Emirati Women’s Day: How UAE laws, policies have changed over time to empower women

Gender parity is of paramount importance in the nation

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File photo

Ismail Sebugwaawo

Published: Tue 23 Aug 2022, 5:59 PM

The UAE government has empowered Emirati women to play all kinds of different roles; from mothers to pilots, these leaders are trailblazing the building of this nation.

In recent years, the UAE has issued several laws regarding vital women’s rights reforms: including passing a new labour law that introduced anti-discrimination and harassment provisions, as well as equal pays and extended maternity leaves.

The law regulating labour relations introduced major reforms beginning February 2, 2022, placing female empowerment at its centre. Article 4 of Federal Decree Law No. 33 of 2021 regulating labour relations expressively stipulates equal pay for women performing the same job as men. Discrimination is also prohibited in terms of employment duties in the same workplace.

The new amendments further emphasise that all provisions regulating the employment of workers shall apply without discrimination to working women. In the anti-discrimination provisions, employers are prohibited from hiring on the basis of race, colour, sex, religion, nationality, or any disability that would weaken equal opportunity or impair equality in the workplace.

In March 2020, a new domestic violence law came into effect that enabled women to obtain restraining orders against abusers.

According to authorities, gender parity is of paramount importance in the UAE, and the nation’s Constitution guarantees equal rights for both men and women. Under the Constitution, women enjoy the same legal status, claim to titles, access to education, the right to practice professions, and the right to inherit property as men.

Women are also guaranteed the same access to employment, health and family welfare facilities. As a leader of equality in economics, government, education and health, the UAE has been named one of the region’s pioneers.

Demonstrating the country's progress in women’s inclusion, justice and security, the UAE is ranked 24th among 170 countries, and the highest regionally, in the Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security’s 2021 WPS Index.

Equality in Education and Literacy

Education for Emiratis is free in public schools, colleges and universities. The UAE government focuses on the elimination of gender disparities in education, and ensures equal access to all levels of education and vocational training for the vulnerable, including women and persons with disabilities.

The literacy rates of both women and men in the UAE are close to 95 per cent. Today, more women than men complete secondary education and enroll in university and post-graduate institutions. 77 per cent of Emirati women enroll in higher education after secondary school, and they make up 70 per cent of all university graduates in the UAE.

Women in the workforce

As of 2015, women occupy 66 per cent of public sector jobs: one of the highest proportions worldwide. A further 30 per cent occupy senior leadership positions associated with decision-making roles.

Over the years, the UAE has implemented a number of initiatives for the economic empowerment of women in the country. In December 2012, the government issued a decision on the mandatory membership of Emirati women in the Boards of Directors of federal bodies, companies and institutions.

Women in the UAE also participate actively in the private sector in various roles. They have equal rights to economic resources, including guaranteed equal pay — as well as access to ownership and control over land and other forms of property, financial services, inheritance and natural resources, in accordance with national laws.

Women in politics

Among the ministers of the UAE government, 9 are women. Female ministers handle the new portfolios of tolerance, happiness, youth and food and water security.

The Minister of State for Youth Affairs, Shamma bint Sohail Faris Al Mazrui, was just 22 years old when she took office in early 2016. The participation of women in the UAE Cabinet is amongst the highest in the world, reflecting the strong position reached by the Emirati women. This way, the UAE empowers and promotes the political inclusion of all.

50 per cent female representation in FNC

Women comprise 50 per cent of the Federal National Council (FNC), the UAE’s consultative parliamentary body. According to the IMD World Competitiveness Yearbook 2020, the UAE ranked first in the female parliamentary representation index.

In November 2015, Dr. Amal Al Qubaisi was appointed President of the FNC, making her the first woman in the region to lead a national assembly. She served in the position until 2019. Dr. Al Qubaisi had previously made history in 2006 as the first elected female to the FNC, and in 2011 was appointed deputy speaker of the FNC.

Women in the diplomatic corps

Women make up 42.5 per cent of the diplomatic corps, and the UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation has appointed 11 Emirati women as ambassadors and consuls general to represent the country internationally.


The Sheikh Zayed Housing Programme provides housing for single Emirati women.


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