UAE: World's youngest minister recalls first year in office

A key lesson she learned as a public servant is that leadership is a value, not a professional commitment



Sheikha Lubna Khalid Al Qasimi, First Female Minister, with Shamma Suhail Faris Al Mazrui, Minister of State for Youth during the World Government Summit in Dubai. Photo by Shihab
Sheikha Lubna Khalid Al Qasimi, First Female Minister, with Shamma Suhail Faris Al Mazrui, Minister of State for Youth during the World Government Summit in Dubai. Photo by Shihab
by

Sherouk Zakaria

Published: Wed 30 Mar 2022, 4:53 PM

Last updated: Wed 30 Mar 2022, 10:43 PM

Shamma Al Mazrui became the world’s youngest minister at 22.

Now, at 28, the UAE Minister of State for Youth Al Mazrui said she treated the public office as an exam she had to study for.

“In my first year as a minister, I took down notes in 25 notebooks! I took my job as a student-teacher relationship. I learned every day, and until today, I have a passion for learning. As a leader, you should never stop learning, ” Al Mazrui noted.

Sharing her six-year experience as a minister, Al Mazrui said the UAE leaders and fellow ministers were her “books and teachers.”

“From the biggest decisions in office to the smallest details in their public life, leaders are the best school I have learned from.”

She was speaking in a rare and inspiring session at the World Government Summit that brought her together with Sheikha Lubna Al Qasimi, the first woman to hold a ministerial position in the UAE back in 2004.

Al Mazrui said a key lesson she learned as a public servant is that leadership is a value, not a professional commitment.

“Leadership is not about the position or title; it is a choice and decision to genuinely serve the people. Anyone can be a leader in their schools, houses, communities or societies as long as they are driven by the pure intention to serve people,” added Al Mazrui.

Listening, she said, was among the first qualities she developed as a leader. “In my first cabinet meeting, I learned the value of listening because how can you fulfil people’s needs, improve their lives or truly serve them without listening?”

She added that empowering youth in the government reflects the country’s approach to challenge the current reality. “The leaders believed in me. I might not have had enough expertise or skills, but they saw the intention to serve people as the core quality of a leader.”

Al Mazrui noted that her appointment reflected the leadership's belief in the power and energies of youth to build the future. "After two years and a half in office, 42 young ministers were appointed across the world to serve different portfolios from youth to foreign affairs."

She stressed that having a leadership that empowers women and youth gives the UAE a competitive advantage.

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Al Qasimi said her appointment as the first female minister represented the UAE’s empowerment of women in a new field back then – politics.

This political empowerment of women in the UAE positively impacted the rest of the Gulf region, paving the way for more women in government. "At least one female minister is appointed in the Gulf and the Middle East every year," noted Al Qasimi, who was also declared the world's first minister of state for tolerance in 2016.

Today, there are nine female ministers in the UAE’s cabinet.

“Women in government are a form of soft power who played a major role in melting down barriers between the UAE and the West,” said Al Qasimi.

"Women in government is yesterday’s dream coming true today," she added.

sherouk@khaleejtimes.com


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