Emirati women among the most empowered in the world, says UAE official

GWU Secretary-General Noura Khalifa Al Suwaidi. — Supplied photo
GWU Secretary-General Noura Khalifa Al Suwaidi. — Supplied photo

Abu Dhabi - GWU Secretary-General says UAE leadership continuously ensures the inclusion of women “in all fields and at all levels”


Rasha Abu Baker

Published: Thu 26 Aug 2021, 5:53 PM

She has been serving as the Secretary-General of the General Women's Union (GWU) for 22 years. And all these years, Noura Khalifa Al Suwaidi has played a major role in the empowerment and progress of Emirati women, working alongside the ‘Mother of the Nation’ Sheikha Fatima bint Mubarak, Chairwoman of the GWU, President of the Supreme Council for Motherhood and Childhood, and Supreme Chairwoman of the Family Development Foundation.

“The Year of the 50th is upon us, and the UAE has come a long way in supporting women since its union,” she said.

“We have achieved numerous milestones, including eliminating female illiteracy, having the highest enrolment rates in school and higher education, and having a high life-expectancy rate,” Al Suwaidi added.

The proud mother and holder of a BA in Psychology from the United Arab Emirates University (UAEU), said that Emirati women have reached great heights, including in the political arena, where they serve in some of the highest positions, holding distinguished posts.

“Today, we have nine female ministers. They handle some critical areas such as advanced sciences, youth affairs, community development, culture, public education, international cooperation, and food and water security,” she said, referring to Reem Al Hashemy, Minister of State for International Cooperation; Noura Al Kaabi, Minister of Culture and Youth; Hessa Buhumaid, Minister of Community Development; Ohood Al Roumi, Minister of State for Government Development and the Future; Shamma Al Mazrui, Minister of State for Youth Affairs; Mariam Almheiri, Minister of State for Food and Water Security; Sarah Al Amiri, Minister of State for Advanced Technology; and Maitha Al Shamsi, Minister of State.

Emirati women have been part of all major national projects including the Emirates Mars Mission (Hope Probe) and the Barakah Nuclear Power Plant, performing in key roles such as engineers, reactor operators and scientists. According to Sarah Al Amiri, women comprise 34 per cent of the Hope Probe mission and 80 per cent of its science team.

Emirati women have also attained positions throughout the professional field, established themselves as formidable entrepreneurs, forged individual creative paths, and shattered barriers by entering into typically male dominated fields; such as race car drivers, mountaineers, pilots, car mechanics and internationally successful athletes.

Legislative changes & Inclusion

“The women of the UAE are among the most empowered women in the world,” Al Suwaidi said, explaining that this is because the UAE leadership continuously ensures the inclusion of women “in all fields and at all levels”.

“Because of these efforts,” she added, “in record time, Emirati women now rank high among the world’s women."

Some of these target-oriented policies for women empowerment include guaranteeing that women have the same access to employment as their male counterparts, equal pay, extensive maternity leave and substantial health and family welfare facilities.

She said: “Some of the most notable legislative achievements are the launch of the National Strategy for Empowerment of Emirati Women (2015-2021), the establishment of the UAE Gender Balance Council in 2015, the introduction of a Gender Balance Index in government entities, the issuance of the Equal Wages Law, and the release of a guide for gender balance in the public and private sectors.”

Al Suwaidi went on to say that the UAE Government has also amended its Personal Status Law, and revised various articles of civil and criminal laws to protect and support women.

“It prohibited domestic violence and issued numerous resolutions in favour of women… also providing monthly financial assistance to widows, divorcees, abandoned women, and female citizens married to foreign husbands.”

Additional changes to legislation have opened doors to free education in public schools, colleges and universities, equal access to all levels of education and vocational training on an equal footing with men, as well as political empowerment. “Today, women make up 66 per cent of government employees, including 30 per cent at the leadership level and 30 per cent in the diplomatic corps.

“Women also make up 50 per cent in the Federal National Council,” she added.

Role of the GWU

The GWU was founded by Sheikha Fatima in 1985. It serves as the national mechanism for female empowerment in the UAE and works to advance women in all fields and sectors.

“It does so by developing plans and programmes and (promoting) initiatives to improve women's status and capacity,” Al Suwaidi explained.

Some of the GWU’s major areas of efforts include contributing to women’s policy-making, building women’s capacities, reviewing and proposing amendments to women-concerned legislations.

More recently, the Union established the Fatima Bint Mubarak Centre for Women, Peace and Security to support the UAE National Action Plan for the implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security.

“The intention [of the Centre] is to continue our efforts to advance gender equality as a fundamental state policy and to emphasise the critical role played by women in the peace and security sectors,” Al Suwaidi noted.

Emirati men support the empowerment

There is no question that men also have a role to play in promoting and supporting gender equality, Al Suwaidi said.

“Emirati men contribute significantly to crystalising the successes and leadership of Emirati women.”

They do this by following the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan's example, “who believed in the role of women in society from the state's inception, to effectively support the development process”.

The GWU Secretary-General added that the reason why the country has accomplished the civilisational growth that we are seeing today, is because of the role that women played in society. “Women actively participated in the development process necessary to achieve the cultural progress that we are experiencing.

“Emirati women have proved themselves and cemented their abilities in society, successfully capitalising on opportunities until reaching leadership positions. True collaboration to promote the nation's growth and development in all areas and sectors is exemplified and amplified by the synergy of all Emiratis,” she concluded.

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