International Women’s Day: Celebrating a different but a significant year

Women in the UAE alongside men are breaking records in various fields

Najla Al Midfa, GM, Sheraa Sharjah, at the launch event of #SheMeansBusiness, Facebook’s endeavor to celebrate women who have built and run businesses and delivering resources to those who might one day do so themselves.

Photo: Reem Mohammed / The National (Reporter: Gillian Duncan / Section: NA) ID 91117 *** Local Caption ***  20170222_SHEMEANSBUSINESS_014.JPG
Powered by automated translation

A decade ago, I was at my home office at a photoshoot of my latest fashion collection for a local publication. The photographer and I spoke about everything from fashion, to travel, but it was the chat about our passions that dramatically changed my writing career. I told her how I yearned to write for more publications to reach a broader audience and to share my entrepreneurial journey with readers who may be going through similar challenges. She offered to introduce me to her editor, and said I should give it a try.

That publication was The National, and that conversation led me to embark on a writing adventure that helped me share my insights into the world of business, challenges I faced during the journey and lessons learned along the way.

It was not the first time a woman helped me out in my career. When I ventured into fashion business, it was fellow women who helped introduce me to stores across the region where I could sell my designs. Every award I have received so far, was a result of a fellow woman nominating me for it.

When the pandemic hit last year, and like any most businesses we started facing challenges, it was my business partner’s encouraging words every single day that helped us get through the uncertainty.

Women are a force to reckon with as they have played a vital role across sectors in the UAE, even more significantly during the pandemic year.

A sea change

As we celebrate International Women’s Day tomorrow, it is important to note that despite how grim this pandemic has been, women from the government to the private sector have been pulling us together at home and in the office, helping advance our business ecosystem, leading the way to space and providing us with a beacon of hope.

Frontline heroes, nurses, and doctors, are battling the pandemic every day. Their contribution in helping to keep our community safe is immeasurable. Many of them are juggling between day jobs, their kids’ home-schooling, taking care of their loved ones and managing their households. We could not have pulled through this pandemic without them.

Beyond this world 

Women’s valuable contributions extend beyond this world, literally. In a field where women around the world complain about underrepresentation, Sarah Al Amiri, minister of state for advanced technology, and the chairwoman of the UAE Space Agency, led the UAE’s Mars Mission, helping achieve a milestone for Emiratis and Arabs when the UAE’s Hope Probe successfully entered the Martian orbit at the first attempt.

Supporting start-ups

Women are also leading the way in providing ways to support entrepreneurs especially during these challenging times. Sharjah Entrepreneurship Centre, or Sheraa as it is known, managed by Najla Al Midfa, launched S3, the region’s first start-up studio to follow a revenue-sharing model and the first government-backed startup studio in the UAE. It offers founders $30,000 in pre-seed funding, as well as expert guidance. The studio aids entrepreneurs to focus on building a scalable and a profitable business, thus helping further develop that UAE’s start-up ecosystem.

Whether it’s in politics, arts, fashion, culture, business, or music, we are blessed to be witnessing a time where there are countless examples of women in the UAE who alongside men are breaking records, advancing our community and making a difference.

Manar Al Hinai is an award-winning Emirati journalist and entrepreneur, who manages her marketing and communications company in Abu Dhabi