With the recent appointment of ambassador Lana Nusseibeh as president of the United Nations executive board and in observance of the upcoming Mother of the Nation Festival, we should recall and celebrate the UAE’s long-standing position towards women’s empowerment.
The UAE has been dedicated to the advancement of gender equality. Its constitution guarantees impartiality between men and women as a fundamental right.
Sheikh Zayed, the founding President of the UAE, established solid foundations for women’s rights and Sheikha Fatima bint Mubarak, the Mother of the Nation, took her late husband’s vision forward in support of women’s empowerment.
Sheikha Fatima pushed for universal education and as a result literacy rates have risen to historic levels. It is due to her persistent championing of women’s rights in education, as well as her values, wisdom and extensive list of contributions and philanthropic efforts, that she continues to be honoured with the Mother of the Nation Festival, which will be held for the second time at Abu Dhabi Corniche from March 26 to April 4.
More women than men complete their secondary education and go on to enrol at universities. Women’s literacy has reached 91 per cent, with data showing that Emirati women account for 71.6 per cent of “students in government tertiary-level institutions” and 50.1 per cent of “students in private higher education”.
Education and literacy are just the beginning, with the UAE serving as a regional pioneer and global leader with regards to the establishment of several programmes and policy initiatives to further the advancement of women, who hold a significant level of representation in not only parliament but the public and private sectors as well.
There are eight women in the Cabinet, including Shamma Al Mazrui, who is the Minister of State for Youth Affairs. Emirati women make up 20 per cent of the diplomatic corps, work as ambassadors to several countries and have served as judges, public prosecutors, marriage officials and heads of some of the most prominent councils and governing bodies both domestically and globally.
In 2006, Dr Amal Al Qubaisi became the first elected woman to the Federal National Council.
Five years later, she was appointed deputy speaker and in November 2015 she became president.
Sheikha Lubna Al Qasimi, the Minister of State for Tolerance is recognised as one of the 100 most powerful women in the world by Forbes magazine.
Before her appointment as president of the UN executive board, Lana Nusseibeh became the fifth woman in the nation to serve as an ambassador and the first permanent representative to the UN.
Through an abundance of policies, initiatives and programmes, the UAE has been able to successfully advance women’s leadership.
In 2004, the UAE became a signatory to the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women and has supported all international treaties related to women’s rights.
In 2008 the Dubai Women Establishment was founded to support women’s empowerment in the workplace and develop “an environment that fosters innovation”.
The UAE announced the establishment of the Gender Balance Council in 2015 to increase women’s leadership positions and recently hosted a two-day event to implement the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development for the purpose of “economic outcomes” for women.
Last October, a UN Women Liaison Office was opened in Abu Dhabi. It is the first in the Gulf. The office aims to “accelerate efforts to achieve gender equality and women’s empowerment around the world," and to “showcase the UAE’s successful model as a nation to other countries."
The United Nations Development Programme 2007 status report on Millennium Development Goals recognised the UAE for its efforts to promote women’s empowerment.
According to the 2014 World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap report, the UAE ranked second in the Gulf for overall performance, and in the top two-thirds for education. It ranks sixth in terms of literacy and 7th globally with regards to wage equality. It also noted the nation for having the “highest percentage change relative to its own 2006 score on the Political Empowerment subindex”.
With the recent advancements and recognition of prominent Emirati women in global leadership positions and the implementation of groundbreaking initiatives for gender equality, we find the UAE to be ahead of the curve. The nation has long fought for women’s rights and continues to strive for achievement and excellence in this area.
When discussing the nation’s future recently, Ms Nusseibeh predicted 2017 would be a notable one due to the adoption of innovative strategic plans and budgets regarding initiatives for women.
The projection looks bright as the UAE continues to pave the path towards global gender equality.
Hend Al Otaiba is the director of strategic communications for Abu Dhabi Media