Women want to own jewellery for its aesthetic appeal, whereas men want their spouses to invest in gold jewellery for its asset value. The Butterfly Effect is inexpensive jewellery that lets the women own their style by freeing up money for other spend in the economy.

Women entrepreneurs increase the market size by sheer presence and participation allowing the economy to flourish.

It is a well-acknowledged fact that women business owners play a vital role in the UAE's dynamic economy. Every year, we see that there is a growth in numbers and the opportunities laid out by the UAE's wise leadership for the 'she-preneurs'. Small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) are springing up regularly and are run by women who are young, driven, optimistic, and well-educated - Emirati and expats alike. But, let's not put age as a factor here. I have seen women in their forties and fifties start from scratch.

Many have turned their passion into profit. Take, for instance, Maitha Alowais, who is founder of Maitha & Treats, who started baking at the age of 12. Talking about her business, she says: "As a health enthusiast with a sweet tooth, I struggled to find a treat that was equally delicious and healthy and often experienced digestive discomfort or a sugar rush right after the delicious treat. I decided to have more of an in-depth understanding of plant-based ingredients and received my certification in whole foods plant-based nutrition. received wonderful feedback and finally built the courage to start my own treats business."

Yet, despite the apparent benefits of increased levels of women entrepreneurship in the region, women business owners report that they face a series of constraints when it comes to setting up or expanding a business. The current impediment is the lack of funding, owing to the pandemic.

As a woman, I can totally vouch for the fact that no one can stimulate confidence in a woman like another woman. This year, many of us have been hit by the pandemic and as we try to reassemble our lives, we should take this time to support women-run businesses in whatever way we can. There are many UAE-based women entrepreneurs who are running their own small chain of businesses and most of them work from homes.

In addition to the cultural extravaganza, Dubai in particular, and the UAE in general, is home to several shopping festivals. Many stores across the UAE have already begun to showcase spectacular discounts and mega offerings to attract the millions of Indians who, this year, will be celebrating the festivals distantly at home in the country.

Whether you want to feast with your close ones, buy new clothes or jewellery, or even want to look good virtually, send some love to all the independent and talented women.

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