At an International Women’s Day event hosted at Expo City Dubai earlier this year, I said that the road to a sustainable future runs through the fifth UN Sustainability Development Goal – gender equality.
I firmly believe that achieving each of the 17 interlinked Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) set up by the global body in 2015 will be boosted if we continue to empower our young girls and women with the mindset and means to make a difference in this world.
There is a reason that “SDG5” is referred to as “the mother of the SDGs”.
For instance, we cannot achieve good health and well-being (SDG3), quality education for all (SDG4), decent work and economic growth (SDG8), reduced inequalities (SDG10), nor can we take true climate action (SDG13) and make energy available to all (SDG7) if we do not achieve gender equality (SDG5).
Gender equality is a cross-cutting goal that directly connects, supports and galvanises the other 16 goals. It is the nucleus in the nexus of challenges we face in the decade of action. And to that end, we need to equip women with the knowledge and the tools to succeed in this new and ever-evolving economic climate. One that calls for a complete revaluation and transformation of existing industries and sectors, as decarbonisation efforts simply must advance in the pursuit of net-zero targets.
I have been fortunate to have grown up in the UAE, where this mindset was ingrained in me from an early age.
Today, it feels appropriate to return to this notion and underline the abiding commitment the UAE makes to its women, as we celebrate Emirati Women’s Day under the theme of “inspiring reality for a sustainable future” – which was announced by Sheikha Fatima bint Mubarak, Chairwoman of the General Women's Union, President of the Supreme Council for Motherhood and Childhood, and Supreme Chairwoman of the Family Development Foundation.
By always supporting and fostering the ambitions and aspirations of our women, the UAE has tapped into an invaluable source of potential, unlocked new areas of sustainable economic development, and set benchmarks for developing and developed nations around the world – all at the same time as overturning and realigning a few misperceptions along the way.
The UAE’s global ranking of 18th on the Gender Equality Index is testament to the enduring vision of our leadership.
With nine female ministers running crucial, future-focused portfolios that include climate change, youth and advanced technology and nine female ambassadors representing the UAE in key foreign relationships across three continents, our women are driving us towards a sustainable future at home and abroad.
Indeed, the meaningful participation of our women in the public sector has enabled the UAE to better respond to the needs of our people across the board, and is built on a long track record of tremendous progress when it comes to SDG5.
In fact, women today hold two thirds of public sector jobs in the UAE – with 30 per cent in leadership roles. And, as the only country in the Mena region to achieve parity at the parliamentary level, the UAE ranks 30th globally for advancing women’s political empowerment, according to the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2022.
We didn’t arrive here accidentally. This is the result of forward-thinking and rational planning. As one recent example, for the past seven years, the UAE’s Gender Balance Council, under the chairwomanship of Sheikha Manal bint Mohammed, President of the Dubai Women Establishment, has implemented initiatives and projects to enhance gender balance, reduce the gender gap across all government sectors and achieve gender balance in decision-making positions.
This all stems from the mindset that is fostered in the UAE: a place that reinforces that no goal is out of reach, regardless of gender, and which intuitively understands that the job is never done. This is especially the case with climate action.
Empowering more women and girls to be leaders in the portfolios of climate, the environment, energy, water, food and biodiversity, is not a nice-to-have. It is a must-have. It is imperative to overcoming our greatest challenges.
We know from the research that climate change impacts women differently and more disproportionately than men. It is simple common sense, then, that climate policymaking must increase the opportunities for women to contribute formulating and delivering impactful climate action. In short, more women are needed in climate-related decision-making positions.
The UAE has long recognised this and understands the criticality of involving more women in climate change decision-making positions, a point that is especially pertinent given that 2023 will be the year that puts the UAE at the heart of the global climate change conversation, as we host Cop28.
The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change’s flagship event will provide the stage for the UAE to demonstrate its commitment to facilitating an inclusive energy transition, with women at the heart.
As we prepare to convene world leaders to address the deepest impacts of climate change – a major and urgent strand of the sustainable development agenda – we must show that our girls and women can lead the global energy transition and collaboratively design, develop and deliver a future that works for all.