When Dr Amal Al Qubaisi was named on Wednesday as the first woman in the Gulf region to lead a national assembly, it sent a powerful message about the UAE. Especially in a week in which the Paris terror attacks prompted the propagation internationally of the usual misinformation about this part of the world, her unopposed election by her peers as the president and speaker of the Federal National Council showed our core values through actions rather than words.
Her own example demonstrates how the UAE reaps the rewards from empowering all its citizens and explains why it is so important to ensure women play a full role in our society. Those unfamiliar with this country might be tempted to diminish her election as an example of tokenism, designed to serve as window dressing to disguise the reality. While there is always room for improvement – as in any country – a quick glance at her curriculum vitae would dismiss that notion: she was the first woman elected to the body and she served as deputy speaker in her second term. Without question, she is as qualified as any of her male counterparts to ensure the FNC fulfils its function as a consultative body for the country’s leadership.
Equally important is Dr Al Qubaisi’s level of experience outside the national assembly. After qualifying as an architect, she worked on Unesco conservation projects before being appointed last year as the director general of the Abu Dhabi Education Council. It would be difficult to find a more important role for the future of the UAE than ensuring the next generation receive an education of a standard that will prepare them for the challenge of continuing this country’s progress.
The FNC will serve its role most effectively if it can draw upon the broadest range of life experiences and perspectives. Dr Al Qubaisi noted this in her acceptance speech, saying that council members needed to represent all Emiratis, “to listen to them and become a part of their lives”.
However, Dr Al Qubaisi’s responsibilities extend much further beyond the FNC. As a role model for the next generation of Emirati women, her example as much as her decisions will ease the path for other Emirati women in public life, just as others helped her own, a rise. We can be thankful to have such a formidably talented women to help show the way.