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International Women’s Day: UAE has many milesstones to celebrate
March 09, 2016
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The UAE today joins the world family in marking the International Women’s Day, holding its head up high with unprecedented achievements in areas of political and economic participation, social and cultural engagement as well as the advancement and empowerment of Emirati women.

The UAE has recognised and paid a glowing homage to woman as the teacher, doctor, entrepreneur, minister, leader, diplomat, servicewoman, mother and judge, each contributing every day to her household, society and the economy.

In the UAE, women have much to celebrate as they have made qualitative and remarkable achievements and adapted to new realities of modern times, thanks to the far-sighted vision of the founding father, the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, and the breakthrough initiatives for advancement, development and empowerment of women launched by H.H. Sheikha Fatima bint Mubarak, Chairwoman of the General Women’s Union (GWU), Supreme Chairwoman of the Family Development Foundation (FDF) and President of the Supreme Council for Motherhood and Childhood.

WOMEN IN NATION-BUILDING

The UAE is an example of a rapid and successful development story in the region, in terms of both the infrastructure and economy of the country and also the progress of its people. The UAE’s achievement is best typified in the evolution and growing prominence of Emirati women as partners and contributors in this remarkable nation-building process. Women are today at the forefront of the workforce in the UAE in both the government sector as well as a growing number in the private sector.

Aided by the government’s commitment to empower women and provide them with equal opportunities, the status of women within the UAE has flourished in parallel with the country’s growth since the federation was established in 1971. It is evident across the UAE that women today constitute a vital part of the nation’s workforce and actively contribute to the country’s government and economy.

In essence, the UAE understands that it is a national imperative for women to contribute to the development process.

UAE women enjoy the unequivocal support of President His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the Vice President and Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, and Their Highnesses the Supreme Council Members and Rulers of the Emirates.

His Highness President Khalifa once said, “Nothing pleases me more than seeing Emirati women assuming their role in society and achieving their rightful position. Nothing should hinder the march of women’s progress. Like men, women have the right to assume the highest positions according to their abilities and qualifications.”

The UAE government is keen on promoting and upholding human, political, social, economic, educational, health, cultural and social rights of women, guaranteed by the constitution, local legislations and by international treaties ratified by the UAE.

The government’s belief that women are entitled to fulfill active roles in society and become effective partners in the development process is grounded in the UAE Constitution, which guarantees the principles of universal social justice, in accordance with the tenets of Islam. This vision originates from the very establishment of the federation and the promulgation of the UAE Constitution, a legacy of the UAE’s founding father, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, a staunch advocate for women’s rights.

GENDER EQUALITY

Gender equality is of paramount importance in the UAE, and the Constitution of the UAE guarantees equal rights for both men and women. Under the Constitution, women enjoy the same legal status, claim to titles, access to education, healthcare and social welfare and the same right to practice professions as men. They are also guaranteed the same access to employment, health and family welfare facilities. In accordance with Islamic principles upon which the Constitution is based, the rights of women to inherit property are also guaranteed and ensured. The guarantees enshrined in the Constitution have been implemented through legislation.

As a leader of equality in economics, government, education and health, the UAE has been named one of the region’s pioneers.

On March 7, 2015, H.H. Sheikha Fatima bint Mubarak, Chairwoman of the General Women’s Union (GWU), Supreme Chairwoman of the Family Development Foundation (FDF) and President of the Supreme Council for Motherhood and Childhood, launched the National Strategy for Empowerment of Emirati women in the UAE from 2015-2021.

The strategy creates a general framework for all federal and local government, private sector, as well as civil society organisations, to set work plans and programmes so as to provide a decent living for women and make them creative in all sustainable and developmental fields.

Those work plans, H.H. Sheikha Fatima said, would contribute to position the UAE among the advanced countries in the area of women empowerment.

The UAE’s election to the membership of the Executive Council of UN women for the period 2013 to 2015 is an indication of the progress made in gender equality in the UAE and the UAE’s commitment to the empowerment of women worldwide. This commitment is underlined by a UAE pledge of US$5million between 2014 and 2016 to the UN Commission on the Status of women to support gender equality, women’s empowerment and peace and security programmes, with a particular emphasis on the effects of climate change on women. The move had once again represented a vote of confidence of the international community in the spectacular achievements made by UAE women.

The Vice President and Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, announced during the global Government Summit held in Dubai in February, 2015, the formation of the UAE Gender Balance Council, designed to activate the role of women as an essential partner in building the country’s future, in line with the UAE’s plans to strengthen their position in society and in employment, and their role as educators of the future generations, the mainstay of the family, and their role in the construction of the main building blocks of society.

RESPECT FOR WOMEN

In another global milestone, the UAE ranked number one in the world for treating women with respect, according to a study comparing development and well-being among 132 nations, in the World Economic Forum Global Agenda Council report for 2014.

His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, said the evidence on respect for women reflected fundamental truths about Emirati culture and traditions.

“We have the deepest respect for women. We respect their sacrifices and their dedication as partners in the building of our nation. In many sectors they have been able to contribute more than men because UAE society gives women a supportive environment in which to achieve their full potential.

Women hold important portfolios in the Federal Cabinet, an indicator of their vital role in local political life. Eight women ministers have recently joined the federal Government in the biggest reshuffle in its history.

In another parliamentary unprecedented milestone at local and Arab levels, Dr. Amal Al Qubaisi was elected Speaker of the Federal National Council (FNC) for the 16th Legislative Chapter, and became the first woman to hold the position in any Arab national parliament. She had previously made history in 2006 when she became the first elected female to the FNC, and in 2011 was appointed Deputy Speaker of the body.

The election of Dr. Amal Al Qubaisi as the first ever woman Speaker of the United Arab Emirates Parliament has been warmly welcomed by the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) as a breakthrough, not only for the Gulf State, but also for the Arab world as a whole.

“I am personally delighted by Dr. Al Qubaisi’s election, having known and worked with her for several years,” said IPU Secretary-General, Martin Chungong. “Breaking the parliamentary glass ceiling in the UAE marks a particularly important milestone that can only resonate across the region and inspire other countries and other women MPs,” he added.

WOMEN IN DIPLOMACY

The UAE places great importance on the contribution of women to the diplomatic corps, having opened the doors for Emirati women to hold positions as diplomats in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation.

Lana Zaki Nusseibeh, Permanent Representative of the United Arab Emirates to the UN, became the first female Ambassador to hold the high-profile position. The move was a reflection of the increasingly prominent role played by Emirati women in UAE society.

The number of Emirati women in the diplomatic and consular corps at the Ministry headquarters is now 175, in addition to 42 women working in the diplomatic corps at UAE missions abroad.

There are currently four women ambassadors in the diplomatic corps at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, representing the nation in Spain, Montenegro, the Permanent Representative of the United Arab Emirates to the UN, and a Consul-General in Milan.

The UAE is setting a precedent in gender balance and women’s empowerment at the workplace, as women now constitute 66 per cent of the public sector workforce (the global average is 48 per cent), with 30 per cent in senior and decision-making positions, close to the level in advanced countries. They make up 15 per cent of technical jobs in medicine, education, pharmacology and nursing. Women’s contribution to economic and business activities and job market has seen steady growth since the establishment of businesswomen councils. Women who run their own businesses and members of chambers of commerce and industry numbered 22,000, who collectively manage total investments worth over AED 42 billion. Women also make up 37.5 per cent of the workforce in the banking sector.

Emirati women also represent 70 per cent of all graduates in UAE universities, one of the world’s highest percentages. They are also making strong headway in the healthcare sector with statistics showing that female doctors constitute 62 per cent of the total number of Emirati doctors.

In 2004, the UAE became a signatory to the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against women (CEDAW). The UAE regularly participates in and hosts international and GCC conferences on women’s issues. The UAE has signed all international treaties on protecting the rights of women. Among these are the Child Protection Convention (1997), the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, CEDAW, (2004), the Hours of Work (Industry) Convention (1982), the Equal Remuneration Convention (1996), the Convention concerning Night Work of women Employed in Industry (1982) and the Convention on Minimum Age (1996).

WAM

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